The Goalkeeper must master the technical skills required for the position through quality training, repetition, and effective coaching. Like outfield players, the goalkeeper needs these variables in a controlled environment (goalkeeper training) to master their technical skills.

Technical areas of concentration are:

  • Footwork
  • Set Position
  • Catching
  • Diving
  • Crosses
  • Distribution

FOOTWORK– The goalkeeper’s ability to cover the goal area(lateral and off their line) is vital to saving the ball. Footwork gives the goalkeeper the ability to get in line with the shot, get set for the shot, deal with a crossed ball, cut off the angle of the shot, etc. This should enable the goalkeeper to make saves easier and retain the ball at a higher consistency.

Hand Positioning- It is imperative that young goalkeepers are taught the correct hand positioning for both low and high balls. In both cases, the hands should form a supple web that surrounds the back (closest to the goal) of the ball. Players are taught for low balls the hand position resembles an ‘M’, with fingers pointed down and palms facing forward. The little fingers of both hands are almost touching. For high balls the hand position resembles a ‘W’, with fingertips pointed up and palms facing forward. The thumbs of both hands are almost touching.

SET POSITION- The relationship between the goalkeeper’s body parts (feet, legs, arms, hands, shoulders, and head) is fundamental to a successful catch. The moment the ball is struck by the attacking player, the goalkeeper needs to be stationary, well balanced, and have proper body shape. This is referred to as the “set position”. Your feet, knees, hips and shoulders should be in alignment. Too far apart of the feet or too narrow of the feet will affect the goalkeeper’s balance and ability to save the ball. The body should be in a slightly curved or concave shape with the shoulders facing the ball. The arms and hands work together, bent and relaxed to absorb the shot. Accomplishing the proper set position allows the goalkeeper to catch the ball. To add to this the player is taught to shift their weight from foot to foot at speed in order to increase reaction time and jumping ability. (basic concepts will be taught before placing a child in the position of goalkeeper.)

CATCHING- When catching the ball, the goalkeeper needs to incorporate proper footwork and get in the “set position” prior to catching. They must also have good concentration and hand-eye coordination while dealing with the ball.

The four (4) types of balls the goalkeeper can face are:

  • Ground Balls / ‘Scoop”
  • Mid-section / “Cup”
  • Head Height / ‘W”
  • Above the Head

Ground balls- are caught by using the “Scoop” technique. The goalkeeper will collapse at the knees (knees DO NOT touch the ground but get low enough to prevent the ball from going under your legs) and attack the ball with hands and arms which will bring the body forward. The palms are open and facing the ball with the fingers facing down towards the ground. Once the ball makes contact with the palms and arms, the goalkeeper will scoop the ball into his chest.

Mid-section balls- (knees to waist) are caught using the‘Cup” technique. The goalkeeper will use the similar technique as the ground balls, but does not require the legs to collapse low to the ground as the ball is off the ground. Proper footwork is still necessary to get the body in front of the ball.

Head Height balls- are caught by using the “W’ technique. The shape of the hands is commonly referred as a “W” as the fingers and palms look like the letter “W”. The hands need to be approximately the width of the ball apart with elbows slightly bent to absorb the pace of the ball.

Above the head, balls require the fingers to be angled slightly down towards the ground in front of the goalkeeper to rebound the ball down in front of the goalkeeper in case of a catching error. The previous types of balls can be secured by getting the body behind the ball in case of an error, but not so when the ball is above your head. Lastly, once the ball has been caught, the ball should be brought into the goalkeeper’s chest and securely held to prevent balls being dropped or put back into play.

DIVING– The first dives to be taught in practice from a seated or kneeling position. The coach or partner kneeling 3-4 yards away will roll a ball (slowly) to an agreed side about one yard from the goalkeeper’s upright body. The keeper’s arm is to produce a ‘long barrier’ between the ball and the imaginary goal behind them. Again we want to encourage our keepers’ to attack (move forward towards) the ball, so they will dive to their side but slightly towards the ball.

When the ball is to the side of the goalkeeper’s body and he is not able to incorporate any of the four (4) types of catching techniques, a dive is necessary to make the save.

The four (4) types of dives are:

  • Collapse Dive
  • Low Dive
  • High Dive
  • 1v1 Dive

The collapse dive- is used when the goalkeeper cannot get their entire body behind the ball, but is never in the air. The ball is at the goalkeeper’s side and close to their legs. The legs simply collapse to the side and the hands are positioned behind the ball to make the catch/save.

The low dive- is used when the ball is away from the body and the goalkeeper must use footwork to attack the ball. The goalkeeper must use proper footwork, leg push, and attack the ball at roughly a 45 degree angle. Upon catching the ball, the body weight of the goalkeeper is absorbed into the ground at the side of the body and shoulders.

The high dive- uses the same technique as the low dive but the ball is at or above the goalkeeper’s chest. The 1v1 dive is used when the goalkeeper encounters an attacking player who is dribbling free on goal at them. The goalkeeper must decide when and how far to come out and encounter the player. The goalkeeper needs to cut down the angle of the shot to make the goal as small as possible, delay the attacker from shooting and ultimately save or deflect the shot. The goalkeeper needs to dive at the attacker’s feet with their chest facing the ball and making their body into the biggest “barrier” as possible to block the ball. Timing, technique and bravery are keys to making the 1v1 save.

CROSSES – Crossed balls are delivered from different angles on the field into the penalty area. The goalkeeper must make a split second decision and come off of their line to “intercept” the ball by taking the quickest route to the ball. Proper and quick footwork (drop step, crossover step, and stutter step) enables the goalkeeper to produce the fastest route. The goalkeeper should jump off their inside leg (leg closest to the goal) for protection and reach the ball at the highest point possible. The technique used for balls above the head will come into play when catching a crossed ball. Decision making on whether to catch or punch the ball is dictated based on securing the ball, crowded area, too far to catch with 2 hands, etc. The goalkeeper’s aerial control of their penalty area is very important.

DISTRIBUTION– The goalkeeper is the first line of attack once in possession of the ball. An accurate throw or kick can penetrate the opposing team and initiate their team’s attack. Throwing of the ball is generally used for quick and accurate passing to their teammates.

Three (3) Different Techniques are:

  • Roll – used for short distances and the ball is rolled along the ground to feet using an underhand motion
  • Sidearm – used for medium distances and the ball is thrown in the air in front of a teammate to progress forward up the field.
  • Overhand – used for longer distances to bypass players (over their heads) and get the ball into the opponent’s half and safely to a teammate

Kicking of the ball is generally used to distribute the ball over a greater distance than throwing, but accuracy of the kick needs to be heavily emphasized.

Five (5) Different Techniques are:

  • Dead ball / Goal Kick / Free kick – Ball is stationary on the ground and no opposing player may contest the ball. The goalkeeper has ample time to place the ball and prepare for a proper kick.
  • Punt – Ball is released from the goalkeeper’s hands and struck before it hits the ground.
  • Half Volley – Ball is released from the hands and struck as it hits the ground. The flight of the ball is lower than a punt and is beneficial when the wind is quite strong.
  • ‘Sidewinder” – Flight of the ball is more horizontal than a punt or half volley and is easier to control by your teammate.
  • Back Pass – Due to the rules of the game, when a ball is kicked to the goalkeeper from his own team, the goalkeeper may not use his hands. The goalkeeper needs to be comfortable and proficient in using both feet. This enables them to be an added outfield player and keep possession of the ball.