THE COLLAPSED DIVE
The collapsed dive is the foundation for all diving, and proper
technique is critical for the goalkeeper to dive both effectively and
Goalkeepers should have this technique down solidly before moving on
to extension and aerial diving; with U11 and younger players I often
skip extension dive training entirely, depending on the players'
- Warm Up (10 min)
After jog & stretch, get the feet going with footwork mirroring;
coach or leader doing shuffles and crossovers back and forth with the
keepers facing them and mirroring the footwork of the leader.
Make sure the keepers are comfortable with the basic
footwork steps, and that they stay on their
toes with weight forward.
- Down and Up (5 min)
Now we add going to ground and recovering to the footwork mirroring.
As players shuffle back and forth, leader will call "Forward", "Back",
"Right" or Left". At each call, the players will quickly go down to
the indicated position (forward on stomach, on their back, or on their
right or left side) and recover to a standing position as quickly as
possible. Increase the speed of the calls as you progress.
Encourage keepers to not use their hands to recover, if possible (this
is most difficult when on the stomach). Hands need to be kept free to
make the save. Recovery must be almost immediate; the sooner the keeper
is back on their feet the better off they will be.
- Collapsed Dive Demo, Collapsed Down and Up (10 min)
Introduce or review the basic steps of a collapsed dive: step
towards the ball at an angle, hands to the ball and make the catch, ball
to the ground, finish on hip and shoulder with the ball/arms and top leg
protecting. Then do Down and Up as above, but the calls will only be
"Right" or "Left". When the call is made, keepers go to the ready
position, then perform a collapsed dive with an imaginary ball to that
side. After a few minutes, if the technique is sound, have the keepers
hold a ball and do a few more minutes getting used to taking the ball to
ground and using it to cushion the fall.
Make sure the keepers do not forget to step forward in the direction
they are diving. In fact, the goalkeepers should be steadily moving
forward during this exercise, and the leader backing up, as each dive
should take the goalkeepers few feet
forward. When the ball is introduced, make sure they finish the
dive with the ball in front of them, one hand on top and one hand
behind, and that they don't lift the ball off the ground after the save
- Sit/Kneel/Squat/Stand (15 min)
Keepers in pairs, one is the server. Other keeper is sitting about
5 yards away, legs out in front of them with knees slightly bent.
Server rolls a ball to the side of the keeper; keeper has to go over
onto their side with proper diving position to make the save, then give
the ball back to the server who serves it to the opposite side. Each
keeper takes 3-4 serves to each side, then switch places. Then the
keeper moves to a kneeling position. Again, server rolls 3-4 balls to
each side and keeper goes over to make the saves. Next, keeper goes to
a squatting position. This time, add a small "step" (here just a small
movement of the foot) towards the ball before going over to field the
rolling ball. Finally, make 3-4 saves to each side from a standing
(low, knees bent) position.
Then, do the whole sit/kneel/squat/stand progression again, this time
with the server softly tossing the ball in the air at about keeper's
shoulder height for sitting/kneeling/squatting and about waist height
All this really should take only 10 minutes unless you are working with
young or inexperienced keepers who need lots of correction. A series of
3-4 serves on each side to one keeper should only take 20-25 seconds if
they are working hard. Make sure the keepers go forward to the ball,
even when sitting and kneeling. When squatting and standing, make sure
they step towards the ball. This is a key -- don't let them get away
with no step! And it should be a step, not a fall onto one knee.
Make sure they finish in good position, on their
side square to the ball, ball (and arms) out in front and top leg up for
protection. Make sure they reach out to the ball, so the elbows stay
out and don't get caught under the body when they land. Finally, make
sure they finish with their body square to and behind the ball, not on
top of or rolling over it.
You can extend this portion of the session if you need to correct basic
technique -- don't move on until you are sure they have it down. If
they don't, not only will they not get anything out of the rest of the
session, but they run the risk of injuring themselves.
- Two-Sided Saves and/or Triangle Goal Game (20 min)
You can use the
Two-Sided Saves game or the
Triangle Goal game to work on the
basic diving technique, with servers tossing balls between waist and shoulder
height. Adjust the size of the "goals" based on player's ability. As
they progress, the servers should throw the balls with a bit more pace
and closer to the cones.
For more advanced players, have servers stand farther back and either
strike the ball from the ground (if they're accurate enough) or volley
it out of their hands.
Make sure the basic technique remains sound: step towards the ball,
forward at an angle, make the catch first, ball to ground, soft and
square landing. Now that we have a "goal" as a reference, keepers
should be going forward with the dive, out in front and away from the
goal. Correct them if they end up going "backwards" with their head
towards the goal. Younger keepers will sometimes flop and roll with the
ball after the save; encourage them to remain on their side and behind
the ball, not exposing their back to the field and the attackers.
- Mini Keeper Wars (20 min)
You can use cone goals for this game, but
corner flags work better.
Set cones or flags about 6 yards -- collapsed diving range -- apart;
set another goal facing it, 12-14 yards away (adjust goal size and
separation for keeper age and ability).
A keeper is in each goal. One keeper starts on their goal line with
the ball and attempts to throw it past the other keeper (throws over
shoulder height do not count). The keeper must make a collapsed dive to
save if necessary. If the keeper makes the save, or the thrower misses,
the keeper gets the ball and tries to score on the other goal. You can
either play most goals in a set period of time, or first player to a set
number of goals wins.
Make sure the game set-up encourages collapsed diving with proper goal
size and good serves.
- Shots on Goal (10 min)
Although the keepers will probably want to play mini keeper wars for
the rest of the practice, I feel they should finish with shots on a
full-sized goal. You should have servers, if possible, who can
place the ball accurately within collapsed diving range for a keeper.
You will find that younger or less experienced keepers will often have their
technique go right out the window when they get in a real goal.
Encourage them to make the effort of the dive, not just turn and bat at
the ball. Diving is the only way, on hard shots to the side of the
keeper, to get the body down and behind the ball. Also, at this point,
encourage good decision making -- if a keeper doesn't have to dive to
get a ball, they shouldn't. Make the easiest save possible.
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EXTENSION AND AERIAL DIVING
Extension and aerial diving can be hard on a goalkeeper. As much as we
try to cushion the impact of landing, it's still going to hurt a bit.
Make sure your keepers wear long sleeves and pants if they have them to
save on the scrapes, even if it's hot out.
If you have access to large crash mats, or a sand pit, use them! You
can train much harder if you don't have to worry about beating your
goalkeepers to a pulp. Mats or a sand pit are also useful if you want
to introduce extension diving to younger players. Otherwise, find the
softest patch of grass you can, and don't push too hard. However, a few
bumps and bruises will be part and parcel of this kind of training.
- Warm-Up (15 min)
Jog and stretch, warm up the hands with some easy catch, then review
collapsed diving technique with the sit/kneel/squat/stand
progression from above (balls served in the air).
Keepers need to be well warmed up for the explosive activity that will
follow. Basic collapsed diving technique needs to be sound.
- The Power Step (10 min)
Set up a row of 6-8 cones (preferrably ones with some height) with
1 to 3 yards between them (smaller spacing for younger, smaller
keepers). Keepers stand a few feet from the first cone, facing
perpendicular to the row, take a small step towards the cone, then
push hard with the near leg, drive the opposite knee up and get as
much height over the cone as possible. Repeat down the row of cones a
few times, then start at the other end and go the opposite direction.
Next, set up a zig-zag row of 8-10 cones: a cone, another a yard or two away
and a few feet forward, another in line with the first cone and another
few feet forward, etc. Keepers start to the side and slightly behind
the first cone, shuffle and power step over the first cone and try to
get enough distance to clear the second cone. Then they back up, and
power step over the second cone trying to clear the third cone (now
going to the opposite side), etc. Go through the cones several times.
The distance between cones should challenge the keepers. Use taller
cones, balls or other obstacles to make it more difficult if you want.
Goalkeepers must have a good step and explosive drive if they want to
get height and distance. The step should be low, with the knee bent to
provide the power. The opposite knee should drive up to provide height.
The shoulders and hips should stay "square to the field" -- that is,
face forward, perpendicular to the direction of the jump. Don't let
them turn forward and face the direction they are jumping.
- Extension Diving: Rolling and Low Balls (15 min)
Work in pairs, one server and one keeper. Have the keeper mark
their range with three cones: one as a starting point, then step low
to the right and push out as if diving far for a low ball. Mark that with
the second cone, then mark the same way to the left with the third cone.
(The left and right cones, naturally, should be forward from the
starting cone.) Keeper stands at the starting cone, and saves balls
rolled by the server just inside the right/left cones, then gradually
increase the distance to just beyond the cones. Start in a squatting
position to emphasize staying low for low balls, then move to a more
natural standing position. Once the keeper has
taken repetitions with balls on the ground, move to balls served in the
air but low (knee to waist high). The server should start these a
little closer to the keeper, then work out towards the left/right cones.
Starting with low balls lessens the impact of the dive and keeps things
from getting too intense early in the training session. On the step,
the keeper should get low with the knee bent to put themselves at the
level of the ball right away. Make sure all
the basics are there: the initial forward step, the push with the near
leg, hands to the ball. Now that the keepers are extending, their
weight needs to be transferred over the near leg. Often, a keeper will
step forward, but then fall backwards (and not get much extension)
because their body weight is still behind the stepping foot. This
happens particularly when the keeper is diving to their weaker side.
- Ground-to-Air Missle (15 min)
This exercise works on generating height for aerial dives. Again,
have a keeper/server pair. The keeper kneels, with one knee on the
ground and one knee up. The "up" knee is the side the keeper is diving
to (the "near" leg). Server holds the ball in the palm of one hand,
about head height, a few yards away from the keeper and a bit in front
of them. The keeper pushes hard with the near leg and drives to the
ball, catches it off the server's hand, and then lands properly. Repeat
to the right and left side. As the
exercise progresses, challenge the keepers by holding it higher and
farther away. When they have this down, server then serves a soft toss
in place of the stationary ball, then move to harder served balls.
Don't let the keepers worry too much about the landing. Focus needs to
be on driving to the ball and catching it cleanly. If possible, the
keepers should dive through the ball. Only then should
they think about landing -- ball down first, use it to cushion, and come
down on hip and shoulder. Goalkeepers need to get their body up to the
level of the ball, if possible. Timid goalkeepers will attempt to
"catch" themselves with the near foot -- that is, the body will not get
up in the air, and the near foot will be the first thing to hit the ground.
Tell them to focus on getting airborne and making the catch; the landing
will take care of itself. Crash mats, if you can get them, are
invaluable for helping reluctant keepers get their technique right.
- Aerial Diving Over Obstacles (20 min)
This is the drill that old goalkeepers remember fondly: diving over
cushions, bags, trash cans, or even other people. Obstacles should be about
a yard long and 1-2 feet high (depending on the skill of the players);
soft and non-pointy obstacles are preferred for obvious reasons. I like
to use 5-foot long sticks (3/4-inch PVC or
sticks), with a third
person holding it at the desired height. (In the old days, we used to use
another player, on hands and knees with their head down. Visions of
lawsuits have made me abandon that practice.) Keepers start a little
bit away from the obstacle, then shuffle and power step forward and dive
obstacle, trying not to touch it, and make the save. As with Ground-to-Air
Missle, above, start with servers holding the ball in their palm, then
move to soft tosses, then harder serves and balls further away.
Work both left and right sides.
The point of the obstacle is to force the keeper to get height and
distance to clear it; this won't happen unless the technique is all
there. The initial shuffle should get the keeper into position to take
their first step right next to the obstacle, get low, push hard with
the near leg and drive the opposite knee up and over to get to the ball.
If the keeper doesn't get their near leg up or tries to "catch"
themselves with it to break the fall, it will be obvious because they
will hit the obstacle. Again, encourage keepers not to think to much,
but drive up and to the ball and just let the landing happen. Get the
body up to the level of the ball and the feet will come along for the
- Shots on Goal (15 min)
Finish with shots on goal, either taken by coaches or players, or in
a game-like situation.
Here, encourage good decision making as well as correcting technique. A
goalkeeper should always make the easiest save possible, so they
shouldn't dive unless they have to. The only thing worse than a keeper
who doesn't dive when they should is a keeper who dives when they
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Teaching the forward smother and the rotation ("windmill") dive
probably won't take a full 90 minutes. I will often teach one or
the other at the end of another session on diving, or work on one
of them at the start of a game-situation or full team practice.
Here are the progressions for teaching these two advanced dives.
Long sleeves are a must for practicing these dives!
The Front Smother
- Front Smother - Basic Technique (5 min)
We use a kneeling/squatting/standing progression similar to
other dives. Keepers start on their knees, with arms in front of them as if
protecting an imaginary ball. Keepers
then fall forward, using their forearms to cushion the fall. Do this
several times. Then have the keepers actually holding a ball in the
protected position, and fall forward
again using forearms to cushion, and smothering the ball securely.
Now have keepers squat, holding ball, take a step forward and go to
the ground on their forearms. Gradually have keepers go to a more
upright position, and start to move forward as if intercepting a ball.
Finally, have keepers receive balls softly served to them at ankle
height and smother them.
The goalkeeper's body should be directly on top of the ball, with the
forearms parallel, hands over the top, and the ball trapped firmly
against the chest below the collarbone (not under the belly!). Keepers
should not roll over on their side. This is not a "collapsed" dive;
keepers should attack (or pretend to attack) the ball aggressively and
use their momentum to carry them forward and over the ball as they go to
- Front Smother - Facing Line Serves (5 min)
Have keepers in two lines, facing each other about 10-15 yards
apart. One line has balls and will serve, the other line receives.
Servers throw balls low and hard, so they are going to land right at
the feet of the keeper. Keeper charges, gets low, and performs a
front smother of the ball (preferably before it hits the ground), then
gets up and takes the ball to the server line. Server goes to the
This gets the keepers moving towards the ball. Don't let them wait for
the bounce, unless the ball is way too far in front. Even then, they
should attack and get the ball on the short hop.
- Front Smother - Shots on Goal (10 min)
Move to live fire, with shots being aimed to bounce just in front of
the keeper or low - ankle high - and hard. These types of shots
require the front smother.
Attack the ball, make sure the keepers catch it with their hands, and
get over the ball so it's completely smothered and there's no chance for
the ball to come loose.
The Rotation Dive
- Rotation Dive - Basic Technique (10 min)
Start from a slightly crouching but standing position. Roll balls
on the ground about two feet from the keeper's
foot. Keepers drop their shoulder closest to the ball, get their near hand
as low as possible, and just drop on the ball, getting the far hand on
it as quickly as they can. The next step is to
have the keeper reach low for the ball, and just kick the near leg out
away from the ball, and get the upper body down behind the ball
as quickly as possible. Finally, as the near leg kicks out, the far
leg then comes up and the knee drives across to complete the rotation,
and the keeper lands on their hip and side. Repeat to the right and
The trick for this dive is not to think about the feet too much, but
to think about getting the hands and upper body down to the ground as
quickly as possible and let the feet come along for the ride. The
keeper should start low to help this. Serve balls with good pace to
make the keepers react quickly. This dive really can't be done in
- Rotation Dive - Shots on goal (10 min)
This doesn't actually require a full frame, since this dive is
intended for shots close to the goalkeeper's feet. Server should
be fairly close, 8-10 yards away, and hit hard, ground-hugging shots
(probably using push passing technique for accuracy) a yard to either
side of the keeper.
This is as much a reaction type of dive as a technique dive, so
encourage keepers to react quickly and not over-think on these dives.
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