Category Archives for Goalkeeping

Game Ready GK Warm Up

By Mike Smith

One of the tell-tale signs of good team is how they warm up their goalies prior to a game. Good teams ( coaches ) understand practice activity and pre game activities are, or at least should be, similar but different animals. Especially in youth sports, practices are a mix of individual skill training, tactical awareness training , teamwork/ gamesmanship and match specific training. During pre-game however, the plan should already be in place, the skill work should be done and the focus is more about being warm and loose and prepared to use the skills needed to win the game.

This is especially true with the keeper. So while I see tons of pre-game “ ground” exercises used as warm ups – (which are fine as the INITIAL warm up)- and tons of pre-game 1 v 1 shooting – what about the rest of it? How many keeper warm ups also include – pks, corner kicks, free kicks ( including working with a wall ), punching vs parrying vs catching, handling services and distributions? Here is a good pre-game warm up which will not only “ train” your keeper, but also get them ready for the match at hand.

Set Up

As shown above, this progression helps the keeper deal with many of the common shots they will face during a match. Starting at the top right, have a player – usually one of your “assisters” slide the ball across the goal to the opposite side. The keeper should try to smother this. Working down clockwise, have an intermediate player chip a ball in so the keeper can catch/punch/parry the ball. The shot from the corner of the 18 should be a rocket driven hard to the far post. Next, a penalty is taken and then the progression is continued around the other side continuously progressing from right to left and left to right. In just 15 minutes or so, after the keepers initial stretch and warm up, the keeper can face 5- 10 shots, services and penalties from several common game related angles.


As shown above work with a corner kick to start the next progression, with a defender on each post and two crashing attackers once the keeper has handled a couple free services.

As shown above have the two defenders and corner attacker step out to make a 3 man wall, which the attacker just outside the corner of the 18 attempts to hit a free kick over ( the finishing attacker shown is optional). For the free kick taken from the center, the 3 man wall moves to the middle and is joined by the attacker who just hit the service to make a 4 man wall.

The progression is then continued around to the other side. Again, 5-10 minutes of this and the keeper will have faced more free kicks and corners than they may in the game. Finally, as shown below, have the keeper make a progression starting with a goal kick. The kick is initially taken out wide to a waiting defender, who the plays it right back for the keeper to scoop up and distribute ( throw or roll ) to another defender waiting on the opposite side. This defender plays the ball back for the keeper to reset for a goal kick, and the progression is made back around to the other side. This is done for 5 to 10 minutes as well.

Coaching Points
Including an initial warm up and stretch, this whole progression will take between 35 and 45 minutes. I usually have my teams arrive at a game 1 hour before match time which leaves an additional 10 – 15 minutes for traditional shooting drills as a final part of the warm up. Feel free to modify this as needed, using as few or as many players ( this is a great position specific warm up for all players) as desired. The main idea is to progress around to include shots from game like situations and this is a simple thing which will go a long way to not only train your keepers, but also make sure they are well ready for the match. For those who also prefer possession work pre-game, different groups can be used with each progression to make sure all the field players have helped warm up the keeper, worked on some match specific scenarios and gotten in plenty of passing and possession.

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.

Practice Communication

By Mike Smith

I say it all the time, hear it said all the time and even study it quite a bit- yet few of us actually practice it – communication. While good communication is a foundation of success on the field at every level and position, for me it all starts with the keeper. For whatever reason, a vocal forward , midfielder or defender doesn’t always equate to a vocal team but almost always, a vocal keeper creates a domino effect and will improve the communication of all the players on your squad. Perhaps it is because the keeper can easily see and communicate with every one? Regardless of the “whys” practicing communication with your keeper will pay dividends both for them and your entire group.

Set Up

Play starts with the keeper making a distribution out to 4 attackers ( shown above ) spread across the half line ( a cone line can be placed across the top of the defensive third as a starting mark for younger groups ). The keeper always makes the distribution wide to start. Two defenders step to provide pressure and cover, as shown below.

It is now the keeper’s responsibility to tell the two remaining defenders ( waiting on the post ) where to go. Does one double the ball and the other provide balance in the center? Does one provide balance in the center and the other one pick up the wide attacker? This is all up to the coach and keeper but regardless of the plan or style of play, the keeper must instruct the defenders. The coach can set a time for the attacking groups of 4 to possess or create a shot ( 10 seconds per group for example) and groups of defenders and attackers may rotate in and out. Any defensive win or clear restarts play with a new group.

As shown below, the drill can progress to 6 v 7 by allowing 2 attackers to start as forwards with their backs to goal marked by a line of 4 defenders. An additional defender is placed on the half line with the two final defenders waiting on the posts for the distribution to be made. The idea here is for the keeper to instruct the defender on the half line to either drop in, cover wide, or pressure the ball. Once the wide attacker has the ball, the defenders on the posts may enter play with or without specific instructions from the goalie.

Additional defenders and attackers can be added to make this a half field scrimmage as a final progression, scoring rules for the defense ( possession, clearance out, advancing over the half line ) are up to the coach.

Coaching Points
The coach should work with the keeper on being vocal with the defenders and the pressuring midfielder. As the drill progresses, all the defensive players should be in constant communication based on the keepers initial instructions.

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 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.

Tournament Goal Keeping

This is one of the articles and training sessions on goalkeeping and other topics that will be published this month in the Training Center. Click Here to learn how you can receive access to all of them.

By Josh Jones-Keen –

With summer here small sided tournaments are also here and with them they bring their own challenge for outfield players but also for those in goal.

The smaller and sometimes wider goals mean Keepers have to adjust their positioning more than if they were in a full size goal as shots are often hit at tight angles or cut back for a striker whose facing goal. Often the area is much smaller and Keepers might not be able to leave it, which brings its own problems! Distribution is also another challenge. Here is some prep that coaches and Keepers can work on for small tournaments.

Firstly read the rules! I was at a tournament the other day and there were a number of penalties for encroachment from a defender or for the Keeper leaving the box!

Shot Stopping

Most tournament goals are short and wide (not as wide as a full size but in comparison to the height they’re wide this means shots should be low and hard. Any shots higher should be a comfortable save for the Keeper getting across their goal with good footwork, quick short sidesteps. For diving saves:

Coaching Points

  • Again good footwork is needed to get in to position
  • Dive forwards to the ball, diving square or backwards could allow the ball to go for a corner or worse a goal if a mistake happens
  • Body shape through the air and when landed should look like it would if catching a ball in to the chest area when standing

As well as dealing with shots a good way to practice footwork is with cone and ladder work. Once footwork is good you can add the shot stopping element to it.


Like a regular game the Keeper should get down the line of the ball when the striker is preparing to shoot. The difficulty comes when with knowing how far to come off their line. This now depends on the size of the area.


It’s important that the outfield work for the Keeper here. It’s tough if you’re looking at a field with no space and no movement. As a rule at least one defender should be free.  Often there is a no kicking rule and sometimes a no over head throwing rule so we will look at rolling first.

Coaching Points

  • Hold ball between palm and forearm with bent wrist
  • Step forwards with the opposite foot, get low and bowl the ball along the floor
  • Finger tips brush against the floor to ensure the ball doesn’t bobble/bounce

This can be practised one on one or if you have a group of Keepers I like to use it as a warm up in a 20 x 20 square. Coach shouts a type of distribution and the players perform the technique and move around the box.  It’s also a great place to practice footwork.


By Josh Jones-Keen – Josh has been coaching Goalkeepers for over a decade & has both Outfield and Goalkeeper coaching awards from England and Scotland. He’s coached at a number of levels from grassroots to semipro and currently coaches non league Women’s team as well as a local academy.

Playing Out of the Back

By Josh Jones-Keen –

Once a Keeper has the fundamentals of distribution it’s time to move on to how you would like them to play as part of the team’s tactics. This phase of play session looks at the Keeper starting play from the back.


Deciding how to play has a lot to do with the starting positions of the outfield players. If the players are not playing how the Keeper needs they must tell them. If starting position is as above the movement needs to be good, the defensive midfielder can drop but not too quickly. One centre midfielder can push to support the attackers.

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Coaching Points

  • The Keeper must decide to either play to feet or in space
    • Does the player have enough space around them to play in to space
    • If so is the ball in front of them to run on to & can they control on their back foot?
  • Ability to find players with the correct technique
    • Rolling, clean along the ground
    • Over arm, bouncing in the right place and height
  • Picking the right person depending on the shape, is the defensive midfielder a good place to pass to if there is limited or no support?


Numbers can be added to fill the space more; this will work on the Keepers accuracy and decision making.
This then will progress in to a full size pitch. In an ideal world the team you are trying to coach will have 1 more player then the defending team. This allows for higher success. On the full pitch set up as near to an 11 vs 11 tactics as possible. The aim is for the team to replicate the movement and build up as they did on the smaller pitch.

By Josh Jones-Keen – Josh has been coaching Goalkeepers for over a decade & has both Outfield and Goalkeeper coaching awards from England and Scotland. He’s coached at a number of levels from grassroots to semipro and currently coaches non league Women’s team as well as a local academy.