The cocky goalkeeper
The idea of self confidence is important for goalkeepers when thinking about how to play at their best, game in game out. And one way of thinking about it, is to consider a goalkeeper as cocky or evaluate their cockiness. As I’ve tried to write about recently, it is important to play confidently, ensuring that you are confident to come out and make tackles or interceptions and to get to lose balls that attackers may latch on. If you don’t/didn’t feel happy doing this, then you’re going to struggle to decrease the amount of scoring opportunities you will face in a game. And if you did not feel confident enough going up against the top of the table team or playing in an important and decisive game that could affect your playing ‘career’ (I say, I’m not sure !), then you’ve got to be confident.
Some people struggle with confidence with the way they play and even though they are good, their self esteem and way their self belief comes across, presenting itself through nervous tension and the like, holds them back from truly dominating. Ironically a lot of extremely talented people throughout history have struggled with low self esteem and yet they are unquestionably some of the world’s greatest minds, ever. Weird, huh! Quiet confidence, quietly confident, is good enough for me! But, there is also sense to the conceptualisation of cockiness. As discussed previously, body language and a goalkeeper that looks happy to be there is going to come across as a goalkeeper that is harder to beat. Make the opposition believe it!
A defence has to be confident in their goalkeeper and a goalkeeper in their defence. If the defence start to lose confidence in their goalkeeper (and fear every time an attacker gets close because they’ll probably score ‘off the bat’ or start shot blocking and getting in front of thing, unnecessarily and causing unneeded redirects etc. own goal anyone?!), then the goalkeeper loses confidence in themselves. And if the goalkeeper starts to lose confidence in their defence, then everything goes bad and will falter. And you don’t want that! So, in some ways, the goalkeeper has to show their confidence (even when they’re not, fake it!) and thus play confidently.
But cockiness is something that goes beyond just a bit of self confidence; it sets the bar for it! Goalkeepers that no matter the ‘weather’ or score line, they still looked assured and in control. Even when things aren’t going right and falling apart around them! They dominate with their presence, absolutely ‘rocking the place’ using band analogies (?!). I think this kind of thing is what can terrify a shooter, other than denying them about four times in a row or something (at which point they concede that you’re going to make it tough for them to score and force them to earn a goal!).
There are some characters in the ‘Goalies Union’ that come across obviously exuberant and commanding (Schmeichel lambasting his defenders for letting a shot through, anyone?!), and it is what we should aspire to be like. Brimming with the love of being under the microscope, loving the stresses of being in a pressure zone, oozing buckets of self esteem. This level of extreme confidence that can spread out and inspire team mates. But pride which comes before a fall, as the saying goes (maybe there’s something in that?!), so it is a fine balancing act of propping ourselves up psychological and putting in performances that match this self professed state of mind.
Being cocky is obviously having bags of self confidence and believing you’re the best around. Of course, to some it comes naturally, but in a sense it’s just a case of self assurance and ‘bigging yourself up’. Be sure of yourself. Tell and remind yourself how good you really are. That you ARE going to play amazingly. I AM going to get to this loose ball, I AM unstoppable, I AM going to make this save. That sort of thing, if you get the obvious drift! I’m here because I can do the job and am a better option than the other goalkeepers in the team or club (especially if you’re first choice!).
This is the article that inspired this post and puts up some useful pointers:
If not, then what?
It’s easy to think of what will happen if not. Think what would happen if you weren’t cocky or self confident. You wouldn’t be prepared to get into the ‘thick of things’, shut down scoring chances or make an important influence and impact on the game. You wouldn’t make those cracking, unbelievable saves either. So what’s worse, being confident and playing well as a result, or be a nervous, quivering shell of the goalkeeper you once were? I think it’s self explanatory at least.
When it goes pear shaped
Another non-hockey related analogy (as usual!), but the case study of Joe Hart shows the interaction between cockiness, self confidence, and the potential for things to go wrong. All this came after attempting what would have been an audacious header outside his area in true ‘sweeper keeper’ style (Ter Stegen has achieved this at some distance, and Casillas sometimes does this), in the belief that he would have got rid of a scoring chance. Obviously it didn’t go right and Ibrahimovic scored a wonder goal that will go down in the history books almost unsighted of where the goal was for placing the shot.
The situation was a trifle complex from a goalkeeper’s point of view. He decided to go forward, potentially wrongly. The bounce meant he would have had to back track to hit it on the volley and get caught out of place. And so on. As a goalkeeper, you either want to come out and attack the player (like he did, but more extremely!), complicated by the two defenders shadowing Zlatan as he goes forward, or stay back. But having committed (a lot like analysis for the decision making article!), he has to stick with the decision he made. And yet, this decision caused a huge uproar (well, not that much, but still enough!) among the press as they clamoured to have a go at Hart (as the British has a great history of building stars up and then trying to knock them down to the bottom again!).
This video brings up some of the topics for and against cockiness in discussion about Hart’s current form. Roy Keane pointing out that it can be negative, whilst Gary Neville defends the other side of the argument.
And for another angle, from a coach’s point of view, this is Mancini’s take on things:
As you can see (well, read!), a coach can often want their goalkeeper to imbue their own self confidence, so that they take charge of their defence and command the play. To be a goalkeeper that dominates, you will often need to be tremendously confident. If you have confidence issues, then this mindset is going to make the difference in the way you play and interact with your defenders, and having your defence believe in you, is crucial as mentioned early on. Although maybe the elite goalkeepers already have this elite attitude!
But aside from all this trivia waffle, it offers a chance to reflect on things. There are times when you need to be confident to over ride a slump in form, to help you get back on track. A goalkeeper has one bad game and it can literally ruin a goalkeeper’s career. All the fans care about is that one mistake; it doesn’t matter in their eyes, they go on past performances (even more so if it was during a game of more importance) and you have to really work your socks off as a pro goalkeeper I guess to get out of the consequential dog house. And maybe coaches are like that too. Whereas a player can make a slip-up that results in us conceding (!), if we slip up, our head ‘can be on the block’ so to metaphorically speak. We can get dropped from the 1stXI and begin a demise if we don’t get things back under control and grow back our damaged confidence and ego, perhaps. And they say goalkeepers have a hard life!
Cockiness and self confidence
So, as you can tell and may already be aware of, the story of Joe Hart’s woes (which are coming in to his club form as well arguably), reflect the fine balance between confidence and reality. But as Keane actually points out well, it is when you relax and think every match is easy and you’re going to dominate without making any effort or having to because of the opposition team not pushing you to show your true colours of quality. When you get comfortable things start to peter out and your form will drop, as you get complacent. When you think you deserve praise without earning it, when you feel like you don’t have to try that is when it gets imbalanced. That is the crux. A goalkeeper needs to be pushed and if there is little competition to match, the only person who can push you is yourself. To stay on form, without getting overly confident to the point of thinking you don’t have to bother, you have to give it 100% (or maybe 110?!) in training and games, week in week out.
Cocky but not arrogant
For me, it’s great to be cocky and confident and ‘boss’ your defence and team, but if it is not grounded and rooted, it makes no sense! Arrogance is not cool; you just disassociate people with your big headedness that is not grounded in a professional attitude towards things. You don’t want to alienate your team mates and a backlash can be a humbling experience! Imagine the dressing room experience with Kevin Pietersen recently or similar. Egos in the dressing and a self centric approach where you are the worst case, is not exactly akin to a selfless game where you carry your team and do your best for them because you’re letting your self image get in the way! To be cocky, you also have to show it in the quality of your goalkeeping performances, otherwise being too cocky and not playing to match won’t look so great!
So, cockiness is a great tool of the ‘mental game’, but it has its obvious pitfalls and is a fine balancing act. Ultimately, there is a difference between arrogance and ‘cockiness’, but a goalkeeper that retains the qualities of imbuing confidence and commanding their team is important as it is in making match winning saves. There’s a lot to think about. I, for one, would endorse the concept of cockiness, especially if it helps with your confidence and ability to play aggressively and dominant in a way that you may not otherwise do, but if goalkeepers cannot play with a display that matches this idea, then they cannot stay cocky!