Soccer Goalkeepers: Keepers of the Game
A tall player on the green field smears the blood and dirt from a cut on their leg, barely looking at it. They concentrate on the ball in the grass before them. A burst of sheer energy courses through their legs like an explosion as they abruptly maneuver the ball, finally passing it to another teammate. But—no! The ball is usurped by the other team. They pass it between them in dizzying succession to the keen dismay of the other side. They advance like an army, and suddenly another player runs forward and kicks the ball towards the goal like a comet of ill omen. The goalkeeper stands with legs slightly bent, eye calculating, body poised in split-second readiness to step in front of the black and white bullet rocketing towards them. It is a beautiful, sunny day. Will the goalkeeper save it?
Arguably, goalkeepers are the keepers of the whole game because they protect their team’s vulnerability—the goal. If they are not up to task physically and skill-wise, the whole game may be lost. Here are some soccer goalkeeper drills and exercises that will keep goalkeepers on top of their game.
Practice soccer shuffle and crossover steps for a set time, such as 15 minutes per session, until they become natural movements to your body. Set up two cones, or simply designate an area in some way, and do shuffle and crossover steps between them. Have a friend or teammate call “Shot!" every so often, at which point you must immediately come back to the “ready" position as a goalkeeper–shoulders square, knees bent and feet poised lightly on the toes. Also, you may have a teammate throw shots at you while you stand between two cones or points to designate the goal net. Do not use your hands to catch the ball in this exercise, but instead rely on your quickness of foot and your ability to deflect the ball with your feet or body. These drills will improve your footwork and also improve your quickness of response.
Throw the ball up and down, catching it and throwing it in order to familiarize yourself with handling the ball. Then throw the ball back and forth with a friend or teammate. If you have a large number of people, arrange yourselves in a circle and pass the ball amongst yourselves. The rule is that you can pass it to anyone at random except the person next to you. Finally, stand between two cones or points to designate a goal net and have a teammate or friend throw the ball at you above the waist while you practice catching the ball in a more real game-like scenario. Be careful! It is advisable to wear a helmet and protective mask during this exercise to avoid impacts on your face and head.
Dramatic soccer diving is a full aerial or extension dive where the goalkeeper hurls themselves through the air in order to deflect the ball. However, this is very hard on the body even with proper landing techniques, and should only be attempted under the supervision of a qualified coach. Even under proper supervision, it is advisable to train on a softer surface (such as sand or foam matting) in order to avoid injury. This is why simpler forms of diving are more appropriate for regular or personal practice and for goalkeepers at beginner’s levels. To begin, shuffle or do footwork back and forth while someone else yells out a direction to you—“right," “left," “front," or “back." Each time they say a direction, you must lie down in that position from where you are standing and immediately try to stand back up again as quickly as possible. After this, you may practice simple diving technique in the following manner. Imagine there is a ball coming at you. Take a step towards the ball, catch the ball, take the ball to the ground, and land on the hip and shoulder with the ball and the top leg protecting. Do this slowly and gently in order to properly learn the correct alignment, and do it on both the right and left side. If you get this technique down, try falling with a real ball in your hands, letting the ball cushion your fall as you take it to your side. Upon mastering this, you may perhaps attempt (with caution) diving for and catching balls thrown at you by a teammate as you stand in a designated goal net area.
Choose What Works Best for Each Goalkeeper and Athlete
These techniques and drills are by no means the only routines which can be used to improve goalkeeping skills. There are virtually endless soccer goalkeeper drills and routines which have been developed by coaches around the world for this purpose. However, they all have the same objective, which is to tone goalkeepers athletically and prepare their reflexes for the intensity of the game. Individual goalkeepers may therefore adapt drills to whatever works best for them and whatever prepares them the best.