A fundamental quality for all goalkeepers is its ability to position themselves on the field especially in defensive situations at the net in the face of the offensive game by the opponent. Therefore, the correct spatial orientation, a quality that requires individual work and development, is essential.
The orientation in space depends on the goalkeepers ability to effectively assess a situation in relation to the required reaction efforts, in accordance with rational approaches that enable movements to be executed effectively.
The rational orientation in space is based on a complex activity of the different analyzers that allow the goalkeeper to evaluate the conditions for the execution of one or other actions, choose a rational motor action and execute it in a solvent and effective way.
Visual and sensory systems play the most important role in this role. Let’s make a distinction between two types of goalkeepers depending on their orientation in space:
Type A – goalkeepers that perform their actions based on visual counselors
Type B – goalkeepers that perform their actions based on their motor memory
The former (visually orientated) rely on visual representations to mentally exercise the actions to be performed. The latter are based on motor (muscle) memory and imagined propioceptive sensations.
However, in high-performance preparation, there is a third group of goalkeepers whose orientation in space allows them to instantly evaluate a situation through visual analyzers in addition to performing a muscle action according to their motor memory thus maximizing the result in each action. Type C goalkeepers are those that perform a joint activity of types A + B.
Type C – goalkeepers that use visual analyzers to perform actions according to their motor memory
Therefore, it is important to refine the orientation in space and it is vitally important to training the so-called voluntary attention.
Voluntary attention is the ability to distinguish the most important stimuli to orient yourself in a given situation. The ability to cover as many stimuli as possible in the visual field depends to a large extent on the volume of attention provided, as well as on the ability to shift attention from one stimulus to another (viso-motor action).
Attention requires concentration and there are two types:
- Tense concentration
- Relaxed concentration
The tense concentration involves a work of attention with a constant psychic effort, altering breathing and maintaining a permanent tension of the mimic muscles (muscles of the face). This type of concentration is common in low-level athletes.
However, the type of relaxed concentration implies a calm behavior, a waterproofness towards external stimuli, a natural expression, soft and stable on the face. This type of attention enhances self-confidence as well as allowing analyzer signals to be processed mentally more easily, at higher speed, and transform them into faster and more effective motor actions.
The volume of attention, its mobility and the ability to concentrate should be enhanced by carrying out specific psychological exercises. It is important to note that the higher the level of preparation of the goalkeeper at the technical and tactical level, the greater their experience in competition, their interpretation of soccer (rivals, teammates, technical body), their ability to regulate their emotional state, to maintain a relaxed concentration, the more effective their attention and the ability to orient well in space.
It is very effective to perform limiting sensory exercises to increase the level of concentration and therefore develop voluntary attention span.
Examples of exercises include:
- Walking a distance with your eyes closed
- Perform blocks with eyes closed only based on hearing perception
- Intercepting the ball with visual obstacles and auditory annulment (earplugs)
- Perform jumps with twists
- Rolling on the ground with surprised additions
- Performing muscle exercises with result control (repetitions/time)
- Running distances in a given time (goals)
THE ABILITY TO VOLUNTARILY RELAX THE MUSCULOS
“Voluntary muscle relaxation is one of the most important elements in all goalkeepers to effectively perform actions in training and competition.”
Muscle groups perform different functions. While some execute movements and overcome resistances through voluntary tension, the activity of the other muscles is intended to maintain a certain position. Muscles that do not intervene are relaxed, creating optimal conditions for greater sports economy, free and wide movement, which increases endurance and delays fatigue.
All sports can be divided into two large groups according to the improvement of the capacities to relax the muscles voluntarily.
The first group consists of sports in which the motor actions are very determined by the competitive activity to be carried out. Such is the case of sports such as weightlifting, artistic gymnastics, athletic jumps among others. Its functional requirements demand a high need to improve the ability to voluntarily relax muscles in order to synchronize the activity of antagonistic and synergistic muscles when executing the movements of the competitive discipline (for example, in weightlifting, it is essential to start from a relaxed muscle position to inject explosive force at the precise moment before the load lift).
The second group consists of sports in which the motor actions are not very determined by the competitive activity to be carried out. With this we mean sports in which effort is sustained such as individual fights, complex coordination sports such as slalom skating, kitesurfing, wakeboarding, sailing, skiing among others. These sports demand a wide variety of motor actions and the need to form complex rational compositions of muscle activity in specific situations, which requires a methodological singularity of improvement and training of the ability to voluntary muscle relaxation. The figure of a soccer goalkeeper forms part of this group.
EXCESSIVE MUSCULAR TENSION
Excessive muscle tension negatively influences the training and competition activity of all goalkeepers. This substantially reduces coordination and range of movements, limits the speed of implementation and causes excessive energy expenditures, reducing the resilience and economy of work. Therefore, it is necessary to train and perfect relaxation.
To train relaxation, specific exercises are performed alternating relaxation and muscle tension, regulating the latter. In the specific goalkeeper trainings, exercises are performed that require a gradual or abrupt transition from tension to relaxation, exercises in which the tension of some muscles is accompanied by the maximum relaxation of others. For example, an alternation of isometric muscle tension (3-5 sec) with consequent relaxation helps to improve the ability to relax muscles.
Also, in the specific goalkeeper training, exercises can be performed where the goalkeepers introduces elements of active relaxation of muscles that do not participate in the work. For example, stretching deltoids after performing flying stretching exercises in sessions of explosive force, relaxation of arms after the launch of a medicine ball or a weight from different starting positions. In short, any movement that requires considerable efforts to subsequently reward them with relaxation exercises.
The following techniques are especially effective at training and increasing muscle relaxation capacity:
- Creation of structures to relax muscles, going from tension to relaxation quickly.
- Maximum variety in the execution of the exercises with different intensity ranges, seeking the abrupt variation of the intensity of the work applying exercises of different duration.
- Execution of exercises emphasizing muscle relaxation in the following functional states:
- Stable state
- Compensated fatigue or latent fatigue (allows to maintain the load of exercise thanks to the involvement of other functional systems)
- Obvious fatigue (quickly detected and decreases working capacity immediately)
- Constant control of the relaxation of the muscles of the face (mimic muscles), which allows to decrease the overall muscle tension.
In addition to the main factors that determine the ability of voluntary muscle relaxation, we highlight the effectiveness of psychic regulation of muscle work, tolerance to emotional stress, optimal psychic tension in training/competition sessions and of course, relaxation of mimic muscles.
Our methodology as goalkeeper trainers, should contemplate the use of different techniques to reduce excessive muscle tension. With this we manage to increase the ability to voluntarily relax the muscles thus enhancing the voluntary attention of the goalkeeper to achieve as a final result, an orientation capacity in the optimal space of the goalkeeper.
These are some of the methodologies that we use in our Club to enhance the capabilities of our goalkeepers within the high performance techniques that we apply in its preparation and that through HO SOCCER, we want to share with all of you.
Josemi Rodríguez | C.D. Leganés
First Team and Youth Squads Goalkeeper Coach