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The Psychology Of The Goalkeeper: The Man In The Arena

This one hits home for me! Regardless of the sport, if you have committed to being a goalkeeper you understand it is tough to put this position into words. We hear terms like, "hero to zero" or "first one on offense, last one on defense." There is a reason why not many would volunteer for the position. And often times those people would say "you're crazy" or "all goalkeepers are a little weird." Am I the only one that thought "at least I'm not like everyone else" or "what's so crazy about this?" Regardless of the labels and boxes that people tried to categorize me and my fellow GK Union members (yeah that's a thing), I am forever grateful for my experience as a goalkeeper for the values and psychological challenges it provided.

1.) Pressure Exposure: Whether I was able to cope with the pressure every time or whether it got the better of me, I was at least exposed to it. There's a famous speech by Teddy Roosevelt from 1910 termed "Man in the Arena" (look it up, it's incredible). The very last sentence of the speech goes, "so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat." And I encourage all of my keepers out there to remember, your process and journey is worth its weight in Gold. With all of your ups and downs, its an arena you stepped in and deserve credit for. You are being exposed, you are constantly in that arena that no one else would dare step into. So wear your successes and mistakes with pride.

2.) Servitude: When you break down the position to the values associated with it, servitude is up there! This is the value of putting others before yourself. You signed up as a position to protect your teammates in front of you, to give them the freedom to attack and feel safe. We will gladly do the dirty work like stand still in the freezing cold for 90 minutes (in soccer) to maybe be called upon a few times. We will put our face and body in harms way by throwing it at an attacker moving full speed and about to hit a 80mph shot point blank into you. This is an act of bravery very few would contemplate taking. The same people that would point blame to you if you make a simple mistake. It's okay they won't understand, and don't ever expect them too. It comes with the territory.

3.) Self-Sufficiency: You are presented with a wonderful chance to learn how to manage yourself during situations that you may not have the answers for. Use your coaches (GK coach specifically), your teammates, friends, family, etc. This is a POWERFUL tool, to ask for help to cope with pressure, intense weather conditions, injuries, setbacks, etc. I do NOT want to encourage goalkeepers to isolate themselves more than we may already feel and do. At the same time, you will find things that work better for you. For example, my performance error routine was to unstrap my gloves, and re-strap them. This was my trigger to remind myself that I signed up for this position and should be proud. I learned that on my own. I learned how to deal with crosses differently because of my height. You have to experiment and explore within yourself and this skill is hugely beneficial to learn for later on in life.

Clean Sheet: Keep the clean sheet (or shutout) in your mind. Whether it is reflected on the scoreboard or not, goalkeepers are always growing and excelling because we are volunteering to place ourselves in a position of great challenge and adversity. And as we all know, that is where we grow the most! Be the "Man In The Arena."

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