This is a guest post by Jack Bowen: Menlo School Water Polo Coach, Author, and Head of Bowen Goalie Combines.
A recent Goalie Combine of mine involved one of my favorite exercises for goalkeepers. It captures a foundational element of good goalkeeping and is something every goalie can implement in their own training.
First, the exercise: I instruct goalies to take the maximum number of strokes possible while conserving water (also known as “slip strokes” by field players) in the short duration of 5 seconds. After a brief rest, I ask them to do this one more time. But, this second time, I instruct them to be more explosive, more powerful, more intense—to “shatter” their previous stroke-count. At our recent Phase of training sessions, we did this with a total of 57 goalies and everyone improved, with a majority improving by 3 or more and some improving upwards of 8 or 9 strokes—in just a 5-second interval!
Why this is so relevant to goalkeeping: After doing this, I remind the goalies that they received zero coaching between the two attempts: I didn’t teach them about elbow angle, point of hand-entry, hip placement—no focus on fundamentals or technique. The point being, explosiveness is truly a mental part of the goalkeeper’s game. And it’s a profoundly important component of becoming a successful goalie. Most exciting for me, in just 10 seconds of work, goalies can truly take ownership of this, recognizing they had just accomplished this themselves, and then immediately implement it into our fundamentals focus.
Once we recognize the mental component of explosiveness we can implement this in our base-position, with a stronger focus on our RPM’s. This allows us to generate more power and explosiveness in our shot-blocking move.
Quick Like a Cat: As goalies, we want to make sure we avoid just going through the motions. Following the warm-up phase of training and range-of-motion (ROM) focus, any fundamentals and technique work we do needs to be at 100% and game speed. I often tell the story of my first year coaching as an assistant coach. The goalie on our team would do sets of 20 high-corners for technique and, as would be the case for any goalie, the final 6-8 of those were often quite lackadaisical and not nearly as explosive as she could have been. This created problems for her facing outside shots because she simply wasn’t exploding to the corner and, without that explosiveness, it’s nearly impossible to get our hand to the corner of a 30-square foot rectangle floating in the water in the split-second we have to do so.
So, take this part of your training seriously. This is something completely—and only—in your control. As I often reflect quite fondly on my training while at Stanford with Bronco—the Yoda of Goalkeeping—he consistently pushed me to be more explosive on a daily basis, quipping in his Hungarian accent, “To be good in the goal post, must be quick like a cat, *chomp*!”
By, Jack Bowen
Menlo School Water Polo Coach, Author, & Head of Bowen Goalie Combines