April 2013

5 Favorite Goalkeeping Practices

By Rob Walker, Director of Coaching, Federal Way FC & Head Coach, St. Martin's University & Director of Coaching Federal Way FC

Training goalkeepers involves a lot of “nuts and bolts” work as the position is about repetition, repetition, repetition. Here is the first installment of “5 favorite practices” which will settle in on footwork, quick reaction, catching, angle play and throwing. This grouping of “favorites” shows the goalkeeper working in environments independent from the team and also shows the goalkeeper included in the team.

Lateral Footwork: Side to Side
Organization Coaching Points

The coach/server begins the activity with a ball in the hand and serves to the goalkeeper’s right side and back to the left (dotted arrows show the goalkeeper’s footwork pathway). This is a “pendulum” like movement with the goalkeeper catching the ball going one way and then returning the ball back to the server and then shuffling back across the ball for the next serve.

The amount of repetitions in each set should be kept manageable – 4, 6 or 8 repetitions per set.

  • The service is critical in this practice: ball must lead the GK into space, but not be too close or too far from GK.
  • The “push” to get the GK across the face of the goal should come from the foot closest to the ball.
  • When the ball is caught, the GK might find that taking a couple of steps after the ball is caught to kill the momentum that was created to get to the ball in the first place.
  • One set can be served on the ground, one to mid-section and one set aimed above the shoulders.
  • There may be repetitions where the GK may have to dive for the ball instead of keeping the feet through the catch.
The Roll-out

This activity comes from the repertoire of long time University of Portland coach Bill Irwin.

Organization Coaching Points

A supply of soccer balls are put in the back of the net. Cones or marking discs are placed 6 yards apart at the top of the 6-yard box. The activity begins with the GK holding the ball and then rolling it on the ground to the server (shown starting on the top of the Penalty Area). The server returns the ball towards the GK with a well-placed shot aimed in between the cones of the small goal. The GK must begin on the end line and following the roll-out must get in between the cones (properly positioned) and get set before the ball is shot on goal. The GK should take 10 repetitions in each set.

  • The quality of roll-out is critical to getting consistent service back on goal.
  • The cone goal is 6 yards away from the end line so that realistic area can be covered as the server closes on ball to shoot — The GK can’t cover the “whole goal,” so the middle 6 yards become the priority.
  • The GK must accelerate and then decelerate to a “set” position quickly; balance and posture is critical as the reaction time will challenge the GK.
  • When the GK gets “set” in the smaller goal, the GK’s body position should lower to cover the shots close to the ground.
  • Good catching and diving technique must prevail in this challenging activity (less reaction time: pressures catching, diving and parrying skill.
  • More Challenge? GK tosses out for server to finish on the volley.
Angle Play: The Triangle
Organization Coaching Points

Servers 1, 2 and 3 take up a triangular shape with a supply of soccer balls available to server 1 as shown above. The objective for the GK is to take up good positions as the ball is moved around the triangle created by the servers. Each repetition in this activity should last 1 or 2 passes (between servers 1, 2 and 3) and finish with a well-placed shot. The GK must use a variety of footwork to get across the goal to deal with each possible shooting possibility.

Working alone, the GK should take 6, 8 or 10 shots and then rest. If two GKs are working out together, each GK can trade off every 2-3 shots for a cumulative of 8-12 shots before resting. Servers must play in one or two touches and shoot realistically (e.g. service from the left (server 3 above) should strike the ball with the left foot).

  • The GK should take up a good angle to deal with the start of each repetition.
  • Movement across the goal should match the speed of the pass(es) that are a part of each repetition (is there time to shuffle, time to sprint, should the angle be narrowed with a different path to the ball etc).
  • There will be some situations when the GK should get “set” and there will times when the GK will have to continue moving to get into position (getting set before the GK can get into a proper position means the GK is not in position!)
  • The GK must prioritize the goal by good positioning: near post, mid goal covered, etc.)
  • Remember: The closer the service is to goal, the less area in the goal the GK should be responsible for!
  • More challenge? Increase the angle for the triangle between the servers (will create acute shooting angles and cut-back opportunities).
The Multi: Combining All the Basics
Organization Coaching Points

A 2nd Goal and GK are placed 32-34 yards from main goal. Server 1 clips a cross into the penalty area and the yellow GK comes to win the ball (Note: A is the cross and B is the path the GK takes to win the ball). Upon collecting the cross, the Yellow GK takes steps to the opposite goal and attempts to score on the blue GK — (part C in the sequence). The Blue GK saves and rolls the ball to Server 2 (part D) who prepares the ball and shoots (part E) on the goal defended by the yellow GK. Score should be kept.

As the practice develops, Server 2 can be a target for the cross of Server 1 and service can be varied on the yellow GK’s goal by checking back to receive the ball from the blue GK or collecting and playing to Server 1 who can score (the idea as this practice is to “open the game up to more possibilities). Play for 4 minutes and have GK’s change roles.

  • The starting position for the cross is important; balanced to cover near, middle and far post service.
  • The assessment of the serve is also critical: can the GK come for the ball directly because it is dropping short, or does the GK begin by moving with the cross and the coming for the serve as it begins to drop?
  • Working on the correct take-off leg is important (typically coming off the inside foot, the left foot in the diagram above) and raising the outside knee for ‘drive” upwards (the right knee in the diagram above).
  • As the GK comes for the ball, the shout of “Keeper!” should be distinctive.
  • As the cross is gathered in, getting movement towards the blue GK’s goal is important, can the ball be thrown to score (something for the blue GK to deal with). When the shot comes from Server 2, the yellow GK must get the positioning and reaction right to meet the new shooting challenge.
  • Service from the opposite side should also be built into this practice.
Double the Fun: GK and the Team in a Shooting Practice

This popular shooting challenge was best modeled by longtime US Soccer Staff Coach Juan Carlos Michia.

Organization Coaching Points

A “double box” field is organized with a GK in each goal (yellow GK with white players, blue GK with red players and a supply of soccer balls at each end of the field as shown). This activity has many variations. The diagram above shows a “1-2” sequence and a shooting opportunity that follows as a way to begin this “goal scoring challenge” Shooters track down errant shots and return to their own end to begin again.

4 minute challenges work well for the GK in this activity and players should be organized so that there is shooting from both sides of the field (right hand side shown above). This practice can be developed to create a number of combinations for the attacking team and give the GK a variety of problems to solve: shooting from outside the penalty area (shown above) dealing with cutbacks, dealing with multiple players running at the goal, through-ball opportunities etc. The coach should be creative and organize ongoing shooting practices using this idea as a model.

  • The GK should always take up a good starting position (it helps if both ends go at the same time).
  • There will be plenty of decision making in this practice (to hold, to come for the ball, to slide over on the shuffle or on the sprint, should the ball be caught, how to deal with the rebound etc).
  • All outfield players should execute their time on the ball at “game speed” to add realism to the practice.
  • The GK should have a plan to distribute when catching: give back to the shooter and prepare for the next shot or roll the ball into the line of players on the end nearest the GK.
  • Score should always be kept!
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