In a sport dominated by big personalities, the headlines are usually reserved for the likes of star players and fiery managers. It isn’t often that you hear about those behind the scenes.
However, Chelsea goalkeeping coach Christophe Lollichon made the back pages last season due to a high profile falling out with first-team shot-stopper Thibaut Courtois. The cause of the row was thought to be related to Lollichon’s intense training methods, in which goalkeepers are made to train wearing weighted vests. According to Courtois, this resulted in a knee injury that ruled him out of the first half of the 2015/16 season.
Although, while Courtois seemingly disagrees with Lollichon’s methods, the club’s former number 1, Petr Cech, believes that the Frenchman’s influence was what helped him to become one of the world’s best goalkeepers.
According to Cech, no two training sessions under the highly regarded coach are ever the same, and there is always a focus on growing and progressing, regardless of your age or level of expertise.
“He is always searching for new things to bring it further,” the Czech international stated. “To be more efficient and try to make things happen for a goalkeeper to progress even at the highest level.”
Many coaches use training sessions to maintain their players’ fitness levels, but Lollichon sees them as an opportunity to take his charges to the next level, through the use of various innovative techniques. For example, one of his exercises involves the use of various balls of different shapes and sizes, which are in turn thrown towards the goalkeeper. As the goalkeeper is unaware of what will be coming towards him – it’s shape, level of grip and flight path – they have to keep their concentration and adapt their hand-eye coordination each time.
Concentration seems to play a big role in Lollichon’s goalkeeping ideology. According to Cech, many of his routines involve concentrating on multiple stimuli in order to replicate situations that you may be exposed to in a game. For example, the coach would kick a ball towards the goalkeeper and hold up a coloured card. The keeper then has to call out the colour of the card and save the ball, which Lollichon believes helps to keep the brain active and also increases your peripheral vision.
However, Lollichon’s sessions aren’t all about developing a keeper’s mental attributes. His shot-stoppers are also put through their paces in order to develop the physical side of their game. One of his favourite games is peteca, a Brazilian sport similar to badminton, where players use their hands to hit a shuttlecock over a net. However, rather than a net, players have to hit the shuttlecock over the crossbar. As you have to move, jump and dive in order to stop the shuttlecock from touching the ground, peteca offers a fantastic warm-up routine for goalkeepers, which mimics the skills that they will be using throughout the session. However, that isn’t its only benefit.
According to Cech, the game also helped him to recognise many of the areas of his game that he needed to work on. For example, he noticed that he struggled to hit the shuttlecock over the bar with his left hand, while he did it with ease using his right, suggesting that he needed to improve the strength in his left arm.
According to the former Chelsea goalkeeper, “At this level, it is a constant battle of getting something extra.”
However, Lollichon’s believes that there is always something to improve, some way to become an even better player, which is reflected in his training methods. The intensity isn’t for everyone, as we have seen with Courtois, but when it works, as it did with Cech, the results are incredible.