The relationship between team goalkeepers

Rachael Lynch goalkeeper

My views on the relationship between team goalkeepers have naturally been shaped by experiences throughout my career and the influence of people I have played with and been coached by.

The psychology of goalkeeping is multidimensional. It’s not an easy position by any means and the mental game can often be more important than any physical or technical aspect. I decided to explore the topic of competition and the relationship between team goalkeepers.
Goalkeepers spend more time together than any other position on the field. You know the ins and outs of that person, their technique, their weaknesses, their preferences, how they call, what gear they prefer and so on. Just like in a work place you must be able to work well with this person or it will become a very uncomfortable environment.

Other than at a junior level, most teams will have two goalkeepers. In some clubs, training academies and at the top level, there are anywhere from two to five goalkeepers competing for one spot. Unlike other field positions there can only be one goalkeeper on the field at a time. Some coaches may play a different goalkeeper each half but generally one keeper plays. The rules of hockey state that 18 players can be listed for each game and due to the chance of injury usually two goalkeepers will be picked.
Team Goalies Rachael Lynch and Ash Wells
In a training environment it is a good thing to have more keepers as it keeps things competitive. You can push each other. If you are training by yourself you can become lazy and complacent which is never good for a team. I have been fortunate enough to have played my whole international career with exceptional goalkeepers. When I first debuted for Australia I was playing alongside Rachel Dwyer (nee Imison) who is someone I have idolised ever since I started keeping. She taught me many things in the five years we played together for Victoria and Australia, not just hockey wise but also about how to be a well rounded athlete and person. Rach was an extremely professional athlete who pushed herself to the limit with everything she did and was never afraid to share her knowledge and help others along the way. It would have been very easy for her to keep it all locked away knowing I was competing for her spot but this was not the case. If she saw an opportunity to teach me something she took it and I really admired her for that. Rach retired after 2008 and will always be known as one the best keepers the world has ever seen.
Rachael Imerson and Rachael Lynch

The dynamics amongst the Australian women’s goalkeeping group has certainly changed and evolved over the eleven years I have been involved. Usually in the Australian squad we train as a group of three or four keepers. During those eleven years I have spent my fair share of time on the bench or left back at home while the team tours. In 2008 I did not play a single game before the Olympics and in 2012 only played three, yet I trained day in day out with the two other keepers who were getting picked- It was very difficult! But I have been on both sides of the spectrum and so it is these times that make you really appreciate your selection and strive to be better. You learn very quickly that non-selection is not something you can blame the other goalkeeper for. You will be angry and disappointed yes but if you have any bitterness towards the other keeper then you will never be able to train and work harmoniously.
Rachael Lynch Hockey Goalie

As with all team sports you must keep in mind what is best for the team. There will be times where you may be in the form of your life yet still do not get picked. Here is when you can take comfort in the fact that you have pushed the other keeper to be better and the decision made by the coach is in the best interest of the team.
My view on it all: it is about having respect for the other keepers, helping each other learn and improve but never losing that competitive drive to be the best. The hours you put in on the training track gets you in the best shape and form possible so that when the time comes to play you are ready. If on that day you are not picked’ then the priority becomes supporting the keeper or keepers who are, whilst ensuring you are ready to go should the situation change.

Id love to hear others thoughts on the topic. Please feel free to share them below 🙂


  1. Ton Langenhuijsen says:

    Hi Rach,

    very well put. Goalies are a different breed of people and as you know I have – as a former player and even more as a coach – immense respect for the way most goalies handle this.

    I see it from upclose with Pirmin & Jaap and the lifespan of a goalie in some senses is much longer which makes it that much harder to train that intense and sometimes get neglected or not picked.

    Compliments for getting this out, a good coach will tell its goalies but its not always coming accross and told by one of the top goalies this is a good thing to keep in mind. You will get there, keep putting in the good work.

    tae care, see you soon


  2. Marcus says:

    Hi Rach,
    Great post.
    It was once put to me that a goalkeeper is an individual position in a team sport, and it takes a special sort of person to play there. At the time it was actually meant as an insult, but it’s been my mantra both coaching and playing in goals.
    It often seems that keepers have the least coaching attention – at a junior and club level keeper selection is often an afterthought, drills are rarely aimed at geniunely improving keepers skills, and feedback is rare. To succed, we often end up with athletes who are more reflective, more driven and (dare I say it) of above average intelligence. And then we leave them on the bench, or playing in a lower grade than they deserve.
    It’s a difficult problem, whether international, state, or club.
    However, it generates a sense of cameraderie between keepers that just doesn’t exist among other player groups, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world!
    All the best.

    • Vos says:

      Yes Marcus, I totally agree with you on that. I see it all the time from back home at my club to up at the highest level.

      Well done Rach on a great article that is so relevant and relatable.

  3. Gemma says:

    I get what u mean and I totally agree with you. I mean I trialled for a rep team and didn’t get it, but now the goalie who did get in and I are BFF’s 😀 😛 🙂

  4. Lisa Wroblewski says:

    Rach that is a top article. Trust many non-gk hockey people read it too!
    There is much in there that also applies to gk parents – we develop relationships with the other gk and their families. While it is hard not to see your child picked in a team or to play it is wonderful to share the success and delight of the other gk and their family.


    • Maud says:

      I am delighted to have found your website Rachel and that is a great article. You are absolutely right, it is quite competitive out there and having a number of gk’s competing for the same spot does keep them motivated. Lisa, your reply really resonated with me! As a gk parent, yes it is hard sometimes to not see your child picked but also it is wonderful to share the successes of other gk friends when they do get picked. We are just this year seriously getting into goal keeping and have done a number of trials and selected in 2 rep teams, so at the start it felt a bit like being thrown in at the deep end. Now we’re coming across the other gk’s all the time and start to build a real connection between them which is really great! Also, as a parent it is great to get tips from other very experienced gk parents.

  5. siobhan says:

    Nice post, great to read an article on such a topic.. well done!
    Playing at Club Level for over 2 seasons and loving every minute of it! We have two keepers one for each team at present with a couple of other club members well able to put the kit on if need be (but the two of us dont let them if we can, lol).
    Great relationship with our other keeper and we help each other out as much as possible… love training together when we get the chance and going to watch each other play is valuable. I have an extra season under my belt and my buddy has many less years on her birth certificate… However we have a mutual respect for each other, train hard, play hard, party hard! I agree all the work any keeper puts in on and off the pitch is for the good of the team and thats always most important when team selection kicks in!
    Can see how difficult it would be being left behind or on the bench but for anyone in that position, hard work, team dedication and your day will surely come!
    One point at club level i do also like is the chat, help and tips other keepers from other clubs are well up to share… as we say in our great wee club #keeperclub #monthedee

  6. Matt Jobson says:

    Hi Rachael,

    I’m a UK GK coach out in the US, where there is a tremendous pressure to be the top gk even at high school and club, as it has an effect on if/ what colleges will be looking at you (or at least the perception), so there is a lot riding on your selection.

    This is a nice article for my Gks to read and at least understand that this happens all the way to the very best hockey levels and that the persistence that I often talk about, is a reality and 1st team (or varsity) selection is not just something that comes because you are older than the next girl. Furthermore, a lot of Gks in the world could learn to support whomever becomes the Gk above them.

    Keep the work up!

  7. Roberta says:

    Great article.

    What I’d like to know is what actions or steps do you take when selection hasn’t been about the “best on ground”?

    Sport – like many other areas of life has an element of politics about it. What then?

    Coaches, selectors – at the end of the day – it’s subjective. My hockey club is not objective.

    What then?

    • Rach says:

      It does happen but I think all you have to do is train so hard to get in the best form possible so that you make it impossible for the selectors not to pick you

  8. Ruth Ryan says:

    Well said! I would totally agree with you. It took me many tries to get to that top spot. And yes there were times when I deemed that I was better than the other keepers but for some reason did not find favour with the selectors. I am now playing at Masters level (national & international levels) and it still happens! But rather than admit defeat it only makes me more determined to train harder, correct those inconsistencies in my technique and become a better player.
    Even when I look back on my Masters experiences over the last 14 years I cannot believe how much I have learnt from different coaches and fellow goal keepers and advanced my techniques. I only wish I could have had the knowledge and the opportunities that I have now when I was in my 20s!
    And to finish with a little plug for Masters hockey. It is a great opportunity for players 35 and over to test their skills against great players in an intense competition. I resisted the opportunity for a few years post 35 thinking that was not my scene but when I finally trialled for Victorian Masters and played my first National Masters Championship I was blown away by the competition; just fantastic and was thrilled to get an opportunity to represent Australia in International competition. No matter what age, there is immense pride when you are out on that field and hear the National anthem playing for you and the team!

  9. Miranda says:

    As a parent who watches, waits and picks up the pieces from disappointment, I find a bit of comfort in what you said.

    It can be so damn hard watching how hard GKs work to be beaten time and time again. But, you see the friendships that they make and the resilience they display and you understand why they keep digging and fighting for that spot.
    I hope my daughter and all of her GK friends fullfill their dreams and keep being mates for many years to come.

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