Are you a ‘fighter’?
Not that I condone violence or anything (showing passion for your sport doesn’t mean you need to get in a full on brawl; that’s ice hockey you’re thinking of!), but to really put yourself to the test and evolve your game, you’ll need to show some fighting spirit. Champions are those that overcome adversity and challenges to reach their peak. It’s lonely at the top because it takes a lot of willpower to get there. As in life, things won’t always go your way; you have to step up to the mark and tough it out. Some things are worth fighting for and if you really want to go far in hockey and see how good you really are, then you’ll do whatever it takes to get there.
Obviously if you are going to look to step up your competitively, you’ll begin to question why you bother. As you grow up (or you’ve already reached that stage!) you’ll realise that as much as it saddens me to say it, over things will become a priority (after all you’ll need a job to pay for equipment when you’re too old for your parents to and such like!). What would make you get up early on a weekend to go play in the cold and wet? Why would you go through a long training session after a hard day at what? So, what it boils down to essentially is: how much do you love goalkeeping? And who doesn’t? And if you don’t, then why are you in goal?! It’s the love of the game that keeps us playing and if you lose sight of that enjoyment you may end up giving up on goalkeeping altogether.
Why do you need to?
If you are young and want to attempt to get the opportunity to represent your country or at that stage where you are ready to make the step to progress to national league play, then you are going to be in with a hard task. You might think you’re working hard but even if you are, be assured that out there the ones who already compete at this level are already working hard, if not harder than you. To be in with a chance of outdoing them and taking the spot, you have to be working ten times as hard as them or something like that! To make sure you out do the competition, you really have to give it your all.
Even if you are lucky enough to be in that position of being the first choice, then you still have to keep going with your efforts. If you get too comfortable being the number one and you start slipping up, then the chances are you’ll have someone nipping at the heels (hopefully inspired by this article!) that is looking to take your spot. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of competition after all! Hockey is unfortunately an amateur sport in most countries and if you ever did get the chance to represent your country at the highest level there is (like at the upcoming Olympics), then it would take a lot of sacrifice and commit to make it happen.
How to fight
If you are going to go about making an effort with your goalkeeping, then it shouldn’t really be an issue of how to go about it. For example, I heard about a guy who would jog a lap of the pitch before kitting up and then jog a lap after the game before warming down. If you have that stamina after putting in all your effort into playing well throughout the game, then you’re on to something! That being said I followed the advice! Go the extra mile, make every second count. Work hard in training and set yourself targets of how may shots you can stop. In games take responsibility for your mistakes and let your defence know that it was your fault because it will help develop team spirit (they don’t always like taking the blame after all!). Perseverance is key to making a go of things and it’s all about sticking out the tough times. So you had a bad game? So what! Make sure you make amends in the next one. So you didn’t get a clean sheet and you feel responsible for it because the team played well? Again, acknowledge it and move on!
Have you got what it takes?
Your fighting spirit will depend on how much you want it. I used to get the train up to London from my parent’s house for a return journey that clocked in at about three years (not that I let the club know!) because I had landed the opportunity to fight for a reserve spot with a national premier league team (although I’m not sure why I’m letting the secret out now!). Of course I was working (my studies meant the opportunity filtered out in the end), but I make the extra commitment to travel that distance and landed the spot. I found an opportunity where I could be noticed and took it by the horns, having been overlooked time and again by bigger clubs and throughout county and other trials. The moral of that story (if you want to learn from it!), is that when opportunity knocks you should be ready to take it and do your best when you do.
Go out and fight for it!
Ultimately not all of us goalkeepers want to play nationally or at high domestic league level, but for those that do, you’re going to need to fight every last round for the chance to play at the top. Having said that, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of self improvement and desire to be the best you can be. So you may not be waiting by the telephone for someone to ring you up and let you know you’re in with a chance of making the reserves for the Olympic squad, but who’s to say you can’t go about working to be the best goalkeeper in your league or club? So go on, go out and make a difference!