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Get Off the Line

By Mike Smith

Over the course of my 24 years of coaching in general and 16 years of coaching high school, one of the constants I have faced is the need to “make” a keeper. Most coaches have moved around a bit as far as teams and age groups coached, but in all my travels I have only inherited 3 actual keepers. The reason I mention this in an article about getting off the line is that playing keeper is intimidating and already takes a special kind of player. When this player is new or just trying it out to help the team, this intimidation often shows up with the keeper standing on the line. While good line play is a staple of good keeper play, we all know getting stuck there can spell disaster sometimes, so here is what I do the help the keepers “ get off the line”.

First, I explain to them about what I call the “ shooters V “. I set up cones as shown above and explain that this basic V shape pivots with the shooter and most of the time, the ball is going somewhere in this V ( unless the shooter shanks it, whiffs it or skies the bar – all fine from a keepers stand point ). Once keepers understand if they sit back, they have to cover more ground to make the save ( noted by the upper keeper and movement lines ) than if they step up and cut down the angle ( and coverage distance ) a bit ( noted by the lower keeper and movement lines ) they readily move out more. Obviously too close and they risk being burned by fancy footwork so again, most readily understand the benefits of stepping out a bit.

After a good warm up, we do a bit of shooting, with a twist:

Set Up
As shown above, cut the keeper box in front of the frame in half and have your keeper ( keepers ) make saves from there. Any shooting progression can be used, I use the one shown above most often as it mixes in short passes, diagonal passes, set up passes and shots from around the pk spot ( the shooter shags the ball so there is a bit of running there too). The numbers of shooters should allow for minimal recovery time as this should progress fairly quickly. Multiple keepers can rotate in after a set number of shots ( 5 – 7 ).

Once the keeper is comfortable operating in the area off the line in front of the goal, remove the top two cones from the keeper box and re-position the shooters as shown below. This drill starts with the keeper distributing the ball from the top of the 6 to an attacker who lays the ball across around the penalty spot. Another attacker rushes in for the shot. The keeper must distribute the ball the sprint behind the cone gate to attempt the save from between the cones. The shots should come in quickly enough to force the save just as the keeper is getting near the cones so attacker starting positions should be adjusted to facilitate this. After a save attempt, the saving keeper either digs the ball out of the net and then drops out, or drops out after a save with the shooting player collecting the ball. The in coming keeper waits until the net is clear to make the next distribution. Shooters rotate as shown.

A final progression would be a half field scrimmage 8 defenders vs 10 attackers to see how the keeper adjusts moving to and from the line.

Coaching Points
During the drills the coach should focus the keeper on cutting down the angles and being ready to make the save. For beginning keepers, just getting a hand on the ball is a win. During the scrimmage, the coach should stay by the goal and give the keeper cues on when to step out and when to hold the line but the overall main idea is to get the keeper comfortable using the right space inside the box at the right time – especially when it is time to “ get off the line”.

By Mike Smith
Currently the Head Coach for University Heights Academy Boys Soccer in Hopkinsville, KY , Mike is in his 14th year as a high school head coach with 23 years coaching experience overall  and 34 year as a student and fan of the game. He holds a USSF D License.

Get Better on PKs

By Mike Smith

There is no higher pressure situation for a keeper to face than that of a PK. Some could argue a 1 v 1 breakaway where the attacker is coming in at speed is more challenging but I would argue since the keeper is not limited as far as movement during run of play 1 v 1 scenarios, the PK gets the edge. Obviously most coaches know this and thus, most teams and keepers practice PK s regularly, so the issue here is not “ are you practicing pks, “ but “ HOW are you practicing pks”? Here are two specific tricks which will vastly improve your keepers stop percentage AND your teams shooting percentage.

Many pk practices look like this, many of mine included. I usually work with groups of 5 shooters and two keepers as this best simulates a shoot out, with the keepers alternating shots. My remaining players run passing lines and do touch work until each shooting unit has done 3 progressions. Here is trick #1 : My shooters TELL the keeper which way they are going. Here is why: Many times, keepers do not learn how to react the right way because they spend too much timing guessing which way the kick is going. By telling them at practice, especially early in the season ( or pre season ) the keepers get a chance to commit to the proper form going to the left, right, high and low. It also helps with the shooters accuracy and how the shooter deals with pressure.

The second trick helps with moving to the ball with a slight forward angle and the most common pk fault, the keeper leaving the line early. With the same basic practice set up, make the keeper start INSIDE the goal.

As shown above, by starting the keeper inside the goal, just a couple feet or one step, yet still asking them to keep the ball in front of the line, it forces them to add a slight forward angle to their lunges and parries. This forward angle can be the difference in a ball being pushed out clear or tipped, spun and then going in. It also allows for any second chance attempts to be made before the ball actually crosses the line. The setup is the same as in the previous activity.

To make this a complete session, have each keeper face 7 consecutive pk attempts, from the line WITH OUT being told the direction. Be sure to include the keepers in the rotations of 7.

Coaching Points
The focus is on keeper form here and committing to a direction once they have tried to make a read ( guess )on the shooters intended shot. The coach should encourage the keeper to be as big as possible, use a slight forward move and aggressively parry shots away.

By Mike Smith
Currently the Head Coach for University Heights Academy Boys Soccer in Hopkinsville, KY , Mike is in his 14th year as a high school head coach with 23 years coaching experience overall  and 34 year as a student and fan of the game. He holds a USSF D License.

Three Option shooting drill

By Wayne Henderson –

Sometimes shooting drills can be geared towards giving the teams strikers some much needed confidence and as a result the goalkeepers are not in the thinking of the manager or coach when planning out the session. This means that the goalkeepers can feel dejected as shot after shot fly past them into the net.

This drill concentrates more on the positioning, decision making and shot-stopping aspects for the goalkeepers as well as giving the strikers different types of link up play and shooting practice.

The set up is as follows-

4 mannequins as defenders placed along the edge of the 18 yard box as shown.

The drill starts with the striker moving away from the defensive mannequin.

The attacking player then plays the pass to the striker, the goalkeeper then adjusts his/her position to be ready for the striker to shoot.

From this position the striker now has 3 options.

Option 1
The striker controls the pass and as quickly as possible and finds space away from the mannequins to strike a shot at goal. As shown below.

The goalkeeper must now be in a good, well balanced ready position to make a sharp save from the striker. The striker must also work on the quality of their first touch in order for them to get the shot at goal away quickly.

Option 2
The striker returns the pass to the attacking player who takes a first time strike at goal. Again the goalkeeper is looking to move sharply into position and be ready for the 1st time strike from the attacking player. The striker must concentrate on delivering a well weighted pass in order for the attacker to strike at goal with a 1st time shot.

Option 3
The striker passes a ball in-between the defenders as shown below for the attacking player to move on to and strike at the goal.

This option is the toughest to execute, because the striker must now deliver a well weighted and accurate pass for the attacking player to move on to.

This pass adds the decision making process to the drill for the goalkeeper, for example the goalkeeper has to quickly assess the weight of the pass and decide if he/she can get to the ball before the attacker.

If the goalkeeper can get to the ball before the attacker the ‘keeper comes out quickly and collects the ball, if the goalkeeper can’t get to the ball first, he/she must adopt a position that can close the angle down but still be ready and balanced to make the required save.

Especially with the 3rd option you can allow your strikers to take 1 touch to control and 1 touch to pass the ball, depending on the age and ability of your players, although the drill works best when the pass is delivered 1st time.

By Wayne Henderson

Explosive Movement across the Goal to Save

By Scott Housden –

As is the case for all other players, the goalkeeper moves considerably during games.  Nevertheless, only a few of these movements undertaken serve to fulfil the defensive duties of the goalkeeper.  Active movement (i.e. the goalkeeper’s movement on the pitch to ensure good positioning before attempting to make a save) across the goalmouth is key when dealing with a number of scenarios from cut-back crosses and deep crosses to second phase saves when the goalkeeper has either deflected the ball or the ball has deflected off an outfield player

These drills outlined below will allow you to work on this active movement that is an essential part of goalkeeping defensive duties.

 Set Up 1

  • Goalkeeper starts to the side of one of the two outside mini goals (indicated by red or blue coloured cones).
  • On the servers call the goalkeeper moves with lateral using sidesteps into the first goal and gets in line with the server and gets into the ‘set’ position (sets) to make a simple save from a volley (or throw) from the server.
  • The goalkeeper return the ball and continues into the next coloured goal, repeats, and then into the final coloured goal and repeats.
  • Repeat drill starting from the other side.

Coaching Points

As outlined above, this type of Active movement by a goalkeeper is essential in a number of scenarios during a game. Therefore, it is essential that even this basic movement is undertaken with efficiency, awareness and balance.

  • Lateral movement must be level across the drill (i.e. not moving forward or backward), with the goalkeeper’s height also remaining constant when moving.
  • Always look at the ball in play and have your hands in the ‘ready’ position when moving.
  • Try to remain balanced and take smaller quick steps rather than larger steps (this allows the goalkeeper to remain balanced).
  • Slow down as the attacker pulls back the kicking foot.
  • Set in line with the server (remember ‘nose over toes’), make the save and be ready to move quickly to the next save.

Progression 1

The drill is repeated. However, this time the goalkeeper has to move more quickly across the drill. This is achieved by using crossover steps (sideways running) whilst facing the ball at all times

  • The server puts in a more challenging low shot into either side of the coloured mini goal, forcing the goalkeeper to dive.
  • Each time the servers must wait for the goalkeeper to set in line with the server before shooting.

Realistically, we are simulating a larger distance across the goalmouth (i.e. post to post) with this progression and so quicker balanced movement is required by the goalkeeper.

  • Crossover steps (bringing the back foot across the front foot each time) must be level across the drill (i.e. not moving forward or backward or arced), with the goalkeeper’s height also remaining constant when moving.
  • This level movement across the goal is key as it is not only the most direct route across the goal but it will also allow the goalkeeper to ‘attack’ the ball when making a diving save.
  • Always look at the ball in play and have your hands in the ‘ready’ position when moving.
  • Try to remain balanced and take smaller quick steps rather than larger steps (this allows the goalkeeper to remain balanced).
  • Slow down as the attacker pulls back the kicking foot.
  • The last step before getting in line with the server will need to be a lateral step so that the goalkeeper can get into a balances ‘set’ position
  • Set in line with the server (remember ‘nose over toes’), make the save and be ready to move quickly to the next save.

Progression 2


  • The goalkeeper makes a simple save from the server before moving over the cones using quick crossover steps.
  • The goalkeeper then quickly changes direction and moves to touch the red cone with their hand before continuing into the small goal again using crossover steps
  • The server shoots low before allowing the goalkeeper to ‘set’, aiming for the far post.
  • The goalkeeper must adjust their steps so they are able to make a diving save (pushing off their front foot into the dive).
  • Remember to perform the drill on both sides.

Coaching Points

  • Quick balanced crossover footwork across the cones with a quick change of direction to the red cone.
  • Take shorter faster steps towards the red cone as well so as to remain balanced and ready to change direction again at the cone.
  • After touching the cone, focus on the ball and take initial crossover steps to cover the distance quickly again levelling off across the goal with your height remaining constant.
  • Adjust you steps just prior to the shot so you are able to push and drive off your front foot and attack the ball in your dive.

Progression 3

This final progression simulates a cut-back cross scenario where the ball has been cut back to an attacker on the penalty spot.  Therefore quick levelled off crossover movement across the goalmouth is essential.

  • The goalkeeper starts the drill close to the near post in preparation for what would be a cut-back cross.
  • The goalkeeper then commences the drill by calling ‘Away’ (as they are not able to collect this pretend cut-back cross).
  • They then make quick levelled off crossover movement across the goalmouth to get in line with the attacker.
  • The attacker aims their shot for the far post as soon as the goalkeeper is in line with them (not allowing the goalkeeper to set).

By Scott Housden
Scott is both a UEFA ‘B’ and UEFA ‘B’ Goalkeeping Coach and holds a Masters in Sports Management.  He has been a goalkeeper coach in professional football in the UK and Australia at First Team, Academy and Women’s levels.  He currently runs a Goalkeeper Academy in the Western Suburbs of Brisbane, Australia.

How to Speed Up Training

Welcome to the Goalkeeping Newsletter. Todays’ topic shows a simple way to speed up training.

This is going to seem incredibly simplistic but it’s something a lot of keeper coaches miss. If you want the keeper to work faster in training, add a second server and a second ball. The reason this works is the keeper is no longer in charge of how quickly a ball can be played in.

As an example, in the diagram below, the server volleys a ball to the keeper who must catch the ball and then quickly return the ball for the next serve.

gk248aContinue reading

Sprint Nightmares

Problems with Sprint cell coverage and customer service.

This is my story of the non stop problems we have had with Sprint service with our cell phones since we bought them in June 2013.  After just a few minutes of research, it became evident that not only are we not the only ones with suffering with Sprint, it’s a problem on a massive scale.  All you have to do is Google “Sprint customer service problems” and you will get page upon page of irate customers who are unhappy with the service that Sprint provides…or doesn’t provide.

Here’s a link to a story detailing how Sprint disconnected over 1,000 customers….because they contacted Customer Service too much.  Here’s a post from a customer who had similar problems to us with lack of signal and an Airave.

Here’s another link and another link to the Better Business Bureau showing Sprint has had over 32,000 complaints in the last three years.  By any stretch of the imagination, that is an incredible number.

Here are links if you want to file complaints about Sprint at the Better Business Bureau and FCCC

Anyway, back to my story.  When we bought our Sprint phones and service in June 2013, the salesman showed me a map of coverage showing our neighborhood having the strongest signal possible.  However, when we got the phones home, we couldn’t make a call.  Actually, we could sometimes start a call or take one but we couldn’t make out the voice on the other end and they usually disconnected within 30 secs.  The problem we found out was because our house is at the bottom of a hill…right in a valley.  I could walk three houses up the hill and the signal was at full strength.

After complaining to Sprint, they gave us an Airave free of charge.  An Airave is a box that is hooked up to your WIFI that strengthens the Sprint signal.  Initially this appeared to be a good solution.  However, within a few weeks, it became apparent that we were still having issues.  For example, the Airave had limited strength…we realized it was difficult to make calls upstairs, in the back bedroom, garage or on the deck.  In other words, in order to make a successful call and it not lose the signal, you had to stay in one place in the house.

Things got worse.  A few months later, we realized that we had issues with text messages and voicemails.  Basically we weren’t receiving all text messages and voicemails and some text messages we sent weren’t being received.

I work from home, so I can often go a few days without leaving the house.  Then I would leave the house and as I’m driving out of the neighborhood, all of a sudden I would have one or more voicemail messages appear on my phone. These voicemails were left in the past few days but were only pushed through once I left the house and into a stronger Sprint signal.

Sometimes we would leave voicemails for people or each other (my wife and I) and the recipient would not get them.  Same with text messages.  And if that wasn’t bad enough, another problem was that this was always random.  Sometimes we would get voicemails and text messages and for weeks or more it would seem to be working fine.  Then we would figure out it wasn’t working when someone asked if we received their text or voicemail or we got them pushed out as we drove out of the neighborhood.

We complained to Sprint.  My guess is we went into the Sprint store 4-6 times over the 18 months.  Each time we got a similar story…”they were doing upgrades or maintenance on the nearest tower or they needed to update the software on the Airave.  The difficult thing is that because the problems were random (sometimes things worked fine sometimes they didn’t with no rhyme or reason) it was impossible to tell if things were fixed or not.  So we would go home and see what happened only to find out a month or so later that we still had the same problem.

Here’s a short video of an example of our phones not working.  This was taken in the kitchen of our house after Sprint attempted to update our Airave.

The straw that broke the camels back came in mid December 2013.  We went to the Sprint store as usual complaining, they gave us a number to call and said they would give us a new updated Airave.  So the next day I spent about two hours in the morning on the phone with Sprint Customer Service…most of it on hold.  Anyway, they said we didn’t need a new Airave we just needed the firmware updated which they could do while were on hold.  This didn’t work.  In fact, it “bricked” our phones and made them unusable.

So off to the Sprint store I went.  They said to leave the phones so they could fix them.  A few hours later they called a friends phone (we gave them the number) and told us that they could only get one of our phones to make calls (no data) and the other phone they couldn’t get working at all and could we call them to discuss “options”?  So off to the Sprint store I went.  To cut a long story short, they offered to give us two different phones that weren’t as good as our phones.  I obviously wasn’t happy with this and further, had got to the point where I realized that after 18 months of continuous problems and no sign that these problems were going to be fixed or even if they could be fixed.

So after 18 months of being an extremely patient and loyal Sprint customer, and after giving them 18 months to try and solve the problems with no end in sight, I had had enough and decided that I wanted out of the contract.  After all, Sprint had had 18 months of not living up to the contract by not providing me with a reasonable signal to make phone calls, etc.  I told the assistant manager at the store of my decision and she kind of agreed with me and said that she couldn’t do anything and that I would have to contact Customer Service.  There was no way I was going home to make that call (might get cut off) so I insisted I make it at the store and that the assistant manager could tell Customer Service of the problems we have.

To cut a long story short, I was on the phone well over an hour (on hold for most of it).  When I told my story and that I wanted out of my contract, I was told it wasn’t possible.  So I asked for a manager.  I had to go through the same process once I got the manager.  He then told me he couldn’t make that decision so asked for his manager.  I again had to go through the same process of detailing our problems with a manager named Justin at 423 279 6407.  The bottom line was that he wouldn’t agree to ending the contract.  As an insult, he said we should try and sell our phones back to the Sprint store and that would cover some of the early termination fees if we decided to end our contract.

I even told him that I was so frustrated that I was going to put my story down in writing and send it to the 40,000+ soccer coaches that subscribe to our weekly email newsletters.  He didn’t seem perturbed by this at all and told me to go ahead…hence this blog post.

I was obviously angry and frustrated.  On a positive note, when they gave us our phones back, they somehow were working again so we didn’t have to have new and lesser phones.

In frustration, I went home and sent in complaints to the Better Business Bureau and the FCCC.  These are quick and easy to do.  You can do them here at these links.  Better Business Bureau and FCCC

There’s more to this story.  When I get the statement for December I see that we have two charges for $81.37.  These I find out are the fees they charged us for trying to fix our two phones after they were “bricked”.  How much of a joke is this?  Their customer service/technician, bricked our phones while trying to update our Airave.  So they are responsible for ruining our phones and then they charge us for trying to fix them…laughable but typical of my experience with Sprint.

Interestingly, I got a call a week or so after posting my BBB complaint from someone called Mike (employee number MAL8243).  I thought he might be more amenable to my story but no chance.  When he offered to try and help and see if he could troubleshoot the Airave, I told him that I didn’t think it would help.  It hadn’t helped in the past and the last time they tried it, it “bricked” our phones and I didn’t want that to happen again.  I told him we wanted out of our contract.  He said, he couldn’t do that as he was just a technician and that he would refer the matter back to the manager who would give me a call to resolve this matter.  Over a week has passed and I have received no phone call…actually that’s not necessarily true.  He could have called and left a voicemail.  I just might not have received it.

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