Young goalkeepers typically start out relying on their size, athleticism, and/or fearlessness to be successful. We have all seen players either shoved into the position or self-selected into the role because of these attributes. However, as I keep discussing, technique is what will takes a player to the top, and that technique is not just associated with how you dive or how you use your hands. Small adjustments in footwork and body position are critical when you are called on to make the really tough save. After the break you will find some videos of activities that can help fix the small things that make a big difference.
First, let’s look at a simple routine called “Figure 8”, demonstrated here by the folks from SoccerPlus. The focus here should be on staying square to the shooter, keeping your body weight slightly forward so that you never drop your heels (stay on your toes!), and getting in rhythm so that you get that little hop forward as the ball is delivered. This is a very subtle adjustment that I harp on during sessions. Watch the keeper’s feet just before she receives the ball. There is a small hop forward where she gets her feet set and her legs slightly coiled. In this drill, she knows the ball is coming right at her, but in a game situation, that little hop will prepare her whole body to react to the shot, whether it is a blast straight at her or a curling ball heading for the upper 90. Getting that rhythm to be part of your natural motion as a keeper will help immensely – you will always be prepared to make the save. I think of this as being related to how first touch is critical for field players – this is explained in this post on FourFourTwo Performance where Xavi‘s first touch direction is crucial to his success as a playmaker. With keepers it is the same thing – preparing yourself with perfect technique makes everything else work like a charm.
In the video below, the preparation is less obvious. By forcing the keeper to go with high knees over the obstacle, it is harder for him to set his feet perfectly. Also, the trainer is delivering the ball more quickly, and the keeper is being forced into a front basket catch rather than having the ball delivered shoulder height. Despite all of this, the keeper still manages to stay square and bring his body under control before the ball is delivered. His body shape stays very forward and his feet come set with legs coiled as the shot is taken.
Ok, now we can crank up the intensity a bit more. Here the keeper is starting on the ground, and must reload before making a save. As he gets to his feet, he makes certain that his body weight is forward and that he gets a little hop in before reacting to the shot. Again, the footwork you see just before the shot is taken is what enables the keeper to make a strong save.
Let’s look at one more video, now from the coaches at GK Icon. Here, the activity is much more fast paced, so the keeper is constantly giving those little hops – he doesn’t really know when and where the ball will be delivered. Note that the footwork is typically together – he isn’t shifting his weight from one foot to another – he is keeping both feet moving in unison. This enables him to move to either side once the shot is taken.
During training sessions, focus on your footwork and make sure your shot preparation is as solid as possible. That will enable you to make the strong save every time.