Are you a first time goalkeeper? Or are you a parent of a first time goalkeeper? Or are you a coach trying to help your goalkeeper? No matter your
situation the goalkeeper position in soccer is a complicated one and easy to get a bit lost on where to start. We will break down four areas that you can focus on as you get started. Those four areas will be Body Shape, Footwork, Handling, and Diving.
Body Shape is the absolutely most critical aspect of goalkeeping. If your body shape is poor then a good save or even a save will not be possible. Here are three tips on good body shape and when its most important. Tip 1, you need to always be well balanced. A balanced goalkeeper will have even weight on both feet so they can move in any direction. Even weight means no leaning back or forward, and feet close to shoulder width apart. Tip 2, you need to always have hands in a good ready position. If your hands are too low, or too high it will cause issues. You want your hands somewhere around hip height as this will allow the same distance to high shots and low shots and make us prepared for all levels of shots. Tip 3, you can not be moving while a player is preparing for a shot. As a player dribbles or passes this is a chance for us to get in proper position. Once the player is preparing for a shot or moving their leg bag to shoot, we as goalkeepers need to be in a set and ready position with good body shape.
Footwork is critical. Footwork does two great things for us. It prepares us for the shot and puts us in the right position. It also allows us to make the save and get our body behind the ball. During a typical game the goalkeeper does not touch the ball very often with their feet and even fewer times with their hands. So then what is a goalkeeper doing? MOVING! Goalkeeping is a constant game of adjustments. Sometimes large movements as we need to recover and sometimes small constant adjustments as players dribble and pass around our 18 yard box. The most important footwork a goalkeeper needs to be comfortable with is the crossover and the shuffle. The crossover is used when we need to cover a lot of space quickly but is not great because it makes us unbalanced, so it is only used when a player is not able to shoot. The shuffle is our constant movement. Anytime the ball is within shooting distance we need to be moving in small shuffles to re-adjust our position. The shuffles should not cause us to bounce up and down but keep us in a proper body shape as we move preparing for a shot.
Handling can be broken down into 3 areas. Area 1 is from our chest and up. Any ball that is hit chest height or above we will catch in a Contour Catch. Other words have been used such as the "w" and the "diamond" but both are misleading and give a poor visual. A contour catch is used because we are catching the SHAPE of the ball with as much of our hands behind the force as possible. Our focus is fingers on top and thumbs behind. If we catch in a "w" it takes our fingers too wide and allows the ball to slip through. If we catch in a "diamond" it forces our hands too narrow and our elbows to high into a very awkward position, and for younger keepers it forces their small hands too close together. Area 2 will be anything off the ground but below our chest. This catch will be the Basket Catch. The biggest focus on the basket catch will be not on the hands but the elbows. You will hear people say "pinkies together" or "wrist close" but both of this get it slightly wrong. On a basket catch I am not catching with my hands but my arms and so a bigger focus needs to be the gap between our arms. If our elbows are close then nothing can get through! Area 3 will be our final catch and we will focus balls on the ground. This catch will be the Scoop and Low Ball Catch. Low balls or ground balls are a tricky one and the most often mis-taught. The difference between the two will depend on the speed of the ball. The scoop is simple. A scoop is used anytime we can attach the ball. A slow shot, or a through ball we can come collect. Focus for this save is again elbows close together and hands under the ball so we can scoop it up off the ground as we step through it. The low ball catch becomes much more complicated as we are now looking at saving a shot with speed. Our focus must be on our hands and arms. Elbows need to come together, hands need to be behind the ball with fingers spread. This will make sure we have a strong frame behind the ball. A lot of you are most likely wondering about the wonderful knee that protects the ball from going through the legs, well thats a big topic and you will need to check out full tutorial on that one.
Diving is the number one word connected to Goalkeeping, however, its the skill we actually do least out of all of them. Footwork, Handling, Movement, Kicking, Communication, are all used way more but the upper 90 save is the one that gets us all the glory and what we train for. Diving has a lot of mechanics to it but we will break it down to 3 key tips. Tip 1, make sure you take a step. If I am diving to my left I want to step in that direction with my LEFT foot and dive from a partial lunge. The step gets us into a more powerful position and puts our weight on the proper foot. Tip 2, lead with your shoulders. Our hands will ultimately make the save but our hands sometimes do something different than our body. To make sure we have our full body moving toward the ball we move the shoulders in the direction we need. If the shoulders go, the hands are sure to be in the right place. Tip 3, do not land on your ELBOW or KNEES! When we first learn to dive we often pick up really bad habits. Landing on your elbow will jam your shoulder and cause a lot of injuries. Landing on your knee will prevent you from turning sideways and getting behind the ball.
Hopefully you feel more comfortable about the position and ready to start your path to development. Make sure to check out our tutorials on each topic we listed above. All the best Goalkeepers.