FTrust your instincts. There is only that when you are a goalkeeper in football and you have to stop a Penalty.
Alone between goalposts, staring at the ball. You follow the player’s approach race. Watch how she implants her supporting leg.
Sometimes you have already studied this player on the video, so that you know their inclinations. But at the end of the day, no matter what you know about her, at this point there’s only one thing you have to do: trust your instincts.
What do my eyes tell me? Which way will you shoot?
The hardest thing for a goalkeeper is not to move too early. The player can then respond and change their plans at the last minute. So you have to hold your breath and remain still for as long as possible.
Analyze, stop… Then, at the right time, stick to diving in one side or the other.
You may have all witnessed that moment when Stephanie Labe ran to her teammates to celebrate the Canadians’ win in the quarter-finals. The goalkeeper had just suspended Brazilian Rafael to close out the penalty shootout and allow Canada to reach the semi-finals.
The tackle alone gave Canada a chance to play for a medal, which they did in the next game by defeating the Americans. And if they’re about to play for gold now, it’ll be thanks to that play and the decision, and then the split-second action: that moment when Stephanie decides. Jump to his left.
J’I played professional football for 14 years. She has represented Canada at two Olympics and five World Cups. Over the years, I’ve faced all kinds of situations, including many penalty kicks.
I can think of the penalty shootout in the gold medal match at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 2011. It was also against Brazil.
I remember going to the caucus then, just before the session started, and saying to the girls:
I’m going to save the ball or twice, just make sure you get the ball in the goal!
Here’s what happened: you saved twice of the Brazilian’s five shots while the opposing goalkeeper only made one. For the first time in the history of the Pan American Games, Canada won the gold medal.
That’s why I think that’s the right mindset in these circumstances when you’re a goalkeeper. You have to be confident, and confident in your skills, and that’s exactly what you did at the time, and what Stephanie does in Tokyo.
Every shot is different. You don’t have to think about the future or the past. You have to be there right now in the present. It’s the mental state that goalkeepers themselves put into those situations.
to me Tokyo, Stephanie trusts her instincts as they work for her.
So far it has been exceptional, and not only in penalty kicks. It was like this all through the games. She makes the right decisions, she makes sure that she communicates well with her teammates, that they are all in good shape, plus she stops taking shots. All because she is confident in herself, even in times of extreme stress.
By the way, that’s exactly why goalkeepers play this position: we love the pressure. People say we’re crazy, but we live these times.
Once in the shoot, it rests on the shoulders of the shooter, this pressure. If the goalkeeper makes a save, that’s a bonus. With such a big goal, this is not what is expected, and not what is supposed to happen.
That’s why a goalkeeper can come forward with such a confident mindset. She’s not in a situation where everyone expects a pause, one where she says to herself:
Oh! divine! If I don’t stop, we’re in trouble!
The state of mind is rather:
I have a chance to shine.
sWhen Stephanie tackled the Brazilian, I went completely crazy. You can find out by going to any of my social media accounts… I jumped up and screamed until I lost my voice.
My reaction was also strong because I know Stephanie so well. I worked alongside him and we played together for years. I remember seeing her arrive, when I was very young, and watching her become the great international goalkeeper that she is today. In Tokyo, she injured her ribs in the first match against Japan, but insisted on staying in her next position.
In my reaction, there was a little of it, but there was also all the significance of this victory. Winning an Olympic medal will influence generations of young female athletes in the future. Thousands of young girls will fall in love with our sport because of it, knowing that one day they will also have a chance to win a gold medal for Canada.
We talk a lot about the evolution of the sport, the birth of a professional team. It can produce a lot of gold medal.
This group of girls in Tokyo has already made history because Canada won no more than a bronze medal. Now at least they are guaranteed to make money. That’s why I support them so much. As a former teammate, yes, but also as a Canadian.
We’ve also exchanged some messages since the beginning of the games, the players and me. I just wanted to congratulate them and make it clear that they are about to make history. And what’s great about this group is that they appreciate the contribution of those who have been there before them.
For me, what moves me is seeing this group and Stephanie get to this point…but also to see Kristen Sinclair. To be able to see her live this, she’s the one who gave so much and brought so much to our sport, it’s extraordinary.
I felt so lucky to attend this crucial moment, this stop by Stephanie against the Brazilian.
What’s more, the ex-player and Canadian inside of me feel really lucky to be able to watch what’s happening these days somewhere in Japan.
Interviewed by Alexandra Pechet and François Foissy
d’entête Image Philip Fong / AFP via Getty Images
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