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 older keepers – catching, footwork and judging flight of ball, plus some basic recovery moves.

In this session we brought them together for all five session points,

Older Keepers – 2001-2006

Five session points for this session;

  • Footwork – hoops and high catching 
  • Catching – high balls in pairs 
  • Footwork – between cones, and catching/shot stopping
  • Flight of ball – set up for a cross into a crowded goalmouth
  • Recovery off ground – get up swiftly after diving

Session Details

Footwork – In pairs – hoops and high catching 

We began with the usual footwork exercise, where the keeper skips between 8 hoops laid in pairs on the floor, hoops number 5&6 set further apart, followed by a passed ball which they either pass back, or trap, and finishing with another ball thrown over their left shoulder to try to catch or punch.

skip through the hoops
return a pass from coach
make the save

This exercise is excellent for developing footwork precision. If your feet aren’t planted carefully inside the hoops you’ll soon find yourself “hoolahooping”. This encourages the brain to switch from stepping to ball control. A typical movement when playing sweeper-keeper.

Ideally make a catch, but some are too difficult and require a punch out of harms way. Having a small 6 aside goal behind focuses the keeper’s mind, but it’s not essential.

After 5-6 goes each, the keepers are all warm and sharp. Now it’s useful to move onto aligning the eyes. Try the other side – over right shoulder.

A variation is where the coach shoot or kicks the ball rather than throws high. This makes the challenge harder.

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 8 cones in a line. Keeper skips through the line, then turns towards the thrower/kicker, and makes the save. Keepers queue and start through cones once previous keeper makes save.

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

The keeper weaves through the cones, facing outwards, and eventually ends at the goal. They make their “set” (the position they set their feet ready to dive or save the shot) dependent upon where the coach is striking the ball from. there are three striking points, each demanding a slightly different set point.

first shot comes from the keeper’s left side, make a set slightly to the left of centre.
second go through, the coach striker from a more central position. The set needs to be central
final go through, the coach will take a shot from the keeper’s right, needing a “set” slightly right of centre.

The coach increases the intensity of the shot. These are around 12 yards so simulates a penalty and can be blasted or placed. But the keeper has to make the appropriate set to have a chance.

Don’t expect the keeper to save every shot – the key is their footwork into the set, the choice of set, and the attempt to make 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.

Recovery from ground – getting up swiftly after diving

Every keeper loves diving – but the downside is the recovery. On your feet you are more able to make the save, adapt position, feet, body shape, etc. On the ground, you’re typically in a tangle, possibly facing the wrong way, and unable to move swiftly to capture a loose ball.

In this drill we work on speedy recovery from the floor or ground.

Have the keepers line up, and one moves across in front of the coach, stops, and falls backward onto their behind.

Once on their back, the coach throws them a ball – they catch, and return it to coach, still on their back.

They then swiftly jump to their feet, re-seting their position.

Normally they then go back to the back of the line, and the next keeper moves in front of the coach.

An adaptation is where the coach kicks a firm shot at the keeper once they have re-set.

This drill strengthens the abb muscles, improves agility and helps swift recovery from a dive or fall.

keeper in a line, one at a time, move in front of coach
they then drop backwards onto their backside, and coach throws the ball to them on the ground.
keeper catches the ball and returns it to coach while on ground.
keeper jumps to their feet, to re-set
an adaptation is where the coach takes a shot once the keeper has recovered to their feet.

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.