uhlsport USA
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—Ottawa Internationals S.C. web site, Ottawa, Canada

Goalkeeping Tips, Tidbits and Random Thoughts

An athlete talking to themsleves during competition is hardly a new phenomenon.... The talk does not have to be vocal. By merely thinking you are talking to yourself and sending a message.
   -- Tony DiCicco, Goalkeeper Soccer Training Manual

If you have a question, comment or rebuttal you'd like to see addressed here, send me email. I will post your mail to the blog at my discretion unless you specify otherwise.

You take the high road and I'll take the low road

There is an old comparison between soccer and rugby: Rugby is a hooligan's sport played by gentlemen; soccer is a gentleman's sport played by hooligans. Although there tend to be more hooligans in the stands some places than on the pitch, there certainly is an etiquette of soccer that coaches need to teach players to observe.

The most well-known etiquette rule is to knock the ball into touch to allow an injured player to receive attention. In return, the team receiving the throw will return it to the team that knocked it out, allowing play to resume fairly without requiring intervention from the referee.

Another not-so-well-known rule of etiquette is for a charging striker to leap over a sliding goalkeeper who has clearly won the race to a through ball. This is not necessarily a natural instinct; the first reaction of a player is to continue to go for the ball whether or not the keeper will get there first, and perhaps dislodge the ball. However, this can be dangerous for both keeper and striker -- not to mention the fact that kicking the ball (or, of course, the keeper) after the keeper has gained possession is a foul.

Unfortunately, many young strikers are not taught this, creating very dangerous situations for the goalkeepers they face. As much as we train keepers to protect themselves, there is only so much they can do. If we train the field players as well, we can prevent injuries out on the field. Train the goalkeeper to slide low and stay low and strikers to hurdle the keeper if they are going to win the ball, and it will result in a safer situation for everyone on the field.


Do you know where your goal is?

It's the 90th minute. Do you know where your goal is?

When it comes to positioning, everyone thinks about the obvious -- knowing the position of the ball. But what needs to come before that, that may not be quite so obvious, is that the goalkeeper must always know the position of the goal. May young and inexperienced keepers get caught ball watching, with the result that when they have to come out to challenge a breakaway or cut down the angle, they start from a poor position. That initial poor position just gets magnified as they get farther from goal.

A good goalkeeper takes a second to locate the goal whenever they have the opportunity -- near post first, since it's closer, then far post if there is enough time. Good times to check the posts are:

  • When the ball crosses midfield heading towards the keeper
  • Any time the ball is turned over and the opposition is heading towards the keeper, as long as a shot is not imminent
  • When the attacker gets turned away from goal
  • When the attacker is securely defended and there's no danger of a shot
  • When the attacker is in poor shooting position (very wide at a sharp angle) and a shot is unlikely
  • When the ball is travelling between players, especially on long flighted balls

Not only are these good times for the keeper to position themselves, but these same opportunities can be used to scan the field and see how the defense is organized and make adjustments, spot dangerous attackers and anticipate how play might develop.

Stand behind the goal during a game-like situation and watch your goalkeeper's eyes for a few minutes. Are they scanning the field, checking the goalposts, and taking everything in? Or are their eyes glued to the ball the whole time? Ball watching is a cardinal sin for any defender, but getting caught out of position because of ball watching is often a fatal mistake for a keeper.

For some more ideas and activities related to this, see this post on SoccerCoachingForum.com.


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