uhlsport USA
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Training Session Index



I usually do not teach parrying extensively until keepers have some experience and have already shown they can catch the ball. After all, the first choice for the goalkeeper should always be to hang on to the ball whenever possible. Parrying should be reserved for balls that are too hard, high, or wide or are otherwise truly uncatchable.

  • Warm Up (Shuffle Catch) (10 min)
    Get the goalkeepers warmed up; make sure to include some simple catching exercises to get the hands going. A good simple warm-up is the "shuffle catch": Two keepers, each with a ball. They face each other 2-3 yards apart, then both step sideways about 2 steps. They should now be facing past each other's left shoulder. At once, they throw their ball straight in front of them (to the other keeper's left), and then shuffle to their own left and catch the ball thrown by the other keeper. Immediately throw the ball straight ahead (this time to the other keeper's right) and shuffle right to catch the ball thrown by the other keeper. Continue for 30 to 60 seconds. Balls can be served high, medium height, or low, or even rolled on the ground.
    Coaching Points For the shuffle catch warm-up, make sure the keeper gets all the way behind the ball if possible; no reaching out to the side.

  • Parrying Around the Post (15 min)
    We assume here that the goalkeepers already know at least how to do collapsed diving, and preferrably have worked on extension diving. We use the same basic technique, except instead of catching the ball, use the heel of the hand to direct the ball to the side, past the post. Do a sit/kneel/squat/stand progression, except have them parry the ball instead of catch it. Serves should be towards the edges of the goalkeeper's range so they must parry.
    Coaching Points Getting fingers to the ball is okay if that's all that can be done, but preferrably the keeper should use the heel of the hand -- it's much stronger and can't be bent backwards like the fingers. Keepers should simply deflect the ball wide, not try to bat it or swat at it. Let the momentum of the ball do the work; all the goalkeeper needs to do is change the direction of the ball. The ball should not be deflected right out in front of the goal, in case an attacker is there waiting, but deflected wide.

  • Parrying over the Bar: Footwork (10 min)
    Have keepers start about 6 yards out from goal. The coach points a direction, and the goalkeeper does the basic footwork to that side, as if a ball is going over that shoulder: drop step to that side, crossover back towards the goal, and power step up. Repeat several times to each side. Then add a ball, with the serves not too far over the keeper's head; have them do proper footwork, power step and simply catch the ball. Again repeat to both sides. As they progress, throw the balls a little farther behind the keeper.
    Coaching Points The crossover step should used to get behind the ball as quickly as possible. Once the ball is added, keepers will forget to keep going back and stop and jump at the ball going over their head. If they can get back quickly enough, they will be able to make an easier catch. Also make sure they catch the ball as high as possible -- above the crossbar if they can.

  • Parrying over the Bar: Hands (15 min)
    Now we work on the hand technique for parrying over the bar. Work in groups of three, with one keeper and two servers. Keeper kneels in the middle, facing one server 6-8 yards away with the other server 6-8 yards behind them. Have the keeper raise one hand above their head to show where the service should be. The first server throws a fairly flat-trajectory ball (not a high arching ball) to the server on the opposite side such that it passes over the head of the keeper at about the height where the keeper had their hand raised. As the ball passes over, the keeper should bring up their hand and deflect the ball upwards so it goes to (or perhaps even over) the server behind them. Keeper then turns around and takes a ball from the other server. Have the goalkeeper do this with both hands, and then rotate goalkeepers. Next step, have the keeper kneel with one knee raised (this will the the "push" leg). The keeper raises their hand again to indicate height, but this time the server throws the ball a few feet over where the keeper's hand was, to the side with the raised leg. The keeper must push off with the raised leg, get to the level of the ball, and use the opposite hand to deflect the ball upwards. (For example, if the keeper is kneeling with the left knee raised, the server throws the ball so it is going to the keeper's left, the keeper pushes upwards with the left leg, and bring the right hand up to parry the ball.) Repeat to both sides and rotate keepers.
    Coaching Points When deflecting the ball, the palm of the hand should face forwards the whole time. Don't allow keepers to swat the ball sideways, or turn their hand and "dunk" the ball backwards. A simple upwards push is all it takes; the momentum of the ball will do the rest of the work. In the second part of this exercise when they are elevating off the ground, keepers may turn in the air as the ball is deflected, and land on their side. This is okay, but don't let them start to twist until the ball is already gone. They need to stay square to the ball and facing the field as long as possible.

  • Parrying over the Bar: Putting it Together (20 min)
    This can be done without a goal, but it is difficult for coach or goalkeeper to gauge success unless you have a frame with a crossbar. Have goalkeepers come off of one post, touch a cone about 6 yards in front of the center of the goal, and serve a ball over their head to one side. Keepers now must do the proper footwork, and this time instead of catching the ball on the power step, they should use their opposite hand to deflect it upwards. At first, use easy tosses that aren't too high and aren't too far over the keeper's head, and indicate the direction before the throw. As the keepers get more comfortable, increase the difficult of the throws. The serves should be more flat than high and arching, especially at first.
    Coaching Points Don't expect a lot of success with this at first, especially with younger keepers. This is a very difficult feat to perform successfully, especially if the keeper isn't very tall. Just make sure the footwork is good, that the get back quickly, jump high, use the correct hand to parry with, and simply push the ball upwards rather than swatting or dunking it.

  • Parrying Game (20 minutes)
    Use four corner flags or coaching sticks, set on the goal line one yard outside and one yard inside of each goalpost. This makes a 10-yard wide "goal" with a 2-yard zone at each side. Then mark out a line across this 10-yard goal four to eight yards from the goal line (depending on the size/skill of the keeper) using flat cones. Now play 3v2+keeper attacking the goal, with these restrictions: the goalkeeper must stay in front of the line of flat cones until a shot is taken; shots must be taken from outside the penalty area; goals scored in the 2-yard side zones or over the keeper count for three. If you have two goals and can get eight poles, you can work out two keepers at once on a small field (use a neutral player who is always on offense to encourage lots of shots). You can adjust the number of field players used in this exercise based on the space you have to work with.
    Coaching Points The wide goal, shooting distance and extra points awarded should encourage shots that must be parried, either around the post or over the crossbar. The line restricting the goalkeeper will require them to parry balls over their head. Encourage good decision making: if the keeper can get back quickly and catch the ball, rather than parry it over for a corner, so much the better.

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Punching is distinct from parrying - punching is reserved for crosses and is used to get the ball away from the goal, not to divert the ball around the frame.

  • Warm Up (10 min)
    Jog, footwork and stretch, do some simple catching to warm up the hands.

  • Two-Handed Punching: Technique Demo/Review (5 min)
    Introduce or review basic technique, with proper hand position. Serve the keeper a few balls and have them punch them right back to the server's hands.
    Coaching Points Make sure the fingers make a nice flat surface, with thumbs out of the way but not tucked into the fist. Knuckles should be together such that they are not pointed out, but positioned to make one large, flat surface that covers both fists. If they hit the ball with their knuckles, you should be able to hear the difference in sound -- and it will hurt! Hands should start in close to the keeper's chest, elbows in comfortably and bent, and then the hands should drive through the ball to provide maximum power.

  • Two-Fist "Juggling" (5 min)
    Each goalkeeper has a ball. They throw it up and then, using two handed punching technique, punch it upwards in a controlled manner, and try to keep the ball up as long as possible, with as many "juggles" as they can before it hits the ground.
    Coaching Points The ball will have to be struck above the keeper's head for this to work effectively; if the keeper waits for the ball to fall too far they won't be able to extend their hands to give the ball sufficient momentum. This is a good opportunity for the keeper to work on finding the right spot in their punch for maximum effect.

  • One-Hand Punching: Technique Demo/Review (5 min)
    Use groups of three, with the goalkeeper in the middle and the servers about 10 yards to either side. One server throws a ball so it is going just over the keeper's head; the goalkeeper uses a one-handed punch to continue the ball in the direction it is going, to (or even past) the other server. Ball then is thrown by the other server so the keeper punches it using the opposite hand.
    Coaching Points Again, check for good hand position (flat surface, thumb out of the way). Hand should start low, and drive up and through the ball. This is a punch, not a slap.

  • One-Fist "Juggling" (5 min)
    As two-fist juggling, above, but Using only one hand. Try right only, left only, and alternating.
    Coaching Points The keeper will need to drive through the ball to get sufficient power to keep the ball in the air.

  • Group "Juggling" (10min)
    If you have two or more goalkeepers, you can "juggle" in a group. Mix both one-handed and two-handed punching. Players should call "Keeper!" before coming for the ball, both to develop good habits and to prevent collisions. With more advanced keepers, spread the group farther apart. Keep track of the maximum consecutive juggles.
    Coaching Points Encourage keepers to go for height and accuracy to keep the ball in play as long as possible.

  • Punching Crosses (15 min)
    Work on punching without any pressure. Serve balls (either kicked or thrown) to a keeper, varying the service: floating, driven, short of the keeper, over the keeper's head, etc. The keeper must judge the ball, decide whether to use a one- or two-handed punch, call for the ball, the perform the technique. Goalkeepers should work on getting height and distance on their punches. For variation, add targets (either other players or cones) around the field for keepers to reach with the punch. For advanced keepers, spend less time without pressure and more time on the following exercises that add field players.
    Coaching Points This works on decision making as well as technique. For this exercise, have keepers work on punching balls even if they might normally catch them. Judging the balls is crucial; keepers should not leave too early. If a keeper absolutely cannot get to a ball, they should call "Away!".

  • Crosses, Keeper+1v1 (15 min)
    Use the keeper+1v1 exercise as for high balls, adding an attacker and defender to the crossing activity, except have the keeper work on punching the ball rather than catching it.
    Coaching Points The keeper should be aggressive and try to increase their range in practice.

  • Crossing Game (20 min)
    This is a match-condition game that needs a number of field players: you can run it with just two per team, but three or four works better. Mark out "free" channels wide, from the edge of the penalty area to the touch line. Place several cone targets across the field about 35 yards from the goal line (reduce these dimensions for younger players). Team A attacks the goal with team B defending. Team A takes the ball to one of the channels and sends in a cross, attempting to score. Goalkeeper tries to punch the ball, and scores a point if they can either 1) do a two handed punch to a cone target, or 2) do a one handed punch that reaches the opposite wide channel. If the keeper cannot get to the ball, they should call "Away!" and be ready for a shot if the attackers win the ball. After a clearance or goal, the defending team retrieves the ball and starts the attack, with the other team now defending. If you have enough players, and/or an additional goalframe, there are a couple of variations which work well. One, use a third team, who stations themselves in the wide channels and at the cone targets. If the goalkeeper or defense successfully clear, team C collects the ball and immediately begins the attack against team B who was just attacking; team A takes up positions at the channels and targets to continue the cycle. Or two, use a larger field (up to full size) with keepers in goals at both ends. When the keeper clears the ball, the defending and attacking team switch roles and the attack goes at the other keeper.
    Coaching Points Decision making again is very important. Keepers need to be able to judge the ball and decide whether to come out ("Keeper!") or stay home ("Away!") as early as possible.

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© 2004 Jeff Benjamin, all rights reserved