Keepers often ask “how can I catch more shots?” And like most questions, there are multiple answers.

In this short note we discuss one key technique to help you catch more – making the appropriate “hand-shape”.


We’ve discussed elsewhere, the key shapes to make with the hands – the Triangle, the “W”and the “cup”. Each has their optimal use.

The Triangle – for high shots

When the shot is coming at you high, or has bounced and is rising above you, your  arms will be fully stretched. Make sure to bring the fingers into a triangle, with the tips of the upper fingers as close as possible. This will give your hands more strength, and prevent the ball from passing through your hands. It’s more difficult to catch with the triangle, but the essential thing is getting a good strong pair of hands on the ball. It’s likely that you’ll have to parry the ball over the bar, but try to make the catch if you can.

The “W” – close to the upper body

For shots lower down, between just above head-height and the upper-half of your chest, you need to make a “W” shape with the fingers. See the picture above. the two thumbs should be close together, and the other fingers curved to shape the ball, the tips slightly in front of the thumbs. The ball will sit inside this hand-shape and if you’re able to take the energy out of the shot, should stick in the hands. A common problem is “flat-hands”, where the fingers are not “arced” towards the ball, instead flat like a wall, and the ball bounces off.

The “cup” – below the chest

For shots that arrive below waist-height, all the way down to the ground, the best shape is the “cup”. Shape your hands  like a cup, and gather the ball into your arms, clasping it safely into your body, closing the arms and hands around the ball. For really low shots, drop on one knee to get the leg and foot behind the ball as well as the hands, reducing the risk of the ball going through your hands. This may require falling forward to complete the catch.

This diagram shows the best hand-shape for each rough location of the ball.

D9614A01-4730-4B45-9BD5-852181553AF4When the ball is very high, above the head, the red section, make a triangle with the fingers.

Lower down, from just above the head all the way down to the waistline, the green area, make a “W”. This area includes the space to the side of the body. You may have to move your feet, or dive, to complete catches to the side of the body.

Below waist-height, all the way down to the ground, the yellow segment, you will need to make a “cup” with hands and arms. This includes the area next to the body.

Things for the coach to help with

It’s not always obvious which hand-shape to use, so you’ll have to adjust quickly. But practice making the shapes in the different zones, without a ball.

Then get your coach to throw the ball into each of the zones in turn, and practice making the shapes.

Finally have them take shots towards the various zones, and attempt to make a catch or a safe parry.

This takes time and practice, but the more you train your brain to think about the hand-shapes, the quicker you’ll become, and the more catches you’ll make.