Goalkeepers need to work on improving reaction times and decision making ">

GOALIES CIRCLE: Goalkeepers need to work on improving reaction times and decision making

Goalkeepers often only have a split second to react to shots, which means that they have to have great reflexes. Reaction times mean so much more to keepers than they do to other players on the field, so anyone who plays the position has to work on their reflexes often to get the most out of their other skills. Reaction time is the time taken between a stimulus and movement e.g., shot at goal and save.

Reaction time itself is an inherent ability, but overall response time can be improved by practice. Coach and athletes need to analyse the type of skill and the requirements of their sport and decide where overall response gains can be made. Five tips to improve reaction time and decision making are:

  1. Study Opponents’ Patterns.Understanding opponents’ capabilities, skills, and preferences can narrow the number of choices and appropriate responses to their moves.2. Identify Cues.Spotting cues from opponents can telegraph their next move. Responding to cues narrows the choice of responses and speeds up decision making.3. Practice Responding to Different Competitive Conditions. The amount and quality of practice can reduce the amount of time it takes for a goalkeeper to make an appropriate decision.4. Anticipate Opponents’ Actions. A goalkeeper’s ability to predict what an opponent will do in certain situations and when they will do it speeds up planning and decision making.Goalkeepers intending to deceive opponents can use anticipation to their advantage by making movements unpredictable. If opponents are unable to anticipate a move, processing a response is slower.

    5. Find the Optimal Performance Zone. Reaction time and decision making are influenced by how aroused or stressed goalkeepers are. Goalkeepers at a high arousal level may detect a limited number of signals because their focus narrows. Hockey coaches can help goalkeepers to maintain an optimal arousal level through the use of breathing exercises, progressive relaxation, visualization, and meditation skills. Achieving the “zone” promotes effective information processing, minimizing the adverse influence of high level competition on decision making.

Some training practices to improve reaction time and decision making

    1. The following video is a good example of with repetition and variance reaction time can be improved.


Reflex Training Equipment Needed: 10-15 tennis balls, tennis racquet, and coach/player

Set Up: Description:

  • Using tennis balls is a great way to improve your reflexes
  • Make sure coach or player is accurate with a tennis racquet • Hit the tennis balls at the keeper, giving them little time to recover
  • Start with aerial balls then add in some bouncing ones as well


  • Use hockey balls instead of tennis balls
  • Flick them in quickly with little time for keeper to recover
  • Focus on making a quality save each time
  • Start with balls near top of circle then move in closer

Reflex Training Equipment Needed: 2 Golf balls, 1 brick/concrete wall


  • Start with one golf ball, throwing it against the wall and catching it
  • You can either throw it straight at the wall (no bounce), bounce it onto the ground the off the wall, or bounce it so it hits the wall then the ground before you catch it
  • Alternate hands
  • As you get better, move in closer so that you have less time to react
  • Once you feel confident enough, have one golf ball in each hand, and throw them one after the other so that as you catch one in your left hand you throw the one in your right hand and vice versa


It is good to test a goalkeeper’s reaction time using simple sports testing prior to a focus on using skill practices to improve reaction time and decision making. After implementing skill practices the reaction time tests can be reintroduced to measure improvement. For types of tests CLICK HERE

Source: various

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