Most coaches (rightly) want their keeper to behave like an extra outfield player. This helps defenders when the opposition “press hard”, and gives them an extra “out”.
But sometimes the through ball doesn’t carry to the penalty box, where the keeper can use their hands.
Sometimes it simply bounces, and drops well short of the box, leaving the keeper with a difficult situation, only able to use their body and head to control the ball, and a pass or long kick to safety.
This drill helps familiarize the keeper with such a dilemma, and learn how to approach these difficult balls.
Imagine the keeper has a deep resting place, with the ball close to the half way line and two strikers guarded by three defenders, in-line with the edge of the center circle.
The coach relies to send a high ball towards the keeper, with just enough energy to land in the “no man’s land”.
The “No Man’s Land” zone
This awkward zone we calls “No Man’s land” is the area starting about two yards in front of the edge of the penalty box, and continuing towards the half way line some 5-6 yards. See this diagram below.
Out here, the ball is likely too far from the box to be able to allow it to run into, or be drawn back into, the box, allowing the keeper to use their hands. To do so will draw a scary challenge from a striker and risk injury, and/or a goal.
The other two zones – “pick-up” and “extended zone”
The zones before and directly after the No Man’s Land offer very different and arguably easier, challenges./
In the “pick-up” zone, which encompasses the latter-portion of the penalty box, and the area to the side, the ball can be easily pick up or drawn back into the box. here it’s likely the strikers won’t reach you in time to threaten.
Yin the “extended zone”, the keeper has to make a simpler decision – are they close enough (with a high enough resting place) to be able to come out further and kick the ball clear? Or are they too deep (closer to goal) and feel it’s better to allow the defenders to try to cope with the ball, which the keeper dropping back to the penalty box to face a classic one v one.
In this drill we present variations of this challenge. Some balls are kicked into the no man’s land to allow the keeper to deal with them.
Others are dropped even shorter , landing in the extended zone, to encourage the keeper to adopt a higher resting place, and if not, to retire to the penalty box and deal with a classic one v one.
Coach will kick the ball very high, to ensure that it loses energy when it lands, and allow the strikers and defenders “off the leash” with a shout of “go” once the ball has landed, out perhaps when the ball is kicked.
Occasionally the coach will loft a flatter ball straight into the penalty box, to keep the keeper “honest”.
Rules of Thumb.
- These through balls are tricky, and crucially success depends firstly on an appropriate resting place. If the keeper is fast on their feet or reads the game well, they will adopt a higher (closer to the half way line) resting place. Most, if not all, extended zone balls should be kicked away high and wide – aim for “row Z of the stands”.
- If their resting place is deeper (close to the goal) they will likely not be able to make the ball in the Extended zone, and instead retire to the penalty box.
- For balls that land in the no man’s land, firstly get good control of the ball. A ball bouncing high is best headed wide away from the strikers and danger.
- Using the chest to bring the ball down is better, and should leave the ball within a yard of the keeper’s kicking foot, ready to pass or kick wide.
- if the ball is slowing down and has no bounce, a swift half-volley is often the best option – make sure it has height and preferably wide.
- If the ball can be controlled completely well before the strikers are within 5 yards, consider a pass to a team mate. But don’t dribble of try anything fancy – you are well out of an empty net!.
- Finally, and this will happen, there is the ball that beat the keeper – bounced over their head or through their legs. The options are really limited then – simply turn, run back towards it and kick it into touch for a throw in.
Tips for Coaches – Confidence – Cohesion – Technique
Be sympathetic with your keeper – they’re playing a special role already.
But encourage them to become skillful with their feet and comfortable on the ball. Involving them in the normal practice drills as an outfielder will build their technique, and encourage cohesion with their defenders.
But most of all, hep them grow confident with their own resting place. Resist the desire to coach them into too high a resting location, even if it fits with the map above.
Most of all, resist driving them into uncomfortable locations in a game. They are in a better position to judge wind, weather, slippery pitches etc than you.
If you must, mention it at a break, but as a question, not a demand.