While most kids would be more than happy to play football 24/7, it wouldn’t necessarily be healthy. In fact, playing the same sport for a prolonged period of time, and subsequently performing the same movements over and over again, can lead to muscle injuries that will put you out of the game for days, weeks or even months.
That is why it is also important for goalkeepers, young and old, to partake in a variety of sports and activities in order to keep their body at its peak condition. Not only will it make you more flexible, more alert, faster and stronger, but it will also provide you with a number of skills that you can transfer into football.
When David de Gea switched from Atletico Madrid to Manchester United at the age of 20, he was undeniably talented, but he was also very skinny, and lacked the physical presence needed to perform in the Premier League. In order to solve the issue, De Gea turned to another activity – weight lifting – which helped him to pack on the muscle and transform himself into a top goalkeeper.
“I knew I had to become bigger physically, but you can see now I look different to when I first came here. I have much more muscle. I have worked hard in the gym, lifting heavy weights and doing a lot of exercises.”
Of course, young children should not be subject to the same intense regimes as adults, but low-level weight training can have a number of benefits on young keepers. For example, it has been proven to greatly increase cardiorespiratory performance, meaning you will be able to perform at a higher intensity for longer periods of time. Likewise, it also strengthens bones and builds muscle, meaning that you will be less likely to sustain an injury during a match.
Alternatively, swimming can be a great exercise for those that are still too young to strengthen their bodies by lifting weights. The water resistance provides an intense workout, although as the water supports your body weight, there is less chance of overdoing it and injuring yourself. The pool can also be a great place for youngsters to practise their diving skills without fear of landing incorrectly on a hard surface.
According to USA goalkeeping icon, Brad Friedel, partaking in other major sports should also be another key part of a goalkeeper’s training regime. According to Friedel, while your focus should be on football, sports such as tennis can help you to develop mentally.
“Basketball and tennis helped me a lot. The footwork in basketball and tennis is so important. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to try individual sports and other team sports. When you’re a goalkeeper, tennis helped me out because it’s individual. As a goalkeeper, you’re part of the team, but you’re individual.”
This is a view shared by Chelsea shot-stopper Asmir Begovic. However, he also believes that other sports, such as basketball, can have a big impact on the physical side of your goalkeeping development too.
“I play tennis, basketball and volleyball over the summer to help keep me fit. They also improve my goalkeeping, as some of the movements are very similar. For example, rebounding in basketball helps me to build power in my legs for jumping.”
Although, Friedel thinks that there is more to becoming a top keeper than simply partaking in sports. Those who truly want to reach the top level should also be willing to put the time in to studying and learning their trade.
“They also have to have specialized goalkeeper training. I do not mean physical fitness sessions. I mean learning technique, because you can’t do the physical work related to the game if you don’t have the technique.”
It will take time and effort to become the best, but developing your goalkeeping skills does not need to be boring or repetitive. There are a number of other sports and activities that you can try out, and most of the time they will provide you with key skills that you can use during football matches.
Every keeper is different – some are slim, some tall and some wide – and every keeper should train differently, using a regime tailored to their needs. Find a blend of goalkeeping drills, technique studies and other physical activities that work well for you, and watch yourself blossom into a David de Gea or Brad Friedel..