To dust off some of the inevitable rust, we worked on the basics for our older keepers – catching, footwork, disorientation and distribution.

Younger and Older Keepers – together.

Three session points for this session;

  • Footwork – using hoops and catching/shot stopping
  • Disorientation – introducing 360 degree spins into exercises.
  • Distribution – Kicking and throwing, and decision making

Session Details

After the mandatory stretches, we were straight into the main drills.

Footwork – hoops – catching a thrown or kicked high ball, with 360 degree twists.

This is a variation of the basic hoop 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 hoops then do a 360 degree twist to face coach

Once through the hoops, the keeper has to do a 360 degree twirl or spin, to face the coach who then passes a ball along the ground. The keeper passes it back to the coach

return a pass from coach

Having returned the pass, the keeper does another 360 degree twirl, but in the OPPOSITE direction to the first twirl. Then the keeper moves across towards the target/goal and catches a high throw or shot.

then do a 360 degree twirl in the opposite direction, before moving across and making 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 throws 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.

The 360 degree twirls act to disorientate the keeper, inducing slight dizziness. This will act to make the brain work faster, when trying to locate the final throw/shot.

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.

Distribution – Kicking and throwing – various methods.

There are 4 main methods of throwing a ball out and we covered them all here, including their advantages and disadvantages. In this session we had the younger keepers practice rolling the ball while the older keepers worked on dead-ball kicking.

Dead-Ball kicking – goal kicks, improving the distance and technique.

Young goalkeepers are rarely good with their feet, especially when they start out. So we usually spend some time on “kicking” as well as “positional” footwork. In this section we approached “dead-ball kicking’ as one would do in a goal kick.

Many goalkeepers have problems with goal kicks. Not just younger keepers. Subject to the size and strength of the keeper, it then boils down to a combination of kicking technique and mental attitude.

For beginner keepers, we like the following structure or routine. It won’t work for everyone, but it will give the young keeper a template to build their own routine.

  • Choose your target for the ball – left or right hand side of halfway line.
  • Place the ball on the side of the 6 yard box which makes kicking to your desired. If you’re lick to the left, put the ball on the left of the 6 to make it easier. This doesn’t prevent you from aiming a kick from the right of the 6 towards the left hand side – just easier to achieve.
  • Place the ball like its your grandmother’s fragile vase. You break it you suffer. Think about the ground – are there divots where the ball can fall into a hole?. Is the ground firm around the ball, where your “standing foot” will land. Above all, take it seriously.
  • Take a few steps back away from the ball, and one to the side, away from the line of the ball.
  • The move quickly towards the ball to make the kick
  • Try to land your “standing foot” – NOT the kicking foot – about a shoulders distance from the ball. In other words, about the distance between your shoulders. If your standing foot is too close to the ball you may kick it – ouch!
  • Place your standing foot about in line with the ball. If your too far in front of the ball, or too far behind the ball, you’ll mis-kick. Try it, but prepare to fall over and be laughed at!
  • Follow through with the “swing” of your foot.
  • If you’ve seen golfers, they carry on swinging the club well after they’ve hit the ball. 
  • You’re doing the same. It will give more power and help balance your body – try not to fall over!.

This won’t work for every keeper. But it will give the young keeper a template from which to build their own routine. Every keeper makes a bad goal-kick. The secret is not to let it get into your head.  

Above all, don’t expect to get this straight away – persevere. And when you do a “bad kick” follow the procedure for the next one, having already forgotten the last one. 

Pause a few seconds and take a breath. You can do this!

like your grandmothers favorite vase…
turn away from the ball and take some steps back
take one step to the side to give yourself some “angle”
take care when placing the “standing foot”
drive through the ball and “follow through” with the swing.

In this drill we practice by kicking the ball from about 3 yards from goal, into the net – saves chasing the ball all night! The keeper should aim to hit the net hard and high – about 4 foot off the ground or higher. Each keeper take a kick in rotation. After 2 goes each, stop and coach each keeper with positive comment. Don’t forget, its mainly in the head – confidence is everything.

Diving from a kneeling position – improving the catch when diving

Young keepers often have a problem with diving. They usually fear the impact when they hit the ground, or dive with insufficient training and hurt themselves. In this post we propose an easy drill to build the skill of catching while diving, without the full impact of a dive.

If you’ve ever coached really young (8-9) year old keepers, you’ll be wondering what we’re talking about. Most love throwing themselves around, and if they like being keeper at all it’s because they can “make a dive”.

Well pretty soon all keepers will make one of the those dives that hurts, and makes them think twice. If they’re not coached the correct way to make a dive soon they’ll develop habits which make catching and securing the ball more difficult.

This drill begins that process. It’s important to get them catching and securing the ball before they learn any of these bad habits.

The keeper starts in the goal, on their knees facing the coach

The coach faces the kneeling keeper and makes a throw or shot close enough to the keeper to allow a catch.

The keeper will simulate a dive, but by rolling the hips and catching the ball with both hands. By tucking the elbow in rather than lowering it towards the ground, the ball is easier to catch. Pull it into the chest to complete the save.

The keeper goes from kneeling (shaded red) to diving to make save

Diving from a kneeling position prevents the need to dive fully, and cushions the impact on the hips and knees. A full blown dive requires the body to hit the ground from about twice the height. This can cause injury if not practiced with the right training and care, even on the softest surfaces.

But even if the keeper is comfortable diving full length from standing, they often use their arms (elbows) or hands to cushion the blow, which makes catching the ball much harder. This soon becomes a habit or reflex.

By starting the keeper on their knees and perfecting the catch and clutch-to-chest first, there is a greater chance they won’t develop that bad “arm down” habit.

Also, it’s common for keepers to have a “favorite side” to dive. In other words, they dive with greater ease and comfort on one side, relative to the other. This is not as simple as preferring a “hand” – ie being right handed, left footed, etc. It can be the opposite side (eg a right handed player prefers to dive to their left hand side).

This drill can help improve the “weaker” side, and make the keeper more “two-sided”, having similar ability diving to the right or the left.

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.