The goalkeeper is arguably the most important member of any soccer team. Oftentimes their performance is decisive in the outcome of a match. No matter what your level of expertise, to excel in the art of blocking, you must be aware of certain things and deliberately and continuously practise others. Seven helpful recommendations are listed below.

Keep your focus on the ball

This first recommendation is arguably also the most difficult to follow. The main job of any goalie lies in observation. Only occasionally should he be required to spring in to save a goal or offer a save haven of retreat for the football. Nonetheless, it is absolutely crucial for him to always be ready and exactly know where the it is and who is in possession of it. Keeping a high level of focus and attention while standing between your own two posts is often very challenging and tiring. Even if the ball is in the possession of your own team mates and on the other side of the field, the situation might change from one second to the next. There have been some very embarrassing incidents where an opponent kicked the football from the other side of the field and the goalie was either not paying attention or too far from the goal to save it.

Choose wisely before leaving the penalty area

The penalty area can be considered a save haven for goalies, in which they can (usually) pick up the ball. Outside this area they must adhere to the same rules as any other player, and thus loose a great deal of control. It can be both beneficial to stay near your goal or to leave your save haven. For example, imagine an opponent passing the ball to his team mate (no offsite) who is sprinting toward your goal. Obviously he is going to pass the ball well ahead of where his team mate is located at that time (since he is sprinting). Now let’s assume (as is often the case) he passes the ball  is passed a little to far and thus between you and the sprinting opponent. At this point you should already have made the decision to either interfere and spring towards the ball to kick it in to the field or retreated backwards and defend your goal. Thus a goalie needs to be constantly vigilant and make good decisions intuitively.

Don't tire yourself unnecesarily

Soccer can often be regarded as a game of chance. Players try to position themselves strategically in front of the opponent’s goal to intercept a pass from their team mates and score. Unsurprisingly, there are a large number of goal attempts, most of which miss the goal by several yards. A goalie should merely jump for or throw himself in the direction of the approaching ball, when it comes close to his goal. This can be very difficult to judge for the layman and thus requires a lot of practice and experience.

Regard mistakes as opportunities to learn

Mistakes are very common and absolutely necessary to grow. Only by letting in goals, you can learn from your mistakes and change your behaviour in the future. Don’t be dissuaded by your errors but try to learn from them and not repeat them.

Judge body movements

As a goalie you should be able to read the body language of your opponents as they are running toward you. This also comes with experience. Understanding the body language and movements of your opponents gives you more warning as of what kind of a shot you may expect. Not being fooled by diversions belongs in to this category as well.

Determine your optimal position

Deciding where exactly to position yourself throughout the game is crucial. The different stages and situations of the game are going to require you to make minor adjustments to your position. For example when an opponent in control of the ball sprints toward your goal, it is both important for you not to stand too close or too far from the goal line. Determining the right position is a science to itself.

Be confident and suppress doubts

As in most sports, your state of mind has a significant impact on the outcome of the game. Especially as a goalie, your failure isn’t just a lost opportunity, but a significant victory for your opponents. Fear and doubts can be your greatest enemies. Thus it is important to stay confident at all time and not let mistakes get to you too much.