You need to have lightning-fast reflexes to be a good goalkeeper in football. Kelly Chow Kam-yee, the goalkeeper for the Hong Kong women’s U18 team, has a slightly strange but effective method for speeding up her reaction times – she kicks a ball towards a stack of water bottles tied together and catches the rebound.
“It’s hard to anticipate shots on goal because it can come from any angle and at any speed. This exercise can improve my reaction speed – when the ball rebounds from the bottles, I know where to position myself to jump and grasp it,” says the 17-year-old student from CCC Yenching College.
But Kelly told Young Post that anticipating her opponents’ moves plays a vital role in goalkeeping.
“A 90-minute match doesn’t mean you stand in front of the goal and do nothing. You can’t wait until the ball comes to you, you have to do something,” she says. “As a goalkeeper, I’m always reading my opponents’ body language. If an attacker comes towards the goal and prepares to shoot, it’s easy to follow the path of the shot. For example, if a player is coming from the left, I need to block the ball with my body or even stop it with a dive.”
Kelly also uses a mock penalty shoot-out to help sharpen her instincts. She says it’s a bonus if a goalkeeper is able to save a shot during a shoot-out. “There are many ways to prepare for a shoot-out,” she says. “It’s a mind game. Before a shoot-out, I always stand firmly in front of the goal, look the player straight in the eye, and form a W-shape with my thumbs and index fingers. Then I stand with my feet apart. My stance can intimidate the shooters, who may end up hesitating before kicking the ball.”
Of course, a goalkeeper cannot save every shot – some will eventually get through.
“We try to save as many as we can. [I] don’t have time to feel guilty if I let a goal in. Move on, get ready, save the next one,” she says.
To make it easier to catch the ball, Kelly trains her fingers, too. “I use an elastic band to increase my finger strength and flexibility. With the band wrapped around my fingers, I stretch them as far as I can. It’s a great way to help me catch and hold the ball firmly,” she says.
Kelly became a goalkeeper two years ago when playing a friendly game at school, because no one else was willing to do it. That day, she blocked all of her rivals’ shots, and hasn’t looked back since.
Kelly began representing her school in inter-school football competitions, and was later selected for the Hong Kong women’s U18 team. She is now preparing for the AFC U-19 Women’s Championship 2017 Qualifiers – Group B matches which will be held in Tajikistan from October 24 to November 2.
Which fictional character would you choose as your teammate?
I would want Tigger from Disney’s The Tigger Movie. He can bounce wherever he wants to. He would be a great help in catching the ball. He is always cheerful, confident and outgoing. I’m sure we would be very happy when he’s around.
What song title best describes you when you’re playing your sport?
Taylor Swift’s Never Grow Up. The song’s lyrics, “Remember the footsteps, remember the words said”, remind me about the ups and downs [of playing football]. This experience will forever be engraved in my memory.
Who is your favourite athlete?
Hong Kong national football team captain and goalkeeper Yapp Hung-fai. He defends very skilfully, catching high balls and diving well. He works well with his team, too. I have realised that it’s important to help my teammates,too. For example, I handle overhead throws and free kicks with care.
What drink would you never give up?
Milk. It helps boost my energy and I feel more alert.