uhlsport USA
"Outstanding keeper instruction. This is a must for goalkeepers and coaches."
—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.

Goalkeeping footwork in a nutshell

I recently got an email asking about footwork: what is it, really, and why is it important for goalkeepers?

I sum up goalkeeping footwork in a nutshell: The easiest save to make is one where the ball is right in front of you and your body is behind it. Good footwork makes it so that, as much as possible, every shot is right in front of you and your body is behind the ball.

This applies even to flying saves and claiming crosses. If you look at proper form for both of these, the body is square to the ball, behind it, and in a good catching position. It's the footwork that gets the body there in the first place.


How do I make my goal kick better?

Many of the emails I get, and questions from players I train, have to do with goal kicks. "My goal kick sucks. How do I make my goal kick better?"

There are a few factors that go into getting a 70-yard goal kick. One that should not be discounted is the ball! The one the pros use is light, bouncy and pumped up to full specifications, which means quite hard. Hit it well, and off it goes! You simply won't get the same distance from a cheap, flat ball. It's all in the physics (inelastic vs elastic collisions: a hard ball gets closer to an elastic collision where the energy is transfered to the ball; a dead, flat ball absorbs much of the energy in a more inelastic collision).

The next big factor is the speed (acceleration) of the kicking foot. Taking a long last stride into the ball will lever the upper leg back, making the rotation of the leg about the hip joint. A short stride, and short backswing, means the rotation is mainly from the knee. The longer stride creates a "longer" leg, and thus a greater foot speed (acceleration) for the same rotational speed. Since we know from physics class that F=ma (Force = mass x acceleration), we'll apply more force to the ball due to the greater acceleration.

The contact point of foot on the ball is key as well. The more rigid the ankle and the closer to the center of the ball and the "sweet spot" of the foot we strike, the more elastic the collision will be and the better the energy transfer. We must also strike the underside of the ball, below the midline, for the ball to elevate.

Finally, strength training can help. Leg and core exercises such as lunges, glute-ham raises, reverse hyperextensions, squats, etc. can increase both leg speed and mass, helping both terms on the right of the equation.

It's all part of The Anatomy of the Goal Kick.


Practice until you can't get it wrong

My new favorite quote: "An amateur practices until he gets it right. A professional practices until he can't get it wrong." (Attribution unknown.)

That sums up why some people play (and work) at a higher level than others. It's all about consistency. The amateur is ecstatic when he makes that great play one time out of ten. The professional is disappointed when he misses the play one time out of twenty.

And at the heart of it, it's not even the spectacular plays that truly make the professional. The best of the best do the everyday, ordinary stuff--the 10-yard pass, catching the easy ball, taking a goal kick--perfectly almost every time. And that doesn't happen by accident.


Always make the effort

My newest saying, coined last week:

"Always make the effort, even if you don't make the save."

It amazes me how often in training a keeper will simply watch a saveable shot go into the net. That is what's known as an "eye save". A team (and coach!) will be down very quickly on a goalkeeper who makes lots of eye saves.

OTOH, keepers are often much closer to making saves than they think. Without video, all they know is the ball went into the net. They can't see that they just missed by a few inches, and that with a little sharper technique, a little more explosiveness, etc., they might have actually made the save.

Always make the effort. Even if you don't make the save this time, if you make the effort you just might make it the next.


Glove washing day

Glove washing day. While it should be after almost every use, how many of us actually do it that often? Not I, especially in a week where I am training/coaching several times a day. So after a week or so I have a whole stack of gloves to deal with. How best to do it?

Clear out a large sink. Get your favorite glove wash. Wash and rinse in cool-to-lukewarm water and gently squeeze gloves until they run mostly clear (no dirt, no bubbles). Some like to use their thumb to "push" the dirt out of the palm; I just gently squeeze the gloves like a sponge, working from the wrist to the fingertips.

Okay, now we have a half-dozen pairs of wet gloves that need to dry out of the sunlight. Our parents/boy or girlfriends/spouses won't be to happy to find them hanging all over the house. What now?

First, get rid of even more water with the "towel stomp" method. Place a towel on the floor. Place gloves on the towel, then fold the towel over them or place another towel on top. Then gently step on the whole thing, and the towel will absorb water from the gloves. Repeat with a dry towel if you like.

But they're still too wet to put into your glove bag. Rig a rope or cord in the bathtub or shower, from the faucet to any handy hitching point. Use your gloves' wrist strap to attach them to the rope. Then pull the shower curtain or door closed so the rest of the household doesn't have to look at them.


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