Mar 6, 2013

The Lonely Position - Voodoo Goalkeepers!

By Lloyd Yaxley

For many athletes leading up to a game there are certain things they need to do to physically and mentally prepare.

The physical warm-up is pretty self explanatory - i.e. a basic warm up would be some jogging, stretching, catch some volleys, take a few collapses, collect some crosses, some kicking then maybe take some shots. Then its whistle and game time.

But what about the mental preparation? I know many young players get to the game, stand in goal, and have shots blasted at them before game time. Have they visualized the game? Have they mentally prepared for situations soon to be coming their way?

This week I want to talk about rituals, habits, and superstitions!

I was at the Washington Capitals game last night and had great seats right behind the net. It was great to watch Capitals goalkeeper Braden Holtby in his warm-up and throughout the game. At every stoppage he would spray his water in the air and then watch it as it falls from the sky then he would take a drink! I started looking further into his superstitions this morning and came across "Holtbyisms".

Watching Holtby made me think about myself when I played and the little rituals I had and still do have. So I wanted to delve further into little rituals that many pro goalkeepers have?

Myself, I always put my left socks, cleats and gloves on before the right, my gloves I strap-unstrap then strap again. Water goes in the bottom right of my goal and I would never touch the pk spot before kick-off. For those attending the Washington Spirit games you will get to see some of these little rituals I still do, even as a coach, including at the end of the national anthem stubbing my toe to the ground!

Iker Cassilas, after each goal that his team scores, touches the crossbar and  the jerseys he wears he cuts the sleeves off to make them short!

His Spanish colleague, Liverpool's Pepe Reina, has a list of superstitions starting the night before with a cheese and ham toastie along with a glass of wine. On Game day he goes to the same gas station and puts gas in his car even if it is not needed! At the ground he always parks in bay 39.

On game day Reina Says :
"When I cross the white line I have to do it twice with my right foot. Stepping on, then off and then back on again. For some reason – and probably not a very good one – it helps keep me calm."

"As I get to my goal, I go straight to the right post, bang my studs against it, then touch the crossbar, then bang my studs against the left post, then go back to the middle. Next, I take six steps to the edge of the six-yard box, another six steps to the penalty spot, another six to the edge of the 18-yard box and then do the same thing in reverse" 

He finishes by saying "Anyone who is watching must think i'm crazy, but it works for me!"

I could spend all day finding different goalkeepers' superstitions and there are plenty ranging from Shay Given taking holy water into his goal when he plays for Ireland to David James spitting on the wall before he goes out. In reality I think the last quote from Reina sums it up "it works for me". I'm not by any means saying to play at a higher level you need to have all these crazy rituals. What I am saying is to get to the next level you need to learn how to focus and calm your nerves before a game and become mentally tougher.

Thank you for taking your time to read this; please share any thoughts with me at @GKeepersUnited.

The Lonely Position: Introduction to Lloyd Yaxley