This is a variation of the basic hoop footwork exercise, where the keeper faces backwards away from the coach, skips between 5 cones laid in zigzag on the floor, twists around and receives a thrown catch and a spelling test to exercise the brain.
The initial iteration is designed to get the blood flowing and induce some tiredness. The keeper starts facing away from the coach, and skips literally around the five cones making a zigzag. at the last cone the keeper turns towards the coach and moves backwards towards the goal to make a set, ready for a shot. The coach finishes with a shot. The keeper passes the ball back to the coach.
In the second iteration, the keeper skips through five cones, facing away from the coach, turning to face the coach at the last cone. They then receive a firmly thrown catch from the coach and return the ball to the coach.
In the third and final iteration, the keeper skips through the cones and turns to face the coach, as in the second iteration above. But as well as taking a catch, the keeper is asked a brain-test, like “spell GOAL backwards”.
Once the keeper is tired from the first two iterations, the brain test will get progressively harder. There are some common traits or mistakes, like ending the word with the same letter as they began.
Eg, spelling GOAL backwards would result in L-A-O-L”. This is often a sign of doubt and a desire for the brain to “go back to basics”. We explore the psychology of this and other traits here.
This exercise is excellent for developing footwork precision, but also exercising the brain, allowing the keeper to make more confident decisions faster.
After 5-6 goes each on the first two iterations, , the keepers are all warm and sharp and a little tired. This is when the brain exercises should become more difficult. If they seem too easy, move to five or six words, and add back in a few of the first “shot” iteration.
Above all look for the traits that spell confidence issues or a desire to “go back to basics”, which would result in keepers re-treating to their golaline in one-v-ones, or staying on their line when coming out and making a punch or catch would be optimal.
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. Exercising the brain should be a core part of all soccer practices, forcing the athletes to make decisions under stress.
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.