Why Fitness Matters for Goalies

You have to be fit to play football. Running around for 90 minutes. Putting your body under immense strain and pressure. It demands exceptional levels of strength and stamina. At least, that’s the view when it comes to outfield players. However, when it comes to goalkeepers, some people argue that fitness isn’t quite as important.

They contend that, since goalies don’t run about as much as their outfield teammates, they don’t need to be fit. Perhaps there was a time when there was some truth to that. If you go back a few decades and look at certain top-level keepers, they weren’t quite as slender and athletic as their teammates. However, these days, suggesting that a modern goalie doesn’t need to be fit is simply nonsense.

The Importance of Goalkeeper Fitness

Take a look at some of the top keepers of today. Courtois. Neuer. Alisson. They have different playing styles, as well as different heights and statures. But when it comes to physical fitness, they’re all amazing athletes. They undergo intense physical training regimens, just like their teammates, and they have to be immensely strong and fit.

Here are just a few reasons why.

Bursts of Pace

You probably won’t spend huge amounts of time running around as a keeper. You won’t have to sprint down the wing or burst past a defensive line. But you do still need to run when the situation calls for it. In fact, goalkeepers often find themselves having to go from standing still to sprinting at full speed. You might have to do so when rushing out for a loose ball or closing the shooting angle on an attacker, for instance.

For that, fitness is crucial. Keepers who are overweight or unfit will find it much harder to suddenly accelerate away from a standing start. They’ll also struggle to get up to the speeds they need to make those all-important runs out of the box. This is especially true if you hope to play as a sweeper keeper and need to rush out of your area now and then to sweep up danger.

Diving and Saving

Making saves is the bread and butter of every keeper. It’s arguably the No. 1 skill to master, and it’s what keepers tend to be judged on more than anything else. The best keepers are able to dive powerfully left and right, making crucial saves. They’re also able to make themselves big when forwards are bearing down on goal, making it much harder for them to score.

Again, this all requires high levels of fitness. You need immensely strong leg muscles to crouch down and build up power for your dives. You also require strong arms, wrists, and hands to punch and parry the ball away. Keepers who fail to work on their strength and conditioning will naturally concede many more goals.

Jumping and Claiming

You don’t just have to dive sideways while manning the net. Good goalkeepers also need to leap high up into the air. It’s crucial for claiming those lofted crosses and snuffing out the danger of corners and free kicks. Of course, being naturally tall helps. That’s one of the reasons why so many world-class keepers are well over six foot. But you can’t rely on height alone to save you.

Outfield players can often jump several feet into the air to get their head on the ball. You have to be able to jump even higher. Again, that requires lots of strength, particularly in the calves and thighs, as you’ll use those muscles to propel you upwards. If you don’t have sufficient strength, you could find yourself flapping at crosses and conceding lots of goals at set pieces.

Avoiding Injuries

Injuries aren’t as big of a risk for goalkeepers as they are for outfield players. You don’t tend to get as many goalies struggling with torn hamstrings or pulled groin muscles. However, that doesn’t mean goalies are immune to injury. All that diving and jumping around can put immense pressure on your joints, muscles, and bones, with possibilities of sprains, fractures, breaks, and tears.

One of the big benefits of fitness training is that it reduces your risk of injury. By conditioning and strengthening your muscles and joints, you help your body cope with the rigours of the goalkeeping position. This is particularly important for those with a history of injury or have a recurring physical weakness, like a bad knee. Working on your fitness should help you stay healthy and in-shape for longer periods.

Commanding the Box

Last but not least, fitness is also crucial for commanding your box, especially at corners and free kicks, or when crosses come sailing in from the wings. When that happens, opposing players might try muscling you out of position or pushing you around. But good keepers have the strength to stand their ground, pushing back just as hard, if not harder, to keep control of the situation.

Most of the previous sections have focused on leg strength. But this is where core and upper body strength are just as crucial. You need strong arm, chest, and back muscles to hold your position when other players are jostling against you. This also helps you push your way through a crowded penalty area to jump up and make a claim or clear the ball away. As an added bonus, defenders will tend to feel more comfortable with a strong and sturdy keeper stood behind them.

Summing Up: Fitness Is Crucial for Keepers

If you want to be a truly great keeper, you can’t neglect your fitness. In the modern age, keepers at all levels need to be fit, fast, agile, and strong. It helps you make better saves, leap higher into the air, command your box, and ultimately, win more games.

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