As the winter snow begins to thaw, young keepers come out of their normal hibernation – ski racing, snowboarding and all the winter sports, and the new season begins next week.

To dust off some of the inevitable rust, we worked on the basics for both younger and older keepers – catching, footwork and judging flight of ball.

This is a clinic, with both older and younger keepers.

In this session we brought them together for all three session points, finishing with a game of “keeper frisbee” – see below.

Youngers keepers – 2007-2010 and Older Keepers – 2001-2006 together.

Three session points for this session;

  • Catching – high balls in pairs 
  • Footwork – between cones, and catching/shot stopping
  • Flight of ball – in pairs, set up for a cross into a crowded goalmouth

As it’s a clinic, where keepers can ask to work on specific things of interest, we started with “punting”, before working on the planned set program.

Finish off with 15 mins Keeper (American) frisbee

Why we like keeper frisbee for young goalkeepers

Session Details

Clinic topic – Punting the ball from hands.

Young goalkeepers are rarely good with their feet, especially when they start out. Yet today, coaches make greater and greater demands on their keepers. Some would even like them to play as the 11th outfield player, or “sweeper keeper”. So we usually spend some time on “kicking” as well as “positional” footwork. In this section we approached “punting” the ball from hands.

When the keeper has the ball in their hands, the temptation is to distribute it quickly – perhaps too quickly. Rushing this opportunity to distribute the ball safely, and begin a transition to attack, is a waste.

Instead, work on the principle that the main opportunity to distribute the ball quickly (immediately) is when we have it at our feet, and can pass the ball to a teammate safely, switching play.

Similarly, if there is an opportunity to throw the ball to a teammate quickly, and safely, then take the opportunity. But the distance you can throw the ball is severely limited compared to the potential to punt.

Most good keepers can throw the ball 10-15 yards accurately. Even a novice can punt, or drop-kick a ball 30-40 yards, easily making the half way line.

So we recommend that beginner keepers take a 5 second pause with the ball in their hands, while making their way quickly to the edge of the penalty box, and gaining at least one deep breath. When at the edge of the box, by all means give the ball a hard punt. But make sure you’re composed, relaxed, and steady.

Most bad punts are the result of hurrying the action. The ball is thrown awkwardly, ending too far from the body, and the keeper is off balance when they make the kick.

Take a deep breath, steady the body, balance the “standing foot”, firm up your “core” belly muscles, and throw the ball up in the air slightly, just in front of the body, while swinging the kicking foot back, then forward towards the ball.

Make sure the action “drives through the ball”, continuing the swing after the ball is on its way.

Try to achieve some height, but not so high that you sacrifice distance. The higher the ball goes, the less far forward it’ll travel, and vice versa.

There is no substitute for practice. Just get a couple of balls, stand in front of the goal, and practice punting into the goal. The net will prevent spending hours receiving the ball.

Then go to the edge of the box, and run with the ball towards the goal, and upon reaching the 6yrd line, punt the ball into the goal. This is the opposite of what you’ll do in a game, but the distances are the same and you use the net to help retrieval of the ball. This will help practice punting.

Above all, don’t expect to get this straight away – persevere. And when you do a “bad punt”, don’t let it get into you head. Follow the procedure for the next one, having already forgotten the last one. Pause 5 seconds while gaining ground to the top of the area, then steady yourself and take he punt.

Catching – in pairs – catching a thrown or kicked high ball

Set the keepers up in pairs, about 5 yrds apart. Give each pair a ball, and have them throw the ball to each other at varying heights, to make the catch. Explain the various hand- shapes required, and coach technique.

Vary it by allowing “gentle” kicked shots, from 7-10 yards.

Footwork – in pairs – skip through cones and make save. 

Lay out 6 cones in a line. Keeper skips through the line, then turns towards the thrower/kicker, and makes the save. Alternate after three goes.

The ball can be thrown or kicked depending on the skill level. The important feature of this exercise is footwork, and making the save.

Judging the flight of the ball – In threes or fours.

The final session point of the three, flight of ball, improves both catching and confidence in crowded goalmouths. The footwork also needs to be sharp and decisions need to be made.

With a shot, cross or free kick, the ball is often seen late, and can be high and rising towards the top corner, or low and on the ground, spinning and swerving into the bottom corner. The keeper has a moment to judge the flight and adjust their position and body shape.

keeper moves from far to near post then catches a high ball thrown by coach

To simulate this challenge, and sharpen this technique, we have 2-3 play “obstructions” – defenders or attackers that are initially static. They are just to give the keeper something to think about. Place them opposite both posts, about 5yrds out.
Have the keeper move from the far post towards the near post. This simulates a striker threatening the near post. Then have the keeper move between the “obstructions” and catch a high thrown “cross”.
Have them take the ball as early and as high as possible.
They need to judge the flight of the ball as soon as it leave the coach’s hands.
Vary the “crosses” – some long and high, past the second far “obstruction”, some short and in front of the near “obstruction”. Occasionally throw the ball into the goal, catching out a clever keeper who’s already on their way between the obstructions.

Make sure the catches (or punches) are clean and precise.
But most of all watch the keepers eyes and feet. Judging the flight of the ball is essential. If the keeper’s too near or too far when it drops they won’t have a chance. This takes good eyesight and decision making. The two earlier drills will have sharpened the eyes to make those judgements quickly.

But also watch the feet – they need to move quickly and precisely, to arrive at the best point to take the high ball as early and safely as possible.

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.