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The power of communication – “The best goalkeeper is not the one who makes the most saves, but the one who prevents the most attacks.”

What you need to know about communication

The Goalkeeper is the last player – the one who watches the game from behind, the one that sees every other player on the field. This vantage point gives the goalkeeper the inherent responsibility to guide his team into according positions by simply speaking instructions. We are human, we talk, and we talk all the time. It is silly to not use this natural gift as a tool to help our team’s chances in winning the game. Giving your teammate the necessary information can be the difference that determines the outcome of a match. However, knowing what to say, when to say it, how to say it, and what words to use is the primary challenge that faces most youth goalkeepers today. Goalkeeper communication needs to be instructive, efficient, direct, and clear. 

Communicate with clear instruction

Prioritize where the communication is needed. Give organized instruction. Use a few words. Put a name or number on it. Create a sense of accountability. 

Improving your communication as a goalkeeper - Keeper Portal

Goalkeeper communication: what to say

Communication with Possession

  • ‘’Time’’ or ‘’Man on’’ or “Turn” – if player on the ball has pressure from opponent or time and space to turn and dribble
  • “See (Name)” or “Play (Name)” – when you see a pass option that is a clear advantage for the ball to go
  • “I am here” or “You got support” – when showing a passing line
  • “(Name) Tuck In” – when addressing the weak side if too spread out in the attack
  • “Keep an Eye on (Number)” – when an opponent is not in the vision of our defenders – just in case we suddenly lose possession

Communication on Defense

  • Shouting “Keeper’’ when claiming the ball. 
  • Shouting “Away’’ when not coming out for the cross.
  • Making teammates aware of unmarked opponents or the opponent making a run –  ‘’(Name) right shoulder’’ or “(Name)left shoulder”
  • Telling your team to get up the field – ”Push-up’’ or ‘’get up’ or ‘’out’’
  • “Contain” or “No Foul” to let your defender know not to jump at the ball
  • “Force Wide” or “Force Right” or “Force Left” to help the defender show the ball to an attacker’s weak foot or to a weak side of the play. These words are essential when the ball is around your 18 yard box.
  • “Press” is used when you want your team to apply pressure all around

The best way to practice communication is to create small sided games and propaedeutic exercises that simulate the game scenario and generate decision making on the goalkeeper’s side. Example: incoming cross, lateral or central through ball, goalkeeper decides if to come claim the cross (shout “keeper”) or stay in goal (shout “away”) Example: simulate a counter attack situation, with defending and attacking players, the Goalkeeper must organize his defense. 

For youth goalkeepers, speaking to their team might be uncomfortable because either they don’t know what to say or they are still in a position of watching the ball and not the play. The best way to solve this is to let the goalkeeper re-explain the drills in practice, or reiterate what the coach said on the tactical side before a game, at half time, and after the game. This gives the goalkeeper confidence in front of his team, but most importantly reassurance that what the goalkeeper is saying is actually accurate and everyone is on the same page. Communication is a team effort, not just one person. It really shouldn’t be the coach’s job to communicate for everyone because then the players are not thinking they are just obeying, hence not learning and not growing team chemistry.