One of the ultimate knocks for a young keeper, or any athlete, is being benched – dropped from the first team, perhaps playing for the second team, or even losing one’s place altogether. Probably only second to serious injury, it hurts. In this post, we look at how to turn all that negative energy into positive energy and get that hard earned place back.

Being Benched Sucks

There are fewer things in life that are harder to take, than being told we’re no longer worthy. That we can no longer expect our place in a team and that we’ve lost the confidence of our coach and our teammates.

Being benched sucks.

But in the “World of hard knocks” that young athletes are being introduced to, which will become a broader World for each of them as they grow into adults and face work, family and other broader responsibilities, it’s actually nothing to worry about.

It’s life.

Get used to it, there’s more to come, and some even harder knocks as well, as a fellow called Inky Johnson found.

Brutal position

But back to goalkeeping. Put simply, it’s a brutal position. As we’ve discussed before, there are many things that are truly rubbish about being a keeper. These are the reasons so many give up, or prefer easier positions like, well, actually any other position on the field.

We have a list that we live by, in their order of importance;

  1. Responsibility – being blamed for everything
  2. Focus – Being bored 65% of game
  3. Loss – Being dropped from the team
  4. Distribution – Learning to be as good an outfielder as the outfielders
  5. Blah-blah – Having to listen to non-keepers tell us how to do things better
  6. Conceding – Picking the ball out of the net

This list won’t make sense to many, especially coaches. Where’s “losing the game” etc?

Well we believe teams win AND lose as a team. It’s rarely one person to blame and why should that be the goalkeeper anyway.

The loss we care about is losing the faith of our coach and teammates – and therefore being benched. For any athlete, not participating is the ultimate loss. Playing and losing a game is much lower down the list, if on it at all.

And it’s often an absolute loss – there is only ONE goalkeeper on the field. Even if the role is shared (one half each, or some mysterious combo) the impact is much harder on a keeper than an outfield player, who can always get minutes, play in other positions, etc, often unnoticed. It’s very visible for a keeper.

So what can we do about it?

Easy, follow the three B’s

  • feel better about yourself,
  • be a better goalkeeper,
  • show we’re better than we were

Only you can fix the first two, and the third will fix itself. Being a better keeper, and looking more confident, will always catch people’s attention. And that’s the route back to that cherished first team goalkeeping slot.

To help you focus, and recognizing ONLY YOU can do this, we’ve listed a few important things to remember, and some guidance.

  1. what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger
  2. we get a new perspective from being dropped and sitting and watching
  3. this gives us time for a self examination (SE)
  4. we have to show we want that place back – this is life and it’s no different once you’re an adult in work or with family
  5. make sure the SE is honest and 360 degrees – the good and bad, weak and strong points.
  6. involve someone you trust in the SE – a coach or another keeper or both
  7. use the self examination to make a plan with goals and targets
  8. keep the targets simple – eg make 5 good distribution choices
  9. have their success ratified by another person
  10. above all, don’t whine – no shrugging of shoulders, no complaints – only positive body and verbal language.
  11. Go to practice and work harder than you’ve ever worked before
  12. Go to games, and support your team. Show them you’ll be back.

Above all, resist the temptation to be “down” – this is a lesson and we’re supposed to get straight back up and fight on!

Turn your setbacks into comebacks” – anon.

If these thoughts haven’t helped, you should watch this – the story of Inky Johnson. Then ask yourself, how bad is it really?

Tips for Coaches – Confidence – Cohesion – technique

  • Firstly, encourage your keepers to “play for their place“. This is not a position that can be treated lightly. They earn it.
  • Always try to build their confidence. 
  • Explain to the keeper coach why precisely you’re making a change.
  • Never criticize the keeper. Leave it to the keeper coach to work with them on why they’re being benched.
  • One casualty of this change will naturally be the keeper’s cohesion with his defenders .
  • This will need rebuilding, and the best time to start is straight away, in practice.
  • Above all, make every one of your benched players want to be Inky Johnson.