We continue to add to our roster of professional goalkeeper interviews! Our latest interview features former East Tennessee State University, and current Stumptown AC, standout Davis Smith. He shares his insight on everything from college adjustment to goalkeeper glove care. Take some time to enjoy this one today!
1. How did you get started in goalkeeping? What drew you to the position?
To be honest I started out playing soccer in the goal. From day one it was a classic case of "throw the big kid in the goal," and I haven't hopped out since. 2. What was your journey like through the college ranks? Did you find the adjustment to a new level tough?
I started out playing college soccer at the Division 1 level at ETSU (East Tennessee State University). There was a huge jump in level from what I was used to. I played club soccer at a good level but it's always tough when you go from playing kids like you to playing men. It was tough work adjusting to the level but I found that the harder I worked and the more I put into working on my weaknesses, the easier it got. When I first got to college my feet and hands weren't even close to being good enough. I would go out with the other goalkeepers and do extra sessions almost every single day. By the end of the first two months or so, I felt much better and much more comfortable. Every jump in level has some degree of difficulty to it, but I truly believe that you get out of it what you put into it.
3. What made you want to play professionally? Has it always been a dream? When did you know it could become a reality?
I knew immediately that I wanted to play professionally. I remember being young and making a huge save to put us into the final and I distinctly remember thinking "Yep this is it. I want THIS to be my job.". My senior season in college, I knew I could be a professional. I felt comfortable under pressure, I was playing well, and I was really enjoying every aspect of soccer. The hard workouts, the hard sessions, close games, early mornings; I loved all of it. I really loved the "grind" as some would call it. I tore my ACL and my season was over in a flash. For a split second, I had the thought of "is this it for me?". But truthfully that was only because so many people were asking me if I was going to 'hang the gloves up'. The day after my surgery I was more confident and focused than ever and I knew I would do whatever it took to make it a reality.
4. You work with youth goalkeepers on a regular basis. What are some common mistakes you see young goalkeepers make? What are some areas young goalkeepers can work on to help them stand out from the rest?
I believe the most common mistake I see goalkeepers make, some in training, but mainly in games, is letting mistakes get to their head. As a goalkeeper, especially at a high level you absolutely HAVE to have a short term memory. Mistakes happen at every single level, you have to realize that it will happen, and when it does you have to be able to move on. During a session the most important rep is the one that you're currently on. If you pull off a worldie, great. Use it to hype you up and drive you, but if you make a mistake you have to be able to learn from it and then forget about it. You absolutely cannot let it affect the rest of the reps/session. 5. What are your thoughts on social media goalkeeping? Plenty of debate on whether a lot of content that is being put out there is beneficial for goalkeepers or not. Weigh in for us.
I think there are pros and cons to these social media goalkeeping videos we all see. Unfortunately, the flashy stuff is what gets the most exposure. Sometimes you'll see someone doing an absolutely absurd drill where they're jumping over benches or trash cans and anyone who truly has even somewhat of a decent understanding of goalkeeping will look at it and think "well that's total rubbish.". Then you'll see it has like 800 million likes ha-ha. One positive thing about these videos is that with that much exposure, it's bound to inspire at least a few kids to be goalkeepers. With all of that being said, there are now more than ever some VERY good, very informative videos out there and so I tend to gravitate towards those. I'll even send them to goalkeepers and coaches that I know at all different levels because it's always good to hear other's opinions on things. I think as coaches we need to do better about promoting and sharing good content versus the flashy stuff.
6. What are some goalkeeper glove hacks that you use to make sure your gloves last a long time?
So I am very, very, very particular about my goalkeeper gloves. If you take proper care of your gloves not only will they last longer, but they will perform better. It is absolutely key to keep the latex on your gloves clean and moist. When the latex gets dry, it gets brittle. When it's brittle it flakes, tears, or scrubs. After each session, I completely drench my gloves so that the dirt and grime won't set in and dry in the latex. I will literally pour my water bottle on them before I walk off the pitch. From there, I bring them into the shower with me and rinse them out. I'll turn the water on warm (not hot) and put them over the shower head so that water rushes out of the latex and all of that dirt and grime that I wet earlier will just come right out. From there, if there is any stains or dirt that won't come out just from rinsing I will very lightly scrub the gloves with a soft bristle children's toothbrush. This should have them looking almost brand new. Even if they don't get particularly dirty I will still go through this process because the sweat that will inevitably be in the gloves will actually break down the latex and render them less tacky than they were. After I've done all of this, I wring them out and lay them palms down on a towel to let them dry somewhat but still keep the latex damp. Then I just throw them in the glove wallet or bag they came in and I'm good to go the next day.
7. Do you prefer goalkeeper gloves with finger protection or without? What are some of the benefits of having them?
I prefer gloves without finger protection unless I have an injury. I think it's very important for young keepers to not use finger saves because their hand and finger strength won't develop like it needs to. I started out using nothing but finger save gloves and because of that I picked up loads of finger injuries when I stopped wearing them. 8. Have you ever used any type of goalkeeper glove glue or goalkeeper glove grip spray to help when catching balls? Why or why not?
I personally have never used a GloveGlu or similar spray. I've heard great things about the short term performance benefits but I've also heard it is terrible for the longevity of your gloves. I've always taken proper care of my gloves and because of that they've always performed well. Now that I'm older and I've had glove sponsorships, the moment I notice the performance of the gloves themselves lacking, I just wear a new pair the next session. If I wasn't getting gloves for free then I might look into a GloveGlu just to extend the life of the gloves I'm using once the performance starts dropping.
9. Goalkeeper gloves through the years have evolved a lot. What do you think are some of the best (or worst) changes that you've seen throughout the years?
I'm personally just not a fan of the modern, extremely light and tight fitting gloves. I also think that companies will over complicate the gloves by adding way too much "glove technology" to them. Glove prices from some companies are getting absolutely absurd. I almost had a heart attack the first time I saw a $200 pair of gloves. I think this is mainly marketing and gimmicks, because then when you see an actual pair of the gloves the company has issued to their top pro players it is just a very simplified pair that's made to look like the retail model they are selling. Glove companies will literally print the design of some of the added technologies on their gloves so when you're watching the games on tv it looks like they are using the new pair that just came out, when in reality it's all for show and the pros are using a very simple glove. 10. Who is the best goalkeeper in the world currently and why?
This is a very tough question because I think there are so many incredible goalkeepers playing right now and it really is a joy to watch. They each have their own thing that sets them apart from the rest but maybe they are lacking compared to others in another area. I personally think Kasper Schmeichel and Allison are the most "complete" goalkeepers, but you have keepers like Oblak and Ederson that absolutely deserve to be in the discussion.