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Proper execution [of dives] requires anticipation, correct technique, precise timing, and courage.
   -- Luxbacher and Klein, The Soccer Goalkeeper
The Front Smother
The Rotation Dive
Advanced Diving

The two techniques on this page are reserved for goalkeepers who are a bit older and have the physical skill to perform them. As a rule of thumb, these diving techniques should be introduced to youngsters starting at about the U12 or U13 level. Like other diving techniques, these are rough on the body, so be careful not to overtrain them.

The Front Smother

The front smother, also known as the forward dive, forward smother, or forward vault, is actually a very commonly used technique at higher levels of the game. It is used on hard, low shots or balls that are going to "short-hop" the keeper. Essentially, it is a combination of a moving ground-ball pickup and a basket (inverted contour) catch, with momentum taking the goalkeeper forward over the ball and to the ground. This ensures the keeper completely smothers the ball and does not give up a rebound.

The goalkeeper should strive to get the ball Coaching Point before it hits the ground if possible, but whether the catch is on the fly or on the short hop, the goalkeeper needs to be attacking the low ball aggressively and not waiting and risking a funny bounce.

696K Movie696K Movie The steps in a front smother are:

  • Move towards the ball. This is a dive, so the goalkeeper needs some forward momentum. Try to get to the ball before it hits the ground if possible; if not, get it on the short hop.
  • Catch the ball similar to the technique for a moving ground ball pickup: hands low and together in a basket, feet staggered. Coaching PointCatch the ball with the hands -- Mistakedo not try to trap it between the arms and chest.
  • Bring the ball up into the protected position.
  • Continue the momentum forward and low over the ball, with the legs stretching out behind. This gets the goalkeeper's knees out of harm's way.
  • Go to ground, using the forearms to cushion the landing.

A sure sign of a keeper who needs to learn a front smother is if they Mistakeconsistenly drop to their knees to field driven low balls that are going to land around their feet. If you see this, teach them to attack the soccer ball and gather it in with a front smother before it hits the ground.

The front smother is here in the Advanced Diving section, rather than the Catching section, for a couple of reasons. First, young goalkeepers should first learn to stay on their feet as long as possible, and encouraged to handle as many balls as they safely can without going to ground. I usually don't introduce the front smother until goalkeepers are at least 12 years old or so. Second, this is a physically demanding technique -- it puts stress on the arms and upper body even when done correctly, and can take a toll on the knees when done improperly -- and young goalkeepers may not be up to the task. You can introduce the technique at any age, but be careful not to overdo training on these techniques and don't push any goalkeeper who isn't ready.

The Rotation Dive

One of the most difficult balls to stop is the hard, ground-hugging shot just a yard or so from the goalkeeper's feet. Often a reaction kick save is the only way to get to such a ball, but if the keeper has just a bit more time they may be able to get their hands to the ball using a rotation or "windmill" dive.

Although they may appear to break them from time to time, goalkeepers are still subject to the law of gravity. A keeper's center of mass simply will not get to the ground any faster than gravity will allow. However, a goalkeeper can get their hands and upper body to the ground faster than gravity alone by rotating their body around the center of mass. Rather than push up or out, the legs are used to give rotational force to keeper's body

560K Movie560K Movie The technique is rather different than other dives, as it does not start out with the usual step toward the ball. In fact, the first step is actually away from the ball:

  • Drop the shoulder nearest the ball, then take the leg nearest the ball and pull it up underneath the body and away from the ball. This starts the body downward and imparts some of the rotation.
  • Reach downward for the ball with the near hand. The far hand will be late arriving with this technique; that's to be expected.
  • As the fall continues, kick the far leg out and upwards. This continues the rotation and gets the upper body to the ground and behind the ball.
  • Finish the dive in proper position, square to the ball.

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