As a two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup™ winner, three-time European champion, 2003 world goalkeeper of the year and Germany’s most capped player, Silke Rottenberg’s CV makes for impressive reading. The 40-year-old former custodian made 126 appearances for her country before retiring in December 2008 and today she passes on her knowledge to the next generation of goalkeepers.
In an exclusive interview with FIFA.com, Germany’s goalkeeping coach spoke of her dedication to coaching young shot-stoppers and the evolution of training methods.
FIFA.com: There have been huge differences in the quality of goalkeeping at the tournament so far. Why do you think that is?
Silke Rottenberg: That’s down to the development of women’s football in each country. For example, it’s the first time Gambia qualified for a [Women's] World Cup. Their opportunities for development are not as advanced as in other countries, especially with regard to goalkeeping or individual and specific types of training. In Germany or Japan on the other hand, you can tell the difference between a well-trained goalkeeper and one who is just starting out because the individual attention they get is so well developed.
What are the most important aspects of training a young goalkeeper? What do you focus on?
It’s especially important to find talented players early on and starting coaching them as goalkeepers as young as 12 or 13 years old. A modern keeper has to have good basic technique, a great leap and be constantly alert. She can’t be afraid of the ball and must play an active part in the game, rather than just waiting for the ball to come to her. She needs to give the team peace of mind through her presence alone. In training I put a lot of emphasis on mentality, technique and athleticism.
How is coaching goalkeepers in youth teams different to coaching them in the senior side?
Take Nadine Angerer for example, who’s a very experienced keeper. You don’t need to keep honing basic technique with her, it’s more about staying fit and feeling good. For a young keeper, basic technique is decisive. Among other things, that includes questions like: How should I stand? How should I behave when I come off the line? How should I fall? How do I catch the ball? How do I react to a corner at the near post or at the far post? Individual things like that are hugely significant.
Do you think it was an advantage that you were an outfield player before becoming a goalkeeper?
I think it’s certainly an advantage nowadays for a goalkeeper to be able to play out on pitch as well. On the one hand, a large part of a keeper’s game now takes place outside the penalty area. That makes it important to be able to play with both feet in order to control the ball, dribble, pass or initiate an attack. On the other hand it’s essential to be a good footballer in order to anticipate certain situations. It’s not just a case of hitting the ball anywhere. That’s the difference between a top goalkeeper and just a good one.
How have training methods changed since you were a player?
Considerably more importance is given to technique. I received specific goalkeeper training for the first time when I was 25. I’d picked up everything else as I’d gone along. My training was irregular. Today a goalkeeping coach is an integral part of every Germany team.
How has goalkeeping in women’s football changed in the last few years? In an interview with FIFA.com, Sweden’s national keeper Hedvig Lindahl said she regularly trains with men’s players because the game has become so much faster.
We support that at the German Football Association too. At youth level it makes sense for girls to play with boys for as long as possible, or to train with them regularly. The boys’ game is faster, their shots are harder, you need to be a lot quicker on your feet and think a lot faster. Those are things you can’t work on in the same way in girl’s football. That’s how I grew up. In 2000 I worked intensively with my goalkeeping coach Walter Pradt and also at the second division side Waldhof Mannheim. That helped a lot in developing my offensive game, and towards me becoming world goalkeeper of the year in 2003. In training I still put a lot of emphasis on a goalkeeper being pro-active, on attacking the ball.