We feel there are three basics that enter into every aspect of goalkeeping.
Mastering them will give you the best chance in every situation you face as a goalkeeper.
1 Body shape
- The shape of your body relative to the goal and the ball – including the shape of your hands and putting a knee down behind the hands.
- The position of your body versus the goal and the ball. Use fixed points like field markings, to optimize angles without looking over shoulder.
- When it’s just you between a striker and the goal. It’s difficult to judge – should you come out to make yourself “bigger”? or wait? It’s never easy to decide.
Let’s look at each one, one at a time, then discuss how each fits into every situation you will face as a goalkeeper.
1 – BODY SHAPE
- Always get as much of your body as possible behind the ball
- Put a knee down (pics) or dive/lie down and use your chest and torso to protect the goal. If the ball slips through your hands it will hit your body. Avoid bending over legs wide apart – one day it will slip through your hands….
- Move your feet! Quickly and with precision – try not to dive unless absolutely necessary.
- Adopt a comfortable “set position” at all times – hands halfway, open, knees “soft”, on toes (see pics)
- Make your hands into a “W” when in front of your face (see pic)
- And make a triangle when your hands are high, above your head (see pic).
- Otherwise open the hands to scoop the ball up (see pic)
2 “GPS “
- The “GPS” navigation system in a car helps us all find our way around. The car uses information on it’s distance from four separate satellites to work out where the car is. The actual method for GPS is fascinating, and for those interested try this link.
- As a goalkeeper, you should try to do the same. But instead of using satellites you should try to use field markings/lines, trees, anything fixed, to know where you are relative to the goal and make sure you’re filling the goal at all times, without looking over your shoulders to see where the posts are.
- For example, if you look down and find yourself close to the edge of the 6yrd box, expect that you’re well away from the center of the goal (like the left most yellow dot in the pic below).
- Always understand your position relative to the goal and the angles you make with each of the goalposts. Try to make yourself seem bigger to opponents. We discuss making yourself appear bigger below, in the one-on-one section.
- Choose the best angle depending upon where the shot will come from, as we show in the pic below. The shot will come from one of the blue circles, and the best position for each is the yellow dot making a line between the center of the goal and the shooter (pic).
- By employing our “GPS” we can be in the right position, making ourself as big as possible, without the need to constantly look over our shoulders (taking our eye off the ball).
3 – ONE-ON-ONES
- A one-on-one situation occurs when it’s just you between the striker and the goal. It’s probably the most difficult situation for a goalkeeper, and no two situations are the same. We’ve discussed an example here .
- It’s always difficult to judge – should you come out to make yourself “bigger”? (See pic) or wait? It’s never easy to decide.
- In the pics, you can see that as the keeper comes towards us, just beyond the penalty spot, he/she appears bigger, and fills more of the goal.
- However this increases the risk of a chip over our heads. Try to think about the speed of coming out. Sometimes it’s better not to rush out. Use field lines (as in GPS above) to judge your angle and stay in front of the goal as much as possible.
- If there is a chance of intercepting the ball, or the striker loses control, rush out quickly and make tackle.
- If however the striker has good control and momentum, remain inside the box, giving you potential to use hands. Make yourself big and try to draw them to the sides. The example of Cech versus Aguero above illustrates the benefit of ‘staying put” and drawing the striker.
- Always commit fully once you’ve decided to move, and react to the hints the striker gives you.
- Watch the striker’s body language and look for hints which way they will go – “read the hips” – will they pass you on right or left? Straight through (your legs)? Shoot? Chip?
- You can apply the same approach for penalties, which are also “one-on-ones”.
- For penalty kicks, goalkeepers must be active on the line (slightly bouncing side to side, arms out to the side moving up and down). As attacker starts to strike the ball, the goalkeeper should try to read the striker’s hips, ground their feet, step forward and commit to dive one way.
- Remember, the best goalkeepers only stop one in three strikers in a one-on-one– the pressure is always on the striker, so remain calm and do your best.
So we’ve covered the three basics, or cornerstones of goalkeeping. Every situation, or advanced technique you’ll learn, will require skill in one of more of these three areas.
For example, catching. If your body shape isn’t optimal (eg you’re off balance, feet tangled or legs wide apart) the catch may be difficult or even impossible. Similarly with kicking – the most important foot is the lead foot which you stand on as the ball is struck – poor positioning make the kick harder. Even saving a penalty requires some skill from each cornerstone – the right body shape, good angles and of course, one-on-one skills like reading the striker’s hips.
If you can master these three basics, you’re in good shape to develop more advanced goalkeeper skills and become the best you possibly can.