Playing yourself out of a ‘slump’
At some point in everyone’s playing time, there will be a time where they struggle to make saves or deny the opposition, maybe even feeling like a ‘polo’ or leaking goals like a sieve as outfielders often call it! The elite goalkeepers have elite skills as well as an overpowering mental fortitude that ensures that they happen very rarely rather than perhaps more so, for the case of us mere mortal goalkeepers! But it’s no good falling into the trap of feeling the ‘slump’ is unstoppable, it takes guts to realise you can halt it and overcome it, but it’s doable! To beat the ‘slump’, the simplest way is to go back to basics, to relearn things and focus on the ball and compete and go through things with a purpose. You need to realise that you are capable of being a great goalkeeper and need a bit of work to remember that!
The dreaded ‘slump’
Ah, the dreaded ‘slump’. When you’re playing as if the ball is more like a golf ball than the basketball it used to seem when you were seeing everything and stopping it all. When your confidence is shot to pieces and you can’t seem to be doing anything right, letting in weak goals and making mistakes left, right, and centre, that would otherwise not be happening. Every goalkeeper will go through them at some point in their playing career, but the key here is to reduce its effect on your overall performance within the season! The more it drags on, the more it will affect your ‘mental game’ and have a knock-on effect on your overall team performance as they can’t do much in front of what used to be the rock in the team defence.
What is it?
In some ways, by definition, it’s a psychological thing. You’re not confident in your abilities, put off by niggling worries or nervous that you’re going to get scored on by an own goal or made to look silly somehow, that prevent you from performing to the best of your ability, which your team obviously needs you to be doing, so that they have the best chance of winning! You need to work on building your confidence back up again so that you can play as well as (or better than!) you were before. You may be struggling with some of the basics and working on these should make moving around the D and positioning against shots more manageable as you work to improve your rate of saves made.
What to do
The ‘slump’ could often be the result of forgetting the basics or struggling with a certain aspect of them. Going back to basics is the best way to deal with anything, helping you find the area you are having trouble with and working to improve hard to improve on it. Every save is the result of good angle work, strong positioning and challenging depth, and then the correct save motion to block the ball appropriately.
Use training as a chance to immediately go back to basics and you should be able to isolate the flaw or error in your technical game. Something has probably gone wrong and become part of your goalkeeping make up. Work on getting centred on angles for each shot, movement, basic positioning and getting ‘square’ and the right depth. Without a goalie specific coach this is obviously harder as you may not be able to analyse the root of the problem that you are specifically struggling with, but in training, you can use the opportunity to go through the motion of the basics against every shot. Maybe even ask for another goalie at your club to see if they notice anything when you’re ‘taking’ shots.
Have a purpose!
The more in tune you are with the game, the better you will perform. Focus is key; be alert and have your head on a swivel and know where your team mates are and what’s going on around you. Always watch the ball, even pretend that you are a camera man filming the game; that’s how focused on the game you should be! I’ll continue to harp on about the importance of focusing on the ball throughout, into the save, as I’ve written about previously. You can focus on making the save properly on every single save to push yourself to get it right, whether in practise or in an actual game.
Have self belief!
The more you think about the slump, the worse it can get. So don’t! Sometimes it’s best just to ‘call it a day’ and put it beyond you and move on and focus on the next game at hand. As it can be a struggle with the psychological aspects of the sport, think of how you can overcome things mentally. Self talk is what they call it: tell yourself you’re unstoppable, you’re amazing, you’re unbeatable and as a result, you may just go out there and prove it to everyone else! It sounds a little trite and obvious, but have belief in your abilities, be confident that you can and more importantly will stop the ball! The more saves you get and the more in tune with the game you feel, you’ll get into the swing of things and start playing well again.
Even if at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again! Keep at it! Persevere and eventually you’ll succeed. Keep plugging away with your efforts and you’ll be able to be in a better position to reap the benefits. By working hard and putting the effort in, you should be ‘up’ for games and ready and raring to do your best in the next game.
Get out of it!
Ultimately, you want to make sure you do your best to get out of a slump, whether it be short term within a game as your confidence starts to crumble, or if it something more long term that could derail a season. It may take time, so be patient with yourself and don’t beat yourself up about things even if that sounds obvious and a little patronising! If you struggle, just go back to basics and think about what’s going wrong. Focus on the ball and be alert in matches and you should be on the road to recovery ok!