The Life of a Goalkeeper
By Carly Nelson(Former Goalkeeper at University of Utah)
When people talk about goalkeeping many of them have actually no idea what entails. Goalkeeping is an art and a completely different sport than soccer when it comes down to it. We must know goalkeeping inside and out, and then on top of that have knowledge of the game and what is happening outside of our own 18 so we can see the game. Every goalkeeper will tell you this, it’s just something field players can’t fathom. If they were to step into a “typical training” they wouldn’t last 5 minuets! Goalkeeping is hard and can sometimes be scary but that is what makes it so much fun. It is intrinsic, complicated and if we are being honest with each other, it is absolutely crazy. Who in their right mind would willingly want to put themselves in front of a 60 mph ball. No one in their right mind would, which is why it is so fun.
When I first started goalkeeping, I found it fun and exciting to jump in front of balls, to be the last chance and of course I loved making those big saves. But I was so uneducated as to what goalkeeping really meant at that age. When watching soccer, we always see these huge saves being made. The ones that leave the crowd and ourselves in awe after witnessing it. Don’t get me wrong, these give me chills till this day and I love to see it. As I am older I now realize WHY and HOW these players are able to make these HUGE saves. It isn’t a huge thing at all, don’t get me wrong, it is amazing and will always be cool. However, it is an accumulation of a bunch of tiny mundane things done day to day throughout training that put these athletes in a position to make these saves.
As a young player many do not know the whys of what they are doing, the cone work, the handling, the angle work, the shape of their hands, feet, etc. This is a very important thing to take seriously! Those small things done in the day to day training are what will translate into the game right?
This past year I finished up my college career at the University of Utah, now I am fortunate enough to have an opportunity to play with the Utah Royals FC. With that, I have been able to play a long side, being coached and trained by an absolute legend, a 2-time Olympic gold medalist, someone who played with and alongside Hope Solo and at one point overtook her role, THE Nicole Barnhart. What she always emphasizes and focuses on, is the small technique things. This is why she is so good and this is why she is able to make these big saves. Because she has developed the discipline and habits in training, that translate into the game. Every day we train, she gives me feedback, tells me to check my feet, to check my hand positioning and then explains the importance behind it all. When I do something or when I fail to do something, I then see the importance of the little things we are training on.
For example, when players like Christen Press and Amy Rodriguez are shooting at me, that ball is coming hard and fast. The small handwork, the small adjustments and the tedious technical things I have done in training helps me avoid giving rebounds and allowing them another opportunity to score. This may just be one example but the next level you are trying to play at is the same thing. Those small things will either be the result of saving the ball or the ball being in the back of your net.
In a game, you will never be perfect, at the end of the day a save is a save and you should own that and get excited about it. In training strive to be the cleanest and focusing on the little technical things. Ask why it is important or why you need to do that so you can fully grasp the concept of it all. Goalkeeping isn’t this huge thing really, it is a bunch of tiny things done right, that allow us to make these big saves keeping the ball out of the back of the net. Keep training hard and most importantly have some fun and smile through the process. Much love my fellow Goal Creatures!
Carly Nelson is a long time member of BetterGoalkeeping. She has trained for many years within the program and has gone on to have an outstanding career at University of Utah and now with Utah Royals. Carly grew up in Utah playing soccer with Celtic Storm Soccer Club and training as a goalkeeper in Utah under BetterGoalkeeping.
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