The goalkeepers goalie

Today we have an opinion piece from the English Daniel Grim, that is an enthusiastic writer and focus his analysis in goalkeeping. Dan is also a OBO KR columnist and share his thoughts about the misinterpretation of some goalkeepers ability.

Within the “goalkeeper’s union”, the community of goalie fellowship, the band of brothers of the last guard of defence, the final  hurdle to reach in trying to stop you scoring, there is a state of misunderstanding for the rest of hockey. Not just in us being smelly and eccentric, oh no! It’s in how we are rated or criticised according to how well we have played. Whilst watching and analysing each other’s performances, a key bone of contention is goalkeepers needlessly showboating when the simple would have sufficed. It isn’t always obvious for those without the technical understanding or watching supporters or even players, who want to applaud the goalkeeper they are playing in front of, but this nuisance does make the more technical goalkeeper look less appreciable as a result!

Where goalies will back each other in any sport (if allowed, not just down the pub afterwards, on sports commentary and analysis!), knowing that a goal has been conceded because the goalkeeper couldn’t have done much about is mandatory. But one thing not always tolerated within the guild of those who ply their trade in goal is the unnecessary stretching to make everything look spectacular, which is effectively seen as pointless from a critical viewpoint, wherein a more controlled approach would be better and have got better results. That is not to say the goalkeeper should be able to ditch the system of technique sometimes to get the job done, against a level of unorthodoxy that might be frowned on, just ask Peter Schmeichel who didn’t always look pretty but was a champion nonetheless. But it is a fine balance of things, as anything in life, rather than relying on it for all saves.

If goalkeeping is a science, then it is the science of simplification and the art of making things look easy than over complicating things, even over analysing, as I do! Sure, but solid basics is what allows for creativity or the ability to make those athletic saves in the first place. Once the goalkeeper has been taught the basics and can do them on instinct, then the rest should and will, follow. Without a strong structure of fundamentals, it’s not possible to make those breath taking saves anyway. But is the over use of the dive that is what is at question. A hockey goal is smaller than a football goal, so theoretically the hockey goalkeeper won’t always need to be leaping around on every shot as they can do just as well from a standing position and also manage to control the rebound more efficiently as well. To the goalkeeper and goalkeeper analyst watching another goalkeeper, it is easy for them to spot if a fellow goalie is over doing things to the extent where they are just a crowd pleaser than a technically sound goalkeeper per say!

Too many times has the goalkeeper been seen through the eyes of the fan and coach who has not played in goal or understands it so well, or a coach who can only see a system, not possibilities. Whilst sport may be systematic with quantified results, it’s not a goalkeeper’s job to purposefully launch themselves at every single shot. Yes, there will be times where those “miracle” saves come to the fore, but these are the result of having to. Diving around in desperation is the backup plan, not the first! If you watch Buffon in football he commands his area well, challenges every shot and is the best at angle work. It is the art of simplifying things as said already. Like any mode of operation, it is a case of breaking down the approach and playing in a well that provides the best results. Mathematics in getting the angles and positioning right when facing a straightforward shot, which will need readjusting if facing a tipped redirect or similar, and the right level of balance in standing up or leaving the feet, because not everything can be stopped from a static point! The balance of motion in the saving motion itself, and so on.

The oohs and ahs do not always define the abilities of the goalkeeper in question. Yes, there’s going to be saves like that, especially against the shooters that are the best in the world! But, for levels of competency, if you like at Quico Cortes who is arguably one of the world’s best right now, look at how he simplifies things with his save making approach. Vogels himself in his prime made things look easy, not complicated. But that is not to say you will always have to be this way! The goalkeeper who doesn’t want to be beaten by any shot is going to be prepared to do whatever it takes to never be scored on, even if it looks a little unorthodox, those desperation all or nothing saves when the chips are down, are the actual spectacular saves where it highlights the goalkeeper’s desire not to be beaten at all costs.

If the goalkeeper is capable of playing, perhaps it is unnecessary to look at things in a way where the goalkeeper is always over stretched, rather than feeling the need to resort to athleticism as a secondary. For a skilful goalkeeper, they need strong angles and attacking positioning against every shot if they intend to succeed. And if it is the scouts and coaches that are failing the goalkeepers, then a changed mindset is required for the best goalkeepers to be utilised than the ones who look the part. Although Holland have a strong  with goalkeepers and now Spain and Belgium, goalkeeper coaching still seems to be in its infancy in hockey and for , then there needs to be a lot more coaches. Without them, the best is yet to come in the goalie world.

Talent is one thing and is all well and good, but if it is not refined and consistently worked on for the consistency of improvement to be the best around, then it simply isn’t there. To try and get the attention of the coach too many times has a goalkeeper at national league level changed their style of play to like more dramatic in the hope of catching the scouts’ eyes. As they say in football, the difficult things will take care of themselves if you worry about the basics first. A crowd winning save is achieved by all of the basics clicking with the level of the shot’s accuracy and power in counteraction. Breaking the complicated into the basics of getting across, staying on angle and so on is how it’s done. But fans are always fickle and if they want to be entertained, they will see things differently.

And because of things being the way they are, this misrepresentation of goalkeepers might continue if unchallenged. If only the fans who watch them are the judges, or scouts that don’t understand the intricacies of this niche position go by rather than properly evaluate them, then how does the right ability level stack up? Perhaps the mode of thinking and analysis needs rethinking? Especially if we want our sport to be pushed in the right direction in order to catch up with how far others have also come on, developed in leaps and bounds with a strong level of innovation and forward thinking.

Daniel Grim


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