The most common complaint from team coaches seems to be on distribution. Most keepers are good shot stoppers, but their ability to relieve pressure and transition or switch play is often less than perfect. In this short post we describe a small scale drill a coach can utilize to improve the keeper’s ability with their feet, while sharpening their decision making.
Footwork pays dividends.
Every coach expects their keeper to perform basic “defensive duties” with their feet. For example, when a ball is played back to the keeper by a defender, relieving pressure and allowing a safe option to switch play from one side of the field to the other, the keeper is performing a valuable duty.
Small-sided Drill to improve accuracy of passing, while sharpening decision making.
In this drill, the keeper stands near a cone placed out to the right of the coach. Two players stand opposite the keeper, to the left of the coach, near their own cones. They are ready to receive a pass.
We’ll call them “Tom” and “Pete”.
The keeper faces way from Tom and Pete, unable to see them or the coach.
On hearing the coach shout “keeper”, they turns 180 degrees to face the goal as the coach feeds them a ball on the ground or in the air, simulating a back-pass from a defender. The twisting around 180 degrees helps induce a slight panic and disorientation, which is often the case in a real back-pass situation in a game.
The coach has already described the target zones to the keeper – two players named Tom and Pete.
Once the ball has arrived at the feet of the keeper, they either take a touch, or if the coach prefers, makes the one-touch pass/shot directed at the target zone, eg Tom or Pete. The pass should be close enough, and soft enough, to allow easy control.
Vary the name of the recipient, and score the accuracy of the pass.
This drill, done 2-5 times, will certainly test a keeper and enhance their thinking speed and decision making.
Tricks of the trade
How should a keeper be best prepared for a backpass? Well they should already have a good idea where everyone is and where players are motioning towards, before the pass. Is this unreasonable to expect?
If you’ve played chess, then you know the answer is no. When you make a move in chess, you already have a good idea where pieces are already, and the latest new information is the last move by the opponent. A good keeper views their “defensive arena” as a chess board, with each piece already noted. They should already have a good idea of the best move – who to pass to and how – before the ball is passed to them.
In this drill, they should already be confident they know where “Tom” and “Pete” are, and how far they are. When hearing the name called by the coach, they should already be deciding whether to “open their body” to the ball ready for the pass.
This drill may seem familiar, as it relates directly to this drill focussing on building confidence and sharpening decision making. This drill instead focusses on accuracy of the pass.
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.