A common challenge in a game situation is where the attackers are moving the ball just outside the 18, but the defense is well organized and interspersed in front of the keeper. There are small gaps, but the keeper is well protected.

To simulate this, we use 2-6 defenders, spreading them across the penalty box, about 2-3 yards apart, and at different distances from the edge of the box.

This resembles a forrest or wood, with the defenders acting like trees.
If you’ve ever been in a wood, the little gaps between trees can play havoc with the mind, and you begin to see things that aren’t there. Confusion and panic can set in.

The same happens with young keepers. As the attackers move the ball in front of the “wood” of defenders, the keeper has momentary sight of the ball, then loses it again. If a striker shoots, they can hit a defender, causing the ball to change direction, making the save harder. Just keeping an eye on the ball can be difficult, as it moves behind “the trees”.

The ball is obscured by the defender

By placing 2-6 static defenders in front of the keeper, and having a striker move from out wide, across the box from one side to the other, then take a shot when they feel they see an opening, you can a-tune the keepers eye to staying with the ball.

striker finds an opening and shoots

This sounds easier than it actually is, and give each keeper 2-3 shots from different angles and points on the box, to sharpen them up.

keeper adjusts as they see the ball

Look for the keeper to adjust their feet and “set” position as the ball moves across the face of the box. If their positioning and angle was right as the attackers starts their move, it’s unlikely to still be right as they end up on the other end of the box. The keeper should be adjusting. If they aren’t, then encourage them to move their feet as their eyes give them more info.

A second variation is a free kick from 12-15 yards, with a small wall of 2-3 players. If you can whip the ball in over, or around the wall, this also forces the keeper to adjust their feet and positioning as new information arrives on where the ball is coming from. As the ball will suddenly appear from “behind” the wall, the foot movement will need to be quick and precise. As the flight of the ball becomes clearer (high and rising, or low and falling) the keeper should adjust their body shape too – jumping up or diving low.

Encourage the keeper to develop a “minds eye” reflex and to trust it. We’ll finish off with a drill that does just that – “reverse-reflex.”

Tips for coaches – Confidence Cohesion Technique

Any coach can utilize these drills with their keeper. The objectives are the same – enhance footwork, follow the ball better with the eyes, and judge the flight of the ball.

A coach can use any one of the drills independently, and involve multiple players, especially attackers, to sharpen their skills too.

Try to encourage the keeper to use these skills – their footwork, their eyes and reflexes, and be brave to make the judgement calls and decisions that will come up regularly in games.