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Soccer Drill Unpacked: Goalkeeper Reaction Dives

An icon of a soccer goalkeeper making a save.

Today we unpack the soccer goalkeeper development principles embedded in a reaction dive drill.  All drills in our  Soccer Goalkeeping Practice Book are assembled into practice plans to ensure that each practice offers the proper balance between the four pillars of soccer:

Technical Skills – Tactics – Physical Fitness – Mental Fitness

It is this balance, practiced over a season, that has led the tens of thousands of coaches who own our books to improve the performance of their goalkeepers.

Soccer Goalkeeping Drill

Download the drill here: Soccer Goalie Reaction Dives

From: Soccer Goalkeeping Practice Book

Soccer Drill Profile:


The profile indicates that this drill emphasizes soccer goalkeeping technique and physical fitness, with a strong element of mental toughness.

Set Up:

This drill does not require any goals and can be set up in a 10m by 5m area. In addition to the goalkeeper two ball servers are required. Ideally all three individuals would be goalkeepers. The first server rolls a ball through the legs of the keeper facing the server, 1m away. The keeper then pivots and dives on the ball. The keeper immediately recovers, gets up into ready position and makes a diving save of a ball thrown by the second server facing the keeper from 5m away.

Technical Skills:

The technical skill trained is diving. This includes the proper “get set” position for the keeper, remembering that the closer the in the shooter is, the lower the keeper has to crouch to get fastest maximum diving distance.

The first dive is straight forward, after a 180° pivot. This works on the technique of saving low shots directed at the keeper. There are different ways to go on the ground for a low ball, see Soccer Goalkeeping Basics

The second dive is a high sideways dive with the distance being varied. The drill progression suggests to throw the ball at various heights and varying distances to the goalkeepers body. This forces a variety of reaction saves, from quick parries to fully extended “flights”.

It is important for the keeper to execute the basic technique elements of “not rotating in the air and landing on belly or facing backwards”, of grabbing the ball securely with both hands (or punching it far away if it can’t be caught”, of landing on the quads and arms with one leg kicking up, etc.



There are no team related tactics involved in this soccer drill. The only tactical element is goalkeeper specific and relates to the proper ready position relative to the distance of the server.

Fitness Training:

This is a physically very demanding drill with the flexibility to vary intensity.

With the first throw the keeper trains flexibility by (1) rotating and (2) getting back up immediately after the save to face the second shot. The same is true after the second save – immediate recovery and getting ready to save the next short ball through the legs. The speed at which the servers throw the next ball determines the recovery speed of the keeper. At the maximum pace the keeper will get both an aerobic and anaerobic workout.

Repetitive diving will be challenging on all parts of the body that touch the ground upon landing, especially if the ground is a little harder.

The continuous crouching and recovery will challenge the quadricep muscles of both legs and help strengthen them. This will contribute to improved vertical leaps in the future.

Mental Fitness:

This soccer goalkeeping drill involves all Seven Speeds Of Soccer


The keeper has to see the servers and read their body motion quickly so they know how quickly to recover from a save and set for the next one.



In this drill the key anticipation is the timing and weight of both throws. On the first throw the goalie must pivot as soon as the ball is rolled/kicked through the legs and anticipate the pace of the ball. This will dictate the extension of the dive. On the second throw the goalkeeper must quickly anticipate the pace, height and horizontal distance of the throw, reading the flight of the ball immediately after it leaves the server’s hand.

Decision Making

The key decision is whether or not the ball can be securely caught, must be parried away, or requires a foot save.


Once the ball leaves the server, the keeper must react to the direction, pace, and height of the throw. This is the essence of this exercise.

Movement With Ball

If the keeper catches the ball and has control, they must recover with the ball in hands and return it to the server while setting for the next throw. This is not easy and requires a lot of coordination and stamina.

Movement Without Ball

These movements are primarily resetting for the next save.

Game Action

This drill replicates game action in which the opponents have created a scoring chance in the penalty box, near the goal. The chance could have been generated by a cross, a corner kick, free kick, or a though ball setting up a 1v1 with the keeper. It does not simulate long distance shots.

Coaching Tips:

1. It would be great if you have three keepers to work together on this drill.

2. The crouching positions must be very low to explode into dive.

3. Vary the distance of the first dive from a short collapsing dive to a fully extended dive.

4. Vary the second throw from throwing it to goalie’s feet, chest, over top of head, to either side requiring little to full extension dives.

5. Insist on proper technique and stress the fundamentals of getting behind the ball and getting both hands on the ball.

It is important for the person working with the keeper(s) to build a rapport with them and to understand their strengths, weaknesses, and preferences. Use this knowledge to provide the keeper with lots of successes, but also with some “surprises” or challenges to improve performance and build skill and confidence. Relate exercises to game situations as much as possible, preferably to actual experiences of the keeper.


2 thoughts on “Soccer Drill Unpacked: Goalkeeper Reaction Dives

  1. Wow, your site is just a wealth of information, I can’t believe I’ve only just come across it. I’ve been coaching across the globe for many years and am always looking for new and exciting drills to teach my players.

    To be honest I always struggle a bit with drills for keepers as I never played in that position and the teams that I’ve coached have never had a dedicated goalkeeping coach. I scoured Youtube recently and put a set of my favourite keeping drills together here:

    For sure I’m going to start using some of the drills from your site as well. Have you got any favourite drills that you could point me towards that have given the most rapid growth in development for your keepers?


    1. Appreciate your feedback. I always recommend to coaches to look at the area most needing improvement and then sequence the practices/drills to deal with those first.

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