Myself and other goalkeeper coaches preach stepping forward at an angle to make a diving save. Sometimes, when a keeper I'm training makes a mistake directly attributed to diving backwards, I'll jokingly say: "That's reason number 17 to dive forward!" While there may not be 17 reasons, there are at least a half-dozen advantages of stepping forward into the dive:
- More speed and extension. The human body is designed to go forward, not backwards. A forward step allows the stepping leg to generate more speed and power, and potentially get to a ball that might have gotten by if going backwards.
- Better catching angle. The "perfect" dive, one that is perpendicular to the flight of the ball, gets the hands in the optimum angle to make the catch. Any other angle means the ball is not coming square onto the hands, making it more difficult to catch.
- Better angle of deflection. If the ball isn't held, a forward angle has a much better chance of propelling the ball away from goal or around the post. A backward angle may mean just pushing the ball into the side netting.
- Covering more of the goal. Diving forward takes the keeper away from the line, which has the result of covering more of the goal mouth.
- Going away from the post. A backwards dive can put the keeper at risk of colliding with the goalpost. The post will usually win. A forward dive takes the keeper away from potential collisions.
- Room for error. Just like any other catch, we want to get the hands forward so that if there is any error in judgment, we have some leeway to adjust. A forward dive allows for that.
What are the things that separate the top goalkeepers from the rest of the pack? Here are a few:
- Handling crosses. This is a key and not easily mastered technique. Timing and judgement are everything.
- Ability to play with feet. When I see players in a game without keepers, I shouldn't be able to tell who the goalkeeper is.
- Communication skill. Is the goalkeeper specific, commanding and organized?
And, most important of all:
- Mental toughness and attitude.
It is mentality that separates the best from the rest. How hard you work, how you handle failure
, and how determined you are.
Outstanding athletes? A dime a dozen. Good shot stoppers? Everywhere. There are incredibly talented players everywhere who never made it anywhere.
"How hard you work has a lot more to do with success than we ordinarily imagine. Ability cannot be separated from effort
— Malcolm Gladwell