I have heard a high level USA coach once say, "put you best athletes at the centre forward and goal keeper positions". What this shows me is the importance of the goal keeper to the success of a Water Polo team. Anyone who has played at any level with a great goal keeper will know what kind of confidence it gives a field player knowing that they have an impenetrable force backing them up.
The goal keeper holds a very unique position on a Water Polo team on many levels. I will discuss the physiological demands of a goal keeper and how this applies to training.
Key Physiological points:
- goal keepers are anaerobic animals. Think power and speed.
- The most intense portion of a match for goal keepers is when they are playing man-down.
- ~80% of a match, a goal keeper is simply treading water (low intensity work).
- ~15-20% of the time they are working at very intense levels (e.g. man-down situations, ready position and jumping).
- Goal keepers activities are fairly standardized.
- All of the above will slightly vary, depending upon "among others, on the importance of
the game, game strategy, level of competition, quality of the opposition, the defense system and
- Focus on exercises that develop explosive power. e.g. various different kinds of jumps for 5-10 x 1-3 reps. Use complete rest, 2-3 minutes.
- Include some high intensity training of longer duration to simulate man-down situations. e.g. ready position and slide back and forth across the goal with jumps at various positions. Perform 3-5 x (20s on/20s off).
- Treading water is low intensity and of little importance to the game so simply train by having the goalie tread water for recovery between drills.
- Drills that last for multiple minutes and are of medium to low intensity will have a poor carry over to the goal keepers performance. These kinds of drills are important for warm up purposes but not very useful for specific game conditioning.
What are your favorite goal keeper drills? Do they "conform" with the research?
By the way the picture I have included is not doctored in anyway. I actually played with this goal keeper back in Canada. Judging by the height he gets out of the water, he is not very fit or of high level but he does a good job of using his head!
1. Platanou T, Physiological demands of water polo goalkeeping, J Sci Med Sport (2007).
ps. research on Water Polo is pretty non-existant, but on Goal keepers it is even smaller.