The importance of mental aspects such as coordination and concentration in goalkeepers

Published on 29th July 2016 by

When you see David De Gea make a save from point black range off a deflected ball with his feet or Manuel Neuer sprint off his line and claw a ball from an awkward height, a primary reason for their success is having good coordination. The ability to move two parts of the body or more under efficient control is coordination. Moving your feet to make a save (coordination), organising a back line and watching the ball at the same time(concentration). Both key tasks are required in higher level goalkeeping.

Most would agree that many good goalkeepers can make great saves, but skills that measure goalkeepers with long term potential or the elite of the elite is decision making(concentration) as well as improvisation. Often times in a crowded area a goalkeeper will have to come off their line first, then in a minuscule time period will decide whether to catch, punch or parry(improvisation). If the GK catches, then they must decide to who(concentration) and how will they distribute the ball out. In 2016, I feel more of an emphasis is being put on the mental aspects of the position. Speed of thought, speed of reaction are equally or more important than having a powerful vertical leap or long wingspan. The ground starfish technique seen here

Joe Hart Starfish

Or here

De Gea Knee

is a complex technique that involves the use of your arms, legs, chest and hands all timed to perfection. This is a save that takes years to master not just in regards to correct body shape, but also timing when to go to one knee and form the save or when to stay on your feet and delay the striker or to use a cross body block seen here.


A coordinated goalkeeper, with a solid technical base can adapt quicker to the situation in front of them and use the correct technique in that moment. I like to use exercises with balls of different weight, colour and size as well as exercises that involve juggling with hands and feet, even at the same time. Exercises that make young goalkeepers use different parts of their brain tend to be very effective in the long run.

They are also effective for legendary goalkeepers who have been playing the position for years and need a break from the professional monotony that can occur. For example, Petr Cech said in 2013 “if you are a goalkeeper who started playing at eight years old, saving a routine shot doesn’t make you improve. You can shoot 50 shots and it is easy. Your brain reacts always the same way, but if you distract the brain, you have to make sure you’re doing everything in the right order. Put demands on coordination. The capacity of the brain is endless but you need to find different ways to improve it. The brain is constantly working.”

These saves that happen with other parts of the body except hands require a goalkeeper with a certain level of intelligence and coordination. Hopefully the position will become more skilful and intelligence based and less robust as the game continues to evolve, and coaches will begin to prioritise these skills as well.

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Stephen Rigaud

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