With the GAA working towards a full return to competitive games, there is hope that games can be resumed earlier than the originally offered date. Currently the first competitive games have been confirmed for Friday 29th July but there is hope that games can be organised as early as Friday 17th July.
It is true that the GAA authorities have given the green light for competitive games to go ahead from this date and there have been counties that have taken this opportunity and re-fixtured their schedules in line with this earlier date. With that said there are other counties who have not, especially in the six counties contained within the Northern Ireland Executive, but there is an expectation that this situation will be reviewed, and a favourable decision can be agreed upon.
This week (beginning Monday 29th June) all teams have been allowed to re-introduce full contact back into their training sessions. There is of course a raft of other requirements in light of the continuing Coronavirus pandemic, but those aside getting back to full contact will be welcomed by the majority of players and coaches across the country. With the short 2020 season so close to commencing getting back to contact will allow teams to fully prepare for competitive games properly.
For goalkeepers and goalkeeping coaches it will open the door to more game related drills and exercises that would have been not permitted due to the COVID-19 restrictions. Now being permitted for full contact and a loosening on the social distancing restrictions it allows goalkeepers to practice their close quarter game situations as well as fine tune the various critical movements within these critical moments. It is now essential for all ‘keepers and coaches to focus their training on these areas prior to the start of competition within the next two to four weeks.
Over the next two to four weeks the goalkeeper will be refamiliarising themselves with full contact training games as well as test matches against other teams and then inevitably competitive games both league and championship. This will bring with it all of the game-based situations that a ‘keeper will be expected to deal with on a regular basis.
From one on one, two on one, two on two etc. to becoming comfortable on the ball especially when being pressurised by the opposition, all of these contact situations will need to be thoroughly rehearsed before returning to play. The coach/’keeper needs to meticulously plan their schedule for returning to play having worked on the majority of these areas.
Performing drills that force the goalkeeper to catch high balls under pressure and contact will be important also. Dedicating time to collecting loose balls and coming out with the ball in possession while breaking/evading tackles will also be necessary. Closing down attackers and tackling them as well as producing full body blocks in front of their shots or at their shooting foot will be crucial for entering into competition.
The goalkeeper’s plan for the next few weeks leading up to that first competitive game MUST be completely game based situations, that mirror the game environment and also include a heightened importance placed upon their outcomes both positive and negative. After every session both the goalkeeper and their coach need to discuss their session and evaluate its effectiveness so they can decide if further work is needed in that area or if the ‘keeper can move onto something else. This discussion/evaluation will also be vital for any test matches that the team may have before their competitions start.
Working on these game situations is important to embed these movements into the body of the goalkeeper. The muscles of the human body have their own innate memory system that allows them to carry out movements that they perform on a regular basis without any conscious thought from the central nervous system. Training this muscle memory system improves the goalkeeper’s instincts and reduces the time taken for the ‘keeper to react in situations that they realise as familiar to ones previously experienced.
Playing in-house games and/or test matches against other teams will also allow the goalkeeper to improve their game energy system as well. This is a high octane, high intensity system that ensures the goalkeeper can produce their maximal output within a short timeframe. Getting themselves up to ‘match fitness’ will be important to allow the goalkeeper to stay mentally focused for the entire game.
With the reintroduction of contact within training and test matches, the goalkeeper will also be able to get reacquainted with dealing with the physicality of the game from a psychological viewpoint. It is the nature of the position that regularly places the goalkeeper into situations that involve a lot of contact so being prepared for this mentally will also be important to reduce the risk of indecision thus causing unwanted mistakes.
Becoming comfortable with other players coming into contact with you while you are performing your critical movements will be important as will becoming accustomed to performing your critical movements while there are players within close proximity to yourself which would otherwise draw your focus away from the ball/skill being performed.
Competition is now only two to four weeks away. Up to this point goalkeepers should have been working on their own personal conditioning while also keeping their basic goalkeeping skills to a high standard, but now your focus must change to those game related situations you will be facing when competition does resume. You want to be able answer ‘YES’ whenever your coach asked you ‘Are You Ready?’
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