There certainly is a perception that soccer goalkeepers must be tall to be good. A lot of coaches will look at prospective goalies and, even if subconsciously, rule out those who seem shorter than the “norm”.
The answer I would like to offer is that height is one of many factors that determine the effectiveness of a soccer goalkeeper. Obviously, as a physical attribute, height does not correlate with skill, it may affect the execution of skill, however. From a practical perspective, there are upper and lower limits to ideal height for goalies.
Let’s look at some of the key skills/attributes a soccer goalie needs to have. All of these are incorporated in our Soccer Goalie Practice Plans & Drills
- reaction speed
- speed of dive
- reading the game
- organizing the team
- diving, catching, punching technique
- ball control with feet
- decision making
- timing/anticipation for crosses
- timing and position for 1v1
- vertical leap height
- and probably some more
The physical height of a goalkeeper may actually affect some of these attributes. For example tall and lanky goalie may not be as flexible as shorter goalies.
From a psychological perspective taller goalies probably have a bit of an edge as they tower over opponents. A certain intimidation factor may exist.
Let’s look at the geometry of a full size soccer goal. The height is 2.44 m (8 ft.), width is 7.32 m (24 ft.). This means that if a goalkeeper is standing in the middle of the net and starts a dive to a top corner, the distance from hands to the corner is ~ 4.0 m (13 ft., 1 in.). Do a few extra centimeters of height really matter? Compared to leg strength, leaping ability, and timing of the dive?
It has been reported that a minimum height for a professional male goalkeeper should be 1.80 m (5 ft., 11 in.) and the ideal height would be 1.90 m (6 ft., 3 in.). There certainly have been very successful shorter goalies, such as Mexican Jorge Campos and Columbian Rene Higuita at 1.75 m (5 ft., 9 in.).
My recommendation is to look at the total package of technical, physical, and mental attributes a soccer goalie brings and then determine if they meet the requirement of the competition. Height alone is not a valid criteria. When it comes to youth soccer, height is even less important because the goalie is likely too short to cover the entire net anyways. Being able to stop the shots within reach, to make good decisions, and to be able to control the ball matter more. Also with younger players who grew quickly and are above average height, coordination, agility, and flexibility often suffer.
Our soccer goalkeeping practice book trains all aspects of goalkeeping.