As goalkeepers, we all know that sinking feeling that comes whenever we have to pick the ball out of the back of the net. We failed at our job. The other team scored a goal and it's all YOUR fault.
That's it. The game is lost...
...but is it?
A goalkeeper is probably under the most pressure of any other player on the pitch. When you do your job, sometimes nobody will notice - but when a shot gets the better of you, you're public enemy number one.
Listen, the first thing you need to learn as a goalkeeper is that you can't save 100% of shots on goal. Even the best keepers in the world have let in more than their fair share of goals. Any good team, coach or manager will know this.
It's the nature of the job. You WILL let in goals at some point. The important thing is preparing for when that happens. But don't worry, I'm here to help. So consider this goalkeeper's therapy. Soccer is as much a mental game as it is physical.
Ok, let's break this down:
You will experience failure - See, just like everyday life, you will experience hard times. Days where things just aren't going your way and you just can't seem to get a finger to the ball. You feel like you're letting everyone down. Everyone has their bad days. The only thing you can do about this is to accept it. It is what it is and by accepting it and moving on from it, you can stop it from hindering your progress in the future. Too many people burden themselves with their past failures, which prevents them from future success.
- Don't be too hard on yourself - When a goal gets past you the first thing most people do is to blame themselves or someone else. Sure, maybe you could've been more prepared for the shot or maybe your positioning could have been better. But you weren't and it wasn't. Forget what just happened and don't beat yourself up. You will gain absolutely nothing by focusing on the fact that you messed up. Just get your head back in the game. Remember, you can't save everything that flies your way and it's up to your team to stop the ball ever getting that far in the first place. But at the same time, you won't get anywhere by trying to place blame on someone else either. That's bad for the team as a whole.
Learn from your mistakes - So, you let in a goal. First thing you should ask yourself is "Why?". What went wrong that allowed the other team to score? Talk to your defenders, tell them what you need them to do to prevent them from getting a clear shot next time. Think about what YOU can do differently from now on to prevent it happening again. Remember - there are no failures, only lessons. Great goalkeepers analyze their performance and are constantly adjusting themselves and their technique.
- Motivate your team - When your team is losing, you'll see players start to lose their motivation. It's a natural thing that happens and they likely need someone to help keep them on track. That person can be you. Shout to your team, get them pumped up. Even when you are losing by two or three goals.
- Comebacks happen - Hey, it's not over until the final whistle blows. Soccer has seen more than its fair share of incredible comebacks. Like teams who were 4-0 down at half time and came back to win 7-5 (Reading vs Arsenal, Carling Cup fourth round, UK, 2012).
Remember, it's really not the end of the world if you let in a goal, lose a game or even if you lose out on a chance at the play-offs. I'm not saying you don't need to try - you should always try to perform to the best of your ability. The most important thing is to stay focused on what is ahead of you, don't let your emotions get the better of you and oh, have fun too!
Pro Tip: the more fun you have, the better you'll likely perform.