After coaching university varsity soccer teams I have returned to grass roots coaching of youth teams. Why? One, because it is important for someone writing soccer practice plans (click Soccer Goalie Practice Plans & Drills ) and drills to stay current. Two, because my two older grandchildren asked me to coach their teams (I’m only 56 and still in decent shape to actively coach youth, including demonstrating drills).
Being a professionally trained goalkeeper myself, I was delighted when my ten year old granddaughter volunteered to play goal last summer. Watching her I detected some natural talent and was even more delighted when she asked me for some extra training. You might ask what the natural talent that I spotted means for a soccer goalie. Here is what she did well, after only a simple demonstration:
- She had proper diving technique to both right and left, no weaker side. She never rotated after landing but kept facing forward. (lots of new goalies end up on their bellies or face the net after landing).
- She played angles right, making the net as small as possible for the shooter.
- In 1v1 she timed her coming out to attack the ball perfectly and dove to the feet of the attacker to collect the ball or slide tackled it out of play. She also knew when she couldn’t get there (attacker had close control) and then cut the angle and set up for a shot.
Now Kyra has been asked to try out for the competitive team and just yesterday she took me to a gym for a refresher. I was glad to see she remembered all the good things from last summer. But she is not perfect. There were some fundamentals I identified quickly that need work. And in combination with the above three skills, these form the basics of what soccer goalies need to have to become great goalies:
- Reacting to the ball. Kyra tried to anticipate the shot by watching my body movement. When she totally dove the wrong way or too early, after I faked the direction or delayed the shot, I had a coaching moment. The key to soccer goalkeeping is to react to the ball, not the player. So eyes need to be on the ball. As soon as the ball leaves the shooter’s foot goalies need to react extremely quickly. It then becomes anticipation of when and where the ball will end up and timing the speed and direction of the goalie move to make a comfortable stop. Comfortable meaning getting body and/or hands behind the ball when making the save so that the ball can be controlled without rebounds.
- Timing of catching high balls. It is important to judge the flight of the ball to time your jump to catch or parry the ball at the highest point the goalie can reach. Jumping too early or late risks the ball flying untouched over the goalie’s head. That is true for balls coming straight at the goalie, for crosses, or for balls the goalie runs out to catch. In the latter two examples there is the added complication of moving before jumping.
- The ready position. Goalie’s knees need to be bent when expecting a shot. They should never stand straight. I teach that the closer to the goalie the shooter is, the lower the goalie’s crouch should be. The reason is simple. Bent knees get you to a low dive faster (attackers are taught to shoot in the low corners). They also require less of a down movement to generate momentum to jump/dive for high shots, making the reaction fractions of a second faster.
These six points are the essentials, of course there is much more. All of this is covered in our soccer goalkeeping practice book.