Own The Elements: Goalkeepers
Keeping goal is always a difficult job, but in the height of winter, when the rain’s pouring down, it can seem like an impossible mission. How are you meant to catch a ball that’s more slippery than a pig in a bath?
Fortunately, goalkeeper brands are on your side: there’s a specific type of glove designed for wet conditions, and there are several pieces of apparel you can wear to combat the cold. Read on to find out how Pro:Direct Keepers can help you maintain top performance this winter.
First things first: if you’re not wearing a wet weather glove in wet weather (or, at least, an all-weather glove), you’re putting yourself at a serious disadvantage. It’s certainly worth investing in a pair if you want to be at your best in the rain. Wet-weather gloves have a variety of names, but “Aqua” is the most common tag to look out for. They also often have some element of blue colouring – to represent water, obviously – but the best way to tell if a glove’s designed for wet conditions is to understand the principles and technologies behind them.
Performance-wise, the main thing you’re looking for is friction between the glove and the ball. While a little bit of water on the palm is good for grip, too much of it makes for no grip at all. The key technologies on a wet-weather glove, then, are concerned with moisture management. You want them to absorb a certain amount of water, but repel any excess. The latex on the palms of wet-weather gloves therefore tends to be thicker, and also open-pored in structure, so it can absorb more water without affecting grip on the surface of the palm. In general, the more expensive the glove, the better the latex will be at keeping water content at an optimal level. Even with their higher capacity for water absorption, wet-weather gloves can become saturated like any other. You’ll notice it’s standard practice among pro keepers to have a towel behind the goal in wet conditions for exactly this reason, which is something we’d always recommend no matter what type of glove you’re wearing – even wet-weather gloves can use the help in torrential rain. Get rid of excess water whenever necessary by wiping them with the towel, and don’t be afraid to wring them out during breaks in play too.
Remember, in winter, wet means cold. And for a keeper, cold hands can be disastrous – your reactions slow down, you don’t have full freedom of movement, and your fingers, in particular, are at risk of injury, whether you’re using finger spines or not. With that in mind, wet-weather gloves are designed to do everything they can to prevent water from getting inside the gloves. Some feature additional layers of water-resistant material underneath the latex on the palm, while the backhands of most Aqua gloves are made up of specially designed water-repellent materials, particularly just above the wrist strap and on the wrist strap itself. In general, wet-weather gloves tend to be more heavy-duty than other goalkeeper gloves. Any extra water-resistant layers add bulk, while the use of thicker base materials for greater insulation makes the gloves even more substantial. The challenge, then, is to produce a design that keeps your hands warm and dry, but is still lightweight and breathable. Essentially, that’s what you pay more money for: higher-end gloves from the likes of adidas, Nike, Reusch, Sells, Tuto, and Uhlsport feature engineered materials and technologies that fulfil all those criteria. Top of the range Sells gloves, for example, boast Outlast mesh, which adapts to your hands to control the gloves’ internal temperature, minimising sweat and maximising comfort. Sounds clever, and it is – it was originally developed by NASA.
Finally, the cutting question. Rollfinger, negative, surround, flat palm – what kind of cut is the best for winter conditions? You might think it’d be whichever is best at keeping the wet out, and you’d be right. Rollfinger (or Gunn) is thus a very popular cut in Aqua gloves, with its minimal seams and gussets. However, while secure joins are certainly something to look for in a wet-weather glove, you’ll find that all modern designs are made well enough for any type of cut to be effective, so if you like a particular cut on your regular gloves, feel free to stick with it for your Aquas.
The biggest challenge for a keeper in winter is staying warm. Particularly in matches, as much as you try to keep moving and stay involved in the game, the reality is you’re not going to be running around like a centre-mid. Base layer can be a godsend, therefore, and all the top goalkeeping brands produce keeper-specific pieces, from full bodysuits to shirts, jerseys, shorts, and pants. While winter often turns six-yard boxes into mud baths that almost beg to be dived in, it can also do the opposite and make them absolutely rock solid. Thankfully, most goalkeeper base layers feature targeted cushioning, so they not only keep you warm, they protect you too. Great for training, these, when you’re continually throwing yourself to the floor and enduring repeated impacts.
Staying dry is also a challenge – and not just for your hands. The main things to look for in goalkeeper jackets are good waterproofing, obviously, and a tight fit. More than any other position, a keeper needs to be able to move freely: you can’t have your arms catching your jacket every time you try to make a save. Keeper jackets therefore tend to have more minimal designs than standard training jackets, with fewer pockets, zips, or flaps. It’s definitely worth having one if you’re going to be doing extended sessions in the wet. Sells, HO, and Reusch are the market leaders here – the Sells Aqua Training range is especially good in terms of the options available for different conditions.
Whether you fancy yourself as a modern-day Dmitri Kharine or you just want to protect your legs from the harsh winter weather, goalkeeper trousers are a good way to keep your legs warm and well-protected. Most feature more substantial cushioning than that found on base layer, so, while they’re worth wearing in any conditions, you’ll get the most benefit from them when playing on particularly hard ground. As with jackets, they’re usually close-fitting to provide unrestricted movement.