How to Communicate as a Goalkeeper: The Best 10 Commandments

Kristian // December 2 // 0 Comments

Goalkeeper communication is the cornerstone of a solid defensive strategy in football. In this guide, we’ll delve deep into the nuances of effective communication, providing goalkeepers with actionable insights to elevate not just their game, but the entire team’s defensive prowess.

The Journey from Verbal Cues to Nuanced Non-Verbal Goalkeeper Communication

While goalkeepers are often recognized as the lively chatterboxes off the pitch, orchestrating effective goalkeeping communication during the heat of a match is a different ball game altogether. 

The knack for communicating seamlessly with teammates does more than just solidify the defensive framework. It brews a culture of confidence and understanding among the players, making the turf a little less chaotic in the heat of the game.

This guide unravels goalkeeper communication, from basic verbal cues to nuanced non-verbal gestures. The right word at the right time can sway the game's tide, marking the difference between a routine save or an avoided conceded goal. So, clear your throat and let's dive into this blog post.

Understanding Your Role as a Goalkeeper

The position of a goalkeeper is unique and pivotal.

As the player with the broadest view of the field, the goalkeeper naturally morphs into the team's defensive general.

Our vantage point allows us to see unfolding plays, potential threats, and opportunities that other players may not notice.

This unique perspective, coupled with the goalkeeper's critical role in preventing goals, places us in a prime position to lead the defensive charge.

Effective communication from the goalkeeper can significantly impact game outcomes:

  • A timely shout to alert a defender of an approaching opponent
  • Precise instructions to reposition
  • A call to claim a loose ball to thwart potential threats. 

The goalkeeper's voice becomes a guiding force on the field, helping to orchestrate defensive movements, alert players to imminent threats, and convey crucial information that can alter the course of the game.

How often do you, as a goalkeeper, find your directives altering the course of a defensive move effectively?

Goalkeeper intently gathering the ball during a match, embodying focus and control in the role.

Benefits of Effective Goalkeeper Communication

Effective communication from the goalkeeper's end is akin to a well-conducted orchestra, where each player knows their part, contributing to a harmonious defensive symphony.

Here are some notable benefits of honing your goalkeeper communication skills:

Fostering a Positive Team Environment

A goalkeeper's encouraging words and constructive feedback create a supportive atmosphere, enhancing overall team morale and allowing players to express themselves confidently on the field.

Enhancing Teamwork and Building Trust

Through clear and constructive communication, goalkeepers foster a sense of teamwork and build a strong bond of trust among teammates, which is crucial for a well-coordinated defence.

Cultivating Confidence and Leadership Skills

Goalkeepers, by effectively communicating, not only boost their confidence but also position themselves as reliable leaders on the field, uplifting the team's spirit, especially in high-pressure situations.

Improving Defensive Coordination

The precise instructions and timely updates from the goalkeeper enhance defensive coordination, making it challenging for opponents to break through, thus contributing to fewer conceded goals and more clean sheets.

Mitigating On-field Confusion

In the heat of the game, confusion can be a formidable foe. Clear and timely communication from the goalkeeper can help dispel confusion, ensuring that every player is aware of their position and the ongoing game strategy.

Staying Alert Through Communication

Continuous communication from the goalkeeper keeps the team alert, aiding in anticipating potential threats and responding to them swiftly.

Smiling goalkeeper giving a thumbs-up to the camera, exemplifying a positive team environment on the football field.

A smile and a thumbs-up: The subtle power of positivity in fostering a team environment where every save, block, and command is celebrated in unity.

Mastering Verbal Communication as a Goalkeeper

Mastering the art of verbal goalkeeper communication techniques not only fortifies the team's defense but also establishes the goalkeeper as an unwavering pillar of leadership on the pitch.

In this chapter, we'll delve into the art of verbal communication for goalkeepers, exploring the "how," "when," and "what" of engaging with your defenders.  

So, let's tune our vocal cords and dive into the realm of verbal goalkeeper communication, shall we?

The Art of Verbal Goalkeeper Communication

Effective communication as a goalkeeper hinges on being clear, concise, and authoritative. It's about striking a balance between being instructive and assertive without coming off as abrasive.

Here are some key points on how to communicate as a goalkeeper:

Clarity and Conciseness

Use short words and sentences that cut through the noise and deliver the message instantly. In the heat of the game, every second counts, and being able to communicate quickly can make a significant difference.

Authoritative Tone

Your tone should command respect and attention. An authoritative tone not only directs your team but can also play mind games with the opposition.

When opponents hear a goalkeeper confidently commanding their defense, it can sow seeds of doubt about penetrating that defensive unit. This psychological edge, stemming from authoritative goalkeeper communication, can be a subtle yet impactful strategy in maintaining defensive robustness. 

Understanding and implementing authoritative goalkeeper communication can be a game-changer in establishing a formidable defensive presence on the pitch.

Constructive Language

While it's essential to be authoritative, ensure your communication is constructive and aimed at improving team performance rather than criticizing teammates.

Imagine a scenario where a defender makes a risky back-pass under pressure, and you, as the goalkeeper, manage to prevent an own goal narrowly. Instead of reprimanding the defender, using constructive language like "Close call, let’s opt for a side pass next time under pressure!" keeps the morale intact and provides a clear alternative for future plays. 

Be Specific

Being specific in your commands, such as "James, left flank!" eliminates ambiguity and ensures that the defender, James in this case, knows exactly where to position himself. Specificity in commands can prevent misinterpretations and ensure smooth defensive unity, particularly during fast-paced counter-attacks where rapid and accurate decision-making is paramount.

Goalkeeper actively communicating, shouting and pointing directions to guide the defensive line during a match.

A moment capturing the essence of verbal communication in steering the team towards a cohesive defensive strategy.

Timing Your Talks: When to Communicate as a Goalkeeper

Mastering the art of timing in goalkeeper communication is crucial in proactively managing the defensive setup and responding aptly to the dynamic nature of the match.

Effective goalkeeper communication timing can be the linchpin in organizing defensive structures, especially during critical phases of the game.

Here are some scenarios when your voice is crucial:

Pre-Game Briefing

Before the whistle blows, take the time to have a pre-game briefing with your defenders and the rest of the team. This initial communication sets the tone, ensures everyone is on the same page, and fosters a sense of preparedness and confidence as you step onto the pitch.  

In the 2006 World Cup, Italy's goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was known to hold brief yet impactful pre-game discussions with his defenders, ensuring everyone was aligned with the defensive strategy. This practice was evident in Italy's robust defense throughout the tournament, culminating in their victory.

How do you prepare your team before the whistle blows?

Early Warnings Communication

Speak up before potential threats materialise. Guide your defenders and midfielders to mark opponents, cover spaces, or get into advantageous positions ahead of time.

Consider the iconic moment when Liverpool's Alisson Becker consistently warned his defenders of potential threats from Tottenham Hotspur during the final of the Champions League in 2019. His early warnings and clear communication were pivotal in maintaining a clean sheet in a high-stakes match.

How do you alert your team to impending threats during a game?

You can watch Alisson Becker's 2019 Champions League Final performance here.

During Set Pieces

Clear communication is crucial during corners, free kicks, and other set pieces to ensure a well-organised defence. Make sure everyone is marking an opponent or covering a specific area effectively.

A prime example is guiding players stationed near the posts to cover the area around them rather than just standing by the post. This way, they're better positioned to make a goal-line clearance should a bullet header from the opposition be out of your reach.

How do you manage your defense during set pieces?

When the Ball is Out

Utilise stoppages in the game to offer constructive feedback.

Reflect on Tim Howard’s leadership when playing for the USA, especially noticeable during breaks in play. He would utilize every opportunity when the ball was out to provide feedback and reorganize his defense, ensuring optimal positioning and strategy. 

How do you utilize stoppages to communicate with your team?

In High-Pressure Situations

High-pressure situations are where your calm and clear communication shines the brightest. When attacks are relentlessly targeting your goal, it's vital to remind your defenders to remain calm and perhaps slow down the game's tempo. Your reassuring voice amidst the storm can help keep the team focused, organised, and less susceptible to errors.

How do you maintain calm communication during intense moments on the pitch?

Goalkeeper confidently claiming a high ball amidst a crowded penalty area during a match.

Soaring above the rest, a goalkeeper claims not just the ball, but a moment of assured safety for the team. The silent yet potent communication of competence and control.

The 10 Commandments of Effective Goalkeeper Communication

The essence of what to communicate lies in the common commands that are universally understood and recognized in the football community.

Here are the 10 common commands as a goalkeeper and their significance: 


Usage Scenario: Claiming the ball

A resolute "KEEPER!" alerts defenders of your intent to claim the ball, notably during aerial duels and set pieces, averting teammate collisions, and minimizing goal risks. This command also proves vital for securing loose balls in the box and effectively executing the sweeper-keeper role. Additionally, it assists in reducing hesitation among defenders, ensuring they do not attempt to play a ball the goalkeeper has claimed.

Here's a video of former Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno with a open mic during a friendly game. 


Usage Scenario: Urging a clearance.

"AWAY!" instructs defenders to decisively clear the ball, particularly when under duress, ensuring it is relocated to a safer zone on the field or even off the pitch to reset play with a throw-in. This effective clearance communication also serves to mentally reset the team, providing a momentary break from defensive pressure and allowing them to reorganize.


Usage Scenario: Pushing up the defensive line.

"PUSH UP" directs defenders to progress up the field, minimizing the space available for opposing attackers by compacting the space between defensive and midfield lines. This command also strategically positions the team to potentially catch opposing players offside, disrupting their attacking momentum.

Read more about the impact of a high defensive line here.


Usage Scenario: Retreating the defensive line.

"DROP" signals defenders to fall back and strengthen the defensive formation, especially vital when the team is unbalanced, to slow down the attacking team to allow defenders to regain their positions against an impending attack. This defensive line management tactic can also serve to protect a lead by solidifying the defensive structure, especially in the dying minutes of a match.


Usage Scenario: Warning of an approaching opponent.

"MAN ON" alerts a teammate of an approaching opponent, enabling them to shield the ball or find a passing option, and preventing unexpected dispossession. This command is crucial in preventing counter-attacks by allowing the player in possession to make quicker decisions.


Usage Scenario: Indicating space to turn and advance with the ball.

"TURN" advises a teammate that it's safe to turn with the ball, promoting forward passes and exploiting open spaces on the field, facilitating transitional play from defense to attack.


Usage Scenario: Informing of available time.

"TIME!" reassures a teammate they have ample time to make a decision with the ball, promoting calm and considered decision-making, and helping in maintaining possession by preventing rushed passes or clearances.


Usage Scenario: Signalling availability for a back pass.

"Home" indicates your availability for a back pass, providing a safe option for defenders and midfielders under pressure and serving as a safety net, which helps in maintaining possession and controlling the game’s tempo.


Usage Scenario: Applying pressure on the ball.

"PRESS!" rallies teammates to apply pressure on the ball, whether it's blocking a shot outside the box or rallying the team in regaining possession. It also aids in disrupting the opposition’s rhythm and playmaking. 

Learn more about the effectiveness of pressing and how goalkeeper communication enhances this tactic.


Usage Scenario: Indicating the striker’s preferred leg.

"RIGHT LEG" or "LEFT LEG" informs defenders of the striker’s stronger leg, aiding them in positioning themselves effectively to block shots or passes. Understanding and communicating an opponent striker’s preferred foot can also aid defenders in forcing them onto their weaker side, reducing the threat they pose.

Engage with Us!

Have you encountered a match situation where one of these commands drastically influenced the play? Share your stories in the comments below and let’s create a community where we can learn from each other’s experiences on the pitch!

Remember, building trust as a goalkeeper transcends mere verbal exchanges. It encompasses showcasing steadfast reliability and unwavering consistency through your actions on the pitch.

By steadfastly supporting your defenders in crucial moments, you not only instill confidence in them but also forge a robust defensive foundation for your team.

Consider this: How often have you witnessed a goalkeeper's timely intervention or a crucial save bolstering the team's morale? Such actions silently communicate assurance to the team, affirming that you, as the goalkeeper, is secure and dependable.

Mastering Non-Verbal Goalkeeper Communication for Goalkeepers

While the potency of words is undeniable, the proverb "actions speak louder than words" resonates profoundly on the football pitch.

In the realm of goalkeeping, non-verbal communication plays a pivotal role, often becoming the unsung hero in seamless defensive coordination.

Let's explore how silent cues and gestures carve out their niche in goalkeeper communication.

Employing Gestures and Body Language for Clear Messaging

  • Hand Signals: Leverage hand gestures to navigate defensive repositioning or signal directions, ensuring your instructions pierce through the game's tumult.
  • Positioning: Your strategic positioning and stance on the field act as unspoken directives, aiding defenders in aligning themselves adeptly against potential threats.
  • Facial Expressions: Utilize your facial expressions to radiate urgency or calmness, setting the defensive temperament and resonating with your team's collective focus.
  • Over-Exaggerate Your Gestures: In the heat of the game, subtle gestures can be easily missed. Over-exaggerate your gestures to ensure defenders catch your cues, making your non-verbal communication unmistakably clear.
Goalkeeper actively communicating and using arm gestures to direct defenders in a live football match.

A goalkeeper not only guards the net but orchestrates the symphony of the defensive line with assertive communication and strategic gestures.

Building a Silent Rapport: Eye Contact and Other Non-Verbal Cues with Defenders

  • Eye Contact: Before voicing instructions, establish eye contact to ensure your message will be received accurately, creating a focused communication channel.
  • Nodding or Head Shakes: Respond to queries or situations with simple nods or head shakes, conveying approval or disapproval without the need for words.
  • Pointing: Guide defenders by pointing towards pivotal areas or looming threats, offering a visual guide for enhanced positioning and field awareness.

Achieving mastery in both verbal and non-verbal communication crafts a holistic approach, enhancing goalkeeper communication.

These two communication realms complement each other, forging a comprehensive communication strategy that elevates your game and fortifies your team's defensive resolve.

Engage With Us

How have non-verbal cues impacted your gameplay? Can you recall a moment where a simple gesture made a significant difference on the field? Share your experiences below and let’s delve deeper into the silent yet potent world of non-verbal goalkeeper communication!

Final Words: Effective Communication for Goalkeepers

Navigating through the intricate tapestry of goalkeeper communication, we've unveiled the pivotal role it plays in orchestrating a steadfast defense and fostering a cohesive team dynamic.

From the assertive shouts of "KEEPER!" to the subtle, yet potent, non-verbal cues, every gesture and word weaves into the creation of a fortified defensive line, capable of withstanding the most formidable of attacks.

The goalkeeper emerges not only as a physical barrier against goals but also as a strategic commander, guiding the defensive battalion with precision, authority, and timely interventions.

The amalgamation of clear, concise verbal commands with strategically employed non-verbal communication crafts a comprehensive defensive strategy, ensuring that every player, from the seasoned defender to the agile forward, moves in a harmonized symphony.

In the echoing roars of the stadium and the silent moments that linger between each play, may your words and actions resonate, guiding your team to defensive triumph and solidifying your legacy as the guardian of the goalposts.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Goalkeeper Communication

Why is communication crucial for a goalkeeper?

Communication is pivotal for a goalkeeper to effectively guide the defensive line, alert teammates to potential threats, and coordinate strategic plays, ensuring the team moves cohesively and mitigates risks on the field.

How can a goalkeeper improve verbal communication skills?

Goalkeepers can enhance verbal communication by practicing clarity, conciseness, and authority in their commands, ensuring messages are specific, timely, and constructive to guide defensive actions effectively during the game.

What role does non-verbal communication play in goalkeeping?

Non-verbal communication, through gestures, positioning, and facial expressions, provides clear visual cues, supports verbal commands, and ensures messages are conveyed effectively amidst the chaotic atmosphere of a match.

How can a goalkeeper ensure that their commands are understood and followed?

Ensuring commands are clear, concise, and specific, utilizing both verbal and non-verbal communication, and establishing a mutual understanding of common commands with teammates during training can enhance the effectiveness of goalkeeper communication.

What are some common verbal commands used by goalkeepers?

Common commands include "KEEPER!" to claim the ball, "AWAY!" to urge a clearance, "PUSH UP!" to advance the defensive line, "DROP!" to retreat defensively, and "MAN ON!" to alert a teammate of an approaching opponent, among others.

How can goalkeepers manage communication in high-pressure situations?

In high-pressure scenarios, maintaining a calm demeanor, utilizing clear and authoritative communication, and providing reassurance through constructive feedback can help manage the team’s defensive actions and maintain focus.

How does effective communication contribute to team morale and performance?

Effective communication fosters a positive team environment, enhances teamwork, builds trust, cultivates confidence, improves defensive coordination, mitigates confusion, and keeps the team alert, thereby uplifting overall team morale and performance.

Can a goalkeeper’s communication impact the opposing team’s strategies?

Yes, authoritative and visible communication from a goalkeeper can psychologically impact opponents, potentially causing them to second-guess their strategies and be wary of the solid defensive coordination of the goalkeeper’s team.

How can goalkeepers practice and enhance their non-verbal communication skills?

Goalkeepers can work on their non-verbal communication by practicing hand signals, positioning, and facial expressions during training, ensuring that their gestures are clear, exaggerated, and understood by teammates.

How can a team support and enhance the goalkeeper’s communication efforts?

Teams can support the goalkeeper’s communication by understanding and responding to commands effectively, providing feedback, and ensuring that there is a mutual understanding of verbal and non-verbal cues used during matches.

Have More Questions?

If you have additional questions about effective goalkeeper communication, feel free to submit them, and we may include them in future updates!

About the author


Hey! I'm Kristian, a seasoned goalkeeper with nearly two decades of experience. My journey through the ups and downs of goalkeeping has molded me into the person I am today. From winning championships to facing relegations, being voted Goalkeeper of the Year, and overcoming injuries, I've lived the full spectrum of what this position entails. Now, I'm dedicated to sharing my insights and experiences to help goalkeepers at all levels develop their skills and mindset. Feel free to reach out if you have any goalkeeping queries or just want to chat about the game!

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