Effective Communication - Commanding Goalkeepers

From my experiences in coaching Goalkeepers, training to catch or distribute a ball and then seeing the Goalkeeper put this into action is the easy part. However when it comes to communication, for many young developing Goalkeepers this always seems to be the hardest part. You would think with some of them that it would be the other way round, as a number of them could ‘talk for England’. However on a football pitch they are not confident enough to shout out instructions. This can be for many reasons, although in the case of one of our Goalkeepers it was just simply that they don’t want to shout at their teammates for fear of upsetting them. After all they are their friends and shouting at them can seem rather confrontational, even though it really isn’t. This then is a big psychological hurdle they need to over come. Hopefully the following text will help these aspiring Goalkeepers realise that Goalkeeper communication is not actually bad thing, that it will in fact help not only them as Goalkeepers, but also the rest of their team (their friends).

Goalkeeper Vision

During a match, communication is very important, for all the team. Being an effective communicator on a football pitch can provide information and instruction to other team members that can help provide additional insight to them during different periods of play.
Team communication could come from the manager; however they will only have vision of the play from the sidelines. Whereas, communication from the team players on the pitch, will be more effective as they can advise players of what they see around and in front of them. Goalkeepers on the other hand have a very unique position on the pitch over and above that of their manager and players, as they are right behind all the action, with a vision that can see all that which is occurring in front of them. This extra vision communicated effectively to teammates can be a very powerful skill to have.
“Goalkeepers who talk will give confidence to defenders and help their teammates to react to situations they may not always be aware of” – David Coles


As discussed, with such vision, in order to provide the most beneficial help, Goalkeeper communication must be effective. In that, the Goalkeeper needs to be able to convey the instructions to their team mates quickly, before the game play changes. These instructions therefore need to be short and sharp.
There are two situations of game play, Defence and Attack. However even though these instructions will be different they will still be short and to the point.

Instructions in Defending

For situations where the team is defending against the attacking play of the opposition, a Goalkeeper will need to quickly organise their Defence, as an organised Defence will breed confidence in not only the Goalkeeper but also the rest of the team. It may also have the reverse effect on the opposition!
Such instructions may be (but not limited to):

“Close them down”;

“Keep the line”;

“Keep tight to <Player Name/Number>”; and

“Get Goal side”.
Or perhaps the instructions might be because you need the defender to help you take a player away from goal or to show the player to a more predictable side (i.e. showing them one way could make it easier to predict what that player might do next, making it easier for the Goalkeeper or the team to deal with), in which case you may shout for them to:

“Sheppard them away“; or

“Show them Left/Right”.
There are further instructions that are required to organise the Defence for set pieces, to help them organise a wall if needed. That a Goalkeeper will work with the Defence to get them to protect part of your goal, so the Goalkeeper can concentrate of the other part.
In addition there are also instructions when defending in and around the goal mouth (not just for set pieces), which again need to be short and sharp, however if a Defender hears them then there are different courses of actions that could be taken, such as (but not limited to):

“Keepers” – Means the Goalkeeper feels that they are able to deal with/catch the ball and needs the Defender to move out of the way for them to deal with the situation or for the defender to move behind them (if they are on the back post during the defence of a corner) to protect the goal line; or

“Away” – Means the Goalkeeper feels that they are unable to deal with/catch the ball and needs the defenders help to take the ball away from goal.
Instructions in Attacking

In situations where your team is attacking, a Goalkeeper can use that added vision they have to great effect. Providing instructions such as (but not limited to):

“Pass is on to <Player Name/Number>” – to tell the player with the ball what passes are available;

“Man-on” - If there is an opposition player bearing down on them;

“Time” - If the player with the ball can have time on the ball before making their move/pass.

Commanding Goalkeepers breed confidence in the team

Have you noticed how much more confident a team gets when they have confidence in a Goalkeeper?
It has previously been mentioned that Goalkeepers can breed confidence in a team. However, to really get across the message of how good effective communication from Goalkeepers is, think of this:
1/ If a Goalkeeper is providing effective communication, they sound confident. And if they are organising their Defence (as previously mentioned) they are increasing their own confidence as they are more prepared for the situations that are presenting themselves on the pitch.
2/ Such confidence from a Goalkeeper, breeds confidence in a Defence as they are ‘confident’ in their Goalkeeper, and with extra help from behind to provide extra vision helps them in their job building their confidence even further…
3/ If a team is confident in their Defence they will attack more! Actually meaning that the Defence and Goalkeeper should have less to do – however once this happens, don’t get complacent, always be alert, as you don’t want to undo all that hard work in confidence building.
Commanding Goalkeepers with effective communication skills is just one example of a how a Goalkeeper can breed confidence throughout the team. Confidence in a Goalkeeper and also is a great thing to have, therefore, in response to my opening paragraph, if you are one of those Goalkeepers who are afraid to upset your team mates, remember that if you use short sharp confident instructions that help them, finding your voice will actually benefit the team in many great ways. So what are you waiting for…start shouting!