Z:RO to hero: Do minimalist goalkeeper gloves really work?

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 09: General view of a goalkeeper making a save during the International Friendly between England Women and Australia Women at Craven Cottage on October 9, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

When developing hand-eye coordination in athletes, sports scientists have found that virtual reality goggles can help. However, many clubs do not have access to such sophisticated equipment for training purposes.

Goalkeeper coaches have to develop players’ catching skills through tried and tested methods such as practise. Even here the sports science literature is littered with different types of practises. Experts believe varied and random practises are best to enhance motor performance in open skill sports such as football.

Outfield players have shown great improvement in general playing performance over the last 10 years. Goalkeepers are slowly catching up. Matt Robert’s recent article showcases the talent pool of goalkeepers for international fixtures.

Mary Earps of England during the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 Qualifier group D match between England and Austria at Stadium of Light on November 27, 2021 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

What else can be done to to push this specialist position?

Development does not happen overnight — it takes many hours of practise. The brain can get a little lazy during practise, taking the easiest route to the most relevant outcome. Not necessarily a bad thing, as the body strives for a steady state (homeostasis), eking out energy available over the duration of performance.

The brain is very selfish with its requirement for fuel and oxygen and will prioritise this. One of the reasons why getting tired and running out of fuel affects performance.

Mark, Lee and Shaun Robinson from the Modern Day Goalkeeper had these same ideas three years ago in 2018. Lee, a professional keeper and Mark, a strength and conditioning coach, thought about using a glove as a training aid. Which sounds crazy — goalkeepers wear gloves all the time, what could be so special about yet another pair?

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Enter the goalkeeper Z:RO gloves

In a previous article about minimalist gloves, I suggested that gloves do not make the keeper. I may be about to eat my words.

The Z:ROs look similar to the usual latex keeper glove. However, they have absolutely no grip on the palms and a lot less padding around the hand and fingers.

The gloves are designed to challenge the simple skill of catching. The lack of grip causes the player to immediately refocus their attention to the well-practised movements involved. They are forced to reassess pressure to hold and claim the ball. Thus reminding the brain about the importance of watching the ball into the hands.

These processes are important for adapting and reacting to the creative and powerful shots seen in today’s game.

Goalkeepers who have used the Z:ROs in training have raved about them. The first few weeks are typically difficult. Keepers have to adjust to the loss of control when catching in the Z:ROs. The knock-on effects might be a dip in confidence.

This lasts only until that moment when the stopper returns to their latex gloves, complete with grippy palms and padded fingers. They notice that the ball seems to glue itself to their hands and they start to feel invincible.

(Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)

The minimalist glove as a training aid

The modern day goalkeepers are passionate about enhancing goalkeeper training practises. When using the Z:RO’s in their sessions, Mark found that Lee had to watch the ball all the way into his hands. This increased focus created a better, more consistent hand shape covering more of the ball. No lazy shortcuts to catching, even when the delivery was relatively similar each time.

Mark admits that there is no underpinning research to support the improvement in performance after training in the gloves but states: “The feedback from goalkeepers is exactly what they had hoped for.”

He also notices that keepers must concentrate and focus on watching the ball right to the end. Then the transition back to latex gloves shows immediate benefits.

Mark says: “Goalkeepers have told us that they can feel all the muscles in their hands and forearms working like never before.”

Ultimately I wanted to know, do the Z:RO goalkeeper gloves work? The early feedback certainly suggests they do. Plus the test pair I received to try out, have got me just a little excited about training my goalkeepers with them.

If you are interested in or have ideas about researching goalkeepers and Z:RO goalkeeper gloves, please get in touch. For more information on the Goalkeeper Z:RO’s please visit moderndaygk.com.

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