Can you recommend any ways of maintaining the high level of concentration required in a game? Often a keeper can be called upon to only make one save in a game, but if you fail to save it, it can cost you dearly. Are there any training methods to improve your level of concentration, so you are ‘ in the zone’ when called upon to make that all-important stop?
I don’t know that there’s any way to ensure being in the “zone.” When it comes to the mental part of the game, there are a lot of factors, but I think the biggest thing is confidence. For me, confidence comes from preparation and experience. Preparation is key in that when you have trained hard on your fitness and your skills, you know you can physically perform the “big play.”
Experience is a bit different. Until you’ve played in the big game and made the big save, you don’t really know that you’ll make the play. You can simulate pressure in games and training. Sometimes in training, I’ll make one situation the money ball, the ball that if I don’t make the save on, there are consequences; maybe an extra sprint, push-ups, sit-ups, something like that. Mental imagery can be very helpful for visualising success. Think about the time of the game, visualise the flow of play and think of a shot and a save. See the clear, the ball exiting the circle.
A quick note about being in the “zone.” Be careful not to put so much emphasis on being in it. There are times when your reflexes are almost in an unconscious state in that you can do no wrong. There are other times, when I feel off my game. When I do, I need to pull myself back in. As a keeper, I try to strive for consistency, physically and mentally. If I don’t make the big save this time, my confidence isn’t shot and it’s not a personal tragedy. No one tries to let a goal in. I move on to the next situation.
Enjoy being in pressure situations, it’s part of the position, but know that as a keeper, it’s only a matter of time before your next save.