April 2015

Five Favorite Goalkeeping Practices That do the Trick

By Rob Walker

Many coaching journals, magazines and websites have collections of “Five Favorite Practices” that, when strung together, really hit the important building blocks of how to get players individually, and as part of a team, moving towards a higher level of performance. In piecing together my “five faves,” I have tried to highlight practices that could go into goalkeeper-specific training that would come outside of the team practice.

Practice #1:Side-to-Side & Side-to-Side with a Change

This practice has two phases. In the first, the goalkeeper shuffles from one side to the other. The server plays (with a sharp throw or pass with the foot) a ball to the side of the goalkeeper (in the diagram, the coach is the server to the GK’s right). The server plays a total of six or eight serves to the goalkeeper, who continuously moves from one side to the other (the serve is played each time the goalkeeper moves from one side to the next).

  • Service should cover the basics; on the ground, mid-body, chest and above the head.
  • The goalkeeper should keep his/her feet throughout this exercise.
  • The goalkeeper should stay out in front of the goal posts as he/she moves side-to-side.
  • After catching each ball, the goalkeeper should return it sharply to the server (this activity uses one ball through the set.
  • Repetitions should be kept short, six or eight serves are appropriate; generally one set for service on the ground, mid-body, chest, etc.

The second phase to this practice is done similarly to the first. Except:

  • At random points, the server changes the movement of the goalkeeper by saying "change" and the goalkeeper changes direction in the side-to-side pattern.
  • The server should pause momentarily after saying "change" to allow the goalkeeper to use his/her agility to go in the opposite direction.
  • The server must mix up the side-to-side and the "changes" within the set.
  • Repetitions should again be limited to six or eight per set.

In both activities, the goalkeeper should have adequate rest to recover for the next set (can be passive or active — i. e. juggle between each set).

Practice #2: The Roll Out

This activity comes from Bill Irwin at the University of Portland. The activity starts with the goalkeeper standing centrally in goal with both feet on the endline and a ball in hand. The goalkeeper begins the activity by rolling the ball out to the server, then sprinting to the smaller goal marked centrally (four yards wide) at the top of the goal area.

  • As the goalkeeper arrives at the small goal, he/she must decide when to get "set" in order to deal with the shot from the server (standing outside the penalty area, but ready to move inside towards the goalkeeper. As the goalkeeper comes off the line, the angle is narrowed from the full-sized goal to a smaller goal (if the ball scores on the big goal, but goes outside of the small goal, the goalkeeper has done their job by taking way the most important space in the goal).
  • The goalkeeper must attempt to save the shot from the server at the top of the goal area (from ground level to the cross-bar level).
  • The closer the goalkeeper gets to the ball and the closer the server gets to the goalkeeper, the less time for the goalkeeper to react.
  • The goalkeeper's movements must be sharp: barriers must be present, the goalkeeper's posture must be upright and balanced with the hands shaped in front of the goalkeeper’s body.
  • Extra soccer balls should be stored in the goal so that the goalkeeper can receive six, eight or 10 shots in a set.

This activity can also be done from right- and left-side angles. Again, the goalkeeper starts on the end line and advances out on an angle to make saves from the server. The goalkeeper should be responsible for covering a smaller area on the angle of the serve. The near post should be the priority in this practice.

Practice #3:Crossing with a Little Pressure

In this practice, a server sets up outside the penalty area with a supply of soccer balls as shown. The server provides a series of crossed balls towards the goalkeeper from different areas (both early and late crosses). The service should come from a quickly moving ball (and a quickly moving server). An attacker ("A" in the diagram) should put pressure on the serve.

  • The goalkeeper must "hold and assess" the pace, height and trajectory of the serve.
  • When the goalkeeper determines where the ball is going, he/she must come for the ball or "track with it" to get to the serve.
  • The goalkeeper must shout "KEEPER" or "AWAY" when coming for the ball.
  • The goalkeeper must determine whether to catch or punch when coming to the ball and dealing with the attacker.
  • After catching the cross, the goalkeeper should give the server a strong "competitive" throw back to the server — driven downward so the ball can be prepared in a touch and then crossed again.
  • Crosses should be worked on from both the goalkeeper's right- and left-hand sides.
  • The server should be prepared to provide near-post, mid-goal and far-post crosses.
  • The attacking player can increase the amount of challenge on the goalkeeper as the practice progresses. An additional attacker can be added and the two can combine for near- and far-post runs. (Ideally 4-6 players can alternate through the roles of the attacker, as this is a physically demanding task.)
  • This practice can be built up further by adding defending players who mark the runs in the box.
  • The goalkeeper can organize the defenders by getting them into the correct starting positions and encouraging the defensive teammates to be in good ball-winning positions to win aerial duels the goalkeeper cannot come for.

Practice #4: Kicking and First Touch

This practice involves the goalkeeper and a partner who are facing each other from 36 yards and serving a ball over a goal. The objective of this practice is for each player to play the ball over the crossbar to the partner positioned as shown.

  • Each player plays "two-touch," making sure to receive the ball smoothly on the first touch and prepare for the long pass in that touch.
  • Each player should be prepared to play the ball in the air on both the right and left foot (the serve should not be "run around" from the "weak" side to the "strong" side).
  • The goalkeepers can move closer or farther from the goal to decrease/increase difficulty.
  • Strong instep passing is critical to this exercise.
  • This practice should be turned into a game, where each player scores points through the practice.
  • Each serve must be behind a designated line in order to score.
  • Extra soccer balls may need to be kept handy to keep this practice moving.

Practice #5: Long Distribution (Punting / Drop Kicking)

The goalkeeper is positioned a long distance away from a goal. The goalkeeper’s objective is to punt or drop-kick the ball directly into the opposing goal, or deliver the ball therein on one bounce. The goalkeeper's partner receives the service and returns it in the same manner.

  • The distance away from the goal is determined by the goalkeeper's ability. A young goalkeeper (13 or 14 years of age) might be 25-35 yards from goal. An older goalkeeper with more technical expertise and strength could be 50 yards (or farther) away from goal.
  • This activity can be done by two goalkeepers with portable goals for each to play into as shown, or with one goalkeeper punting to a goal with a helper there to retrieve the serve.
  • As with the kicking practice described in Practice 4, this practice should be made into a competition where points are kept (five points for a serve played straight in, more points for a serve that hits the crossbar etc).
  • Having an extra supply of soccer balls will help keep this practice moving.

The Faves are Ongoing
All of these favorites are easy to perform and can be modified for work for one goalkeeper or two. The practices can be used as part of a goalkeeper-specific warm-up or as part of an individualized training session. Like all favorite lists, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to move from this five to a new five. What is important is that there is regular attention given to the “nuts and bolts” of the position. This set of five deals with some handling and footwork, angling, crossing, kicking and punting. The next set of five could deal with shot-stopping and diving, throwing, 1v1s and crossing (or maybe parrying and boxing). The key is to have routines that engage the goalkeeper in meaningful practice and promote improvement through practice and simple competition.


Apr. 13-24 - National "E" License, Highline College
Apr. 17-19 - National "D" License, Bellevue
May 1-3 - National "E" License, Olympia
May 1-3 - National "D" License, Spokane Valley
May 15-17 - National "E" License, Pasco
May 15-17 - National "E" License, Mountlake Terrace
May 15-17 - National "D" License, Olympia
May 29-31 - National "E" License, Leavenworth
May 29-31 - National "E" License, Mercer Island

About the Coaches

James Charette
• Washington Youth Soccer Director of Coaching Education
• Technical Director, Blackhills FC
• U.S. Soccer National Instructional Staff
• U.S. Soccer “A” License

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

• Holds U.S. Soccer "A" License
• National Licensing Instructor
• Former GK coach for U.S. Men's Olympic Team
• Has coached at youth, ODP, college and National Team levels

David Griffiths
• Head coach, Seattle United GU14
• USSF "B" License
• UEFA "B" License
• EPD Assistant Coach
&bull 2-time State Cup champion