Soccer goalies are a team’s last defense, and the final score may rest in their hands.
Every soccer player has a significant role in the field. But teams rely on their goalkeepers to be on their game at all times. And although some goalkeepers make the job look effortless, it involves a wide range of athletic abilities.
Here are a few specialties of a great soccer goalie and some soccer goalie tips to jump-start your job this season:
The pros and cons of being a goalie
If you’re a soccer goalie, then you acknowledge it has its advantages and disadvantages.
For one, you’re the only player who gets to manage the ball with your hands and arms. You’re given a little more time to arrange for play and change places with your teammates.
You also have an exact vantage point. You can scan the field and show tactics to your teammates. Unlike other players, you can prevent high passes.
Of course, being the gallant penalty box warrior isn’t all guts and glory. You’re also under a lot more tension than your field mates. Plus, you hold a greater chance of injury from being lobbed by frenzied infielders and high-speed soccer balls.
You might wear extra protective gear. And though you’re free to go past the penalty box, you’re limited to it unless your teammates don’t mind giving the opponent more scoring chances.
Differences between goalies and field players
There are a few general things that separate goalies from the rest. They have to do with uniforms, how goalies control the ball, offenses, penalty kicks, substitutions, and time.
Jersey and goalkeeper equipment
The soccer goalkeeper wears a jersey of a different color to tell them separated from their teammates.
Like that of a goalie’s teammates, soccer goalie kit must include soccer cleats and shin guards. Extra guarding gear is optional.
Most goalkeepers use padded goalie gloves, and many dons padded athletic pants for extra protection.
The only player allowed to handle the ball with their hands and arms is the goalies. This will enable them to catch, punch, throw, and field high passes.
Yielded passes are not kicked directly to the goalie by a teammate, and the ball is not now received from a throw-in. But such handling is limited to the penalty area.
Outside the penalty area, goalies are under the same laws as their teammates.
The soccer goalkeeper has six seconds after picking up the ball to deliver it, during which time the opponent cannot challenge the goalie.
Grounds for control:
- When the ball is in his hands or when it is in-between his hands and the ground
- While holding the ball in an open hand
- While bouncing the ball on the ground or pitching it in the air
There are times when goalies cannot touch the ball with their hands while in the penalty area, or the opponent is awarded a free-kick.
- After the goalie has delivered the ball and it has not touched another player
- The goalie touches the ball with his hands after a teammate voluntarily kicks it to him
- The goalie touches the ball with his hands after a teammate delivers it in
Goalies must wait with both feet on the line between the goalposts for soccer penalty kicks.
Goalie substitutions must be granted by the referee and take place during natural stoppage time.
Goalies get more time to prepare before a game starts and when trading places with a teammate.
Goalies have a sole position and are under special goalkeeper rules while in the penalty area. Outside that, they’re under the corresponding rules as their teammates.
Understanding the rules and boundaries of the goalie not only helps them do their job better. It also keeps them from fouling and giving essential points to their opponent.
So be sure and know your rules, and remember that rules may vary.
Outside their penalty area, goalies follow the same soccer rules. But while they’re operating inside the box, they’re under a little different set of rules.
Not knowing them can cost points. Although different leagues may use a modified set of rules where a few of the better-known rules soccer goalies live by.
Soccer Goalie Drills
Being a great soccer goalie takes a lot of hard work and practical skills. But even the best began with the basics.
Working from the ground up, young soccer goalies can develop the confidence and ability to go after every ball.
The first thing that soccer goalies need to know is the athletic stance. This is a neutral standing position. The goalie will be in a while in the penalty box, waiting to start or field a play.
Here’s how to do it:
Stand on the balls of your feet, shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees and your body slightly forward.
Hold your head and hands up. Your hands should be slightly out in front of the chest, fingers open.
Think of the hands being handcuffed and working together as a unit. Move around the goal area in a sidestepping motion while in this position, keeping hands in front together while you sidestep.
- Maintain the position while sidestepping
- Keep your hands fairly close together, knees bent, head up
The most critical skill in soccer is getting a feel for the ball and how to handle the soccer ball coming at you. This first touch drill helps develop a sense for the ball while thinking one step ahead.
Need: Soccer ball, cones.
Here’s how to do it:
Arrange the cones in a straight line, spaced relatively close together.
Touching the ball using the sides of your feet, weave it in and out of the cones towards the end. You can do several variations on this drill, such as using one foot’s insides or outsides or switching feet while weaving in and out.
You can even do this going backward when you’re more advanced. This is a great drill that can be done alone, in groups, or turned into a fun game for kids.
- Start slowly to get a feel for the mechanics and timing
- Vary the drill to practice different kinds of touch combinations
Juggling the ball works on control, coordination, and timing. Juggling is a great way to practice working at the bottom of the ball with both feet. It’s also a great warmup!
Need: Soccer ball, and preferably a flat surface for starters, to get some bounce on the ball.
Here’s how to do it:
Let the ball bounce once on the ground. Kick it up with the top of your foot and catch it in your hands. Do that several times with the same foot, then switch to the other foot.
You can progress to kicking it twice with the same foot before catching. Repeat several times, then kick it three times before catching. After a while, kick the ball back and forth between feet.
When you’re ready, try juggling with other parts of your body.
- Keep your feet loose, and hit the ball with your shoelaces
- Keep knees bent, elbows out, and relax
- Stay light on your toes
- Juggling is about control, not about how many kicks and fancy moves you can do
- Kick from a low point in the drop
- Don’t curl your foot back. Keep it extended
- Power the kick from the knee down, don’t raise your whole leg
One of the first and most fundamental skills a soccer goalie should learn is how to punt a ball. Punts are made after the goalie has made a save, and needs to kick the ball back up the field with power, accuracy, and distance.
Need: Soccer ball, a target.
Here’s how to do it:
With the ball in hand opposite the kicking foot, extend the arm out and let it roll off the fingertips.
While the ball is falling, strike through the ball at the laces, keep your ankle locked, and pointed downward. Repeat 30 times.
- Step through the ball to generate power
- Keep ankle locked and toes pointed downward
Sometimes you’ll need to stall a ball that was passed on to you. And then shield it from a defender, while you’re giving your midfielders time to move into the field and help you.
This drill teaches you how to do that.
Need: Soccer ball, cones, later a partner. Do this drill alone at first, to get a feel for the move. Set four cones to form a large square, cones about 15 feet apart. Later, use just a ball and a partner to practice more real-life shielding.
Here’s how to do it:
Starting slowly and picking up the pace as you go, roll the ball from cone to cone to complete the square, varying how you move it each time.
Keep moving around the square, working up to going as fast as you can. You can also vary this drill by making the court larger or switch it up.
If you’re practicing with a partner, take turns shielding the ball against your partner, who poses as the defender.
Lean into your defender, who applies pressure as you shield the ball. Do this for several seconds, then switch with your partner.
- Put your body within the ball and the defender
- Turn your body sideways toward the ball to maintain better balance
- Don’t stand upright; bend your knees and lean into the defender
- Be aggressive and mentally strong
- Believe 100 percent that you own the ball
- Use your toes and the sides of your foot farthest away from the defender
- Use your arms to ‘feel’ your defender
- Spin away from the defender when possible
This drill reinforces ball control by rolling the ball’s top and sides in a triangle between the feet.
Need: Soccer ball.
Here’s how to do it:
Start with feet shoulder-width apart. Lightly push the ball with the inside of one of your feet.
Catch it with the bottom of your other foot and pull it back. Then play it across your body with the same foot back to the starting point, forming a triangle in a push, pull, push, pull, pattern.
Do ten reps, and reverse the pattern, starting with the opposite foot.
- Stay light on your feet
- Practice in both directions
Maintain good positioning
To start, assume a comfortable neutral “athletic stance.” For a soccer goalie, that would mean feet apart, knees and elbows flexed, elbows slightly out, and hands in front in a ‘ready’ form.
Your “home” is out in front of the goal line toward the center of your area between the goalposts.
A standard error among soccer goalies is they tend to stay at the line. And then they have to rush back and forth to tackle shots, opening the opponent up for scoring goals.
Get as close to the ball as you can
Visualize a half circle out in front of the goal line. You’ll generally be in the middle. Imagine a neutral stance as close to the ball as you can, to handle balls coming at you.
Close the angle
Pack in your goal area as much as possible, giving your opponent fewer scoring chances.
Stay behind the ball
If the ball is shot to the right, left, or low, don’t reach for it. Move to get behind the ball, so your chest can guard the ball.
Guarding the goal area requires a lot of body movement and keeping a keen eye on the ball.
One way to train your hand-eye coordination is to exercise using a smaller ball. This causes you to focus on your catching, making it easier to catch the soccer ball.
Many great ball drills can be performed alone or with a partner to enhance hand-eye coordination, concentration, and focus.
Keeping your eye on the ball
Being a goalie requires a lot of multitasking. Great goalies execute a lot of moves and last-minute decisions while being conscious of other players. Plus, they keep their eyes attached to the ball.
The better the vertical jump, the better your chances of obstructing high shots.
Jumps can be made with one or both legs. Hence, you’ll need the right jumping muscles. When training, goalies should be looking for ways to increase their vertical jump.
Footwork is essential to a goalie’s victory. Soccer goalies need to be capable of moving side to side, jump and roll out very fast to meet the ball. There are two main types of footwork – the shuffle and crossover.
This is where a goalie immediately shuffles side-to-side, moving feet together than apart, without crossing them.
Goalies frequently have to take several steps to get to the ball or return to a standing position—the goalie sprints by crossing one foot in front of the other.
Using your hands and feet
Goalkeepers have to make split-second decisions about how best to keep hits from invading the goal. Do whatever it takes, as long as you’re not fouling.
But since you generally have better control with your hands, the simple rule is to use your hands when you can. Only use your legs or feet if you’re not in a position to use your hands.
Kicking and punting
An excellent powerful kick or punt moves the ball far away from the goal and your opponents. This can stop them from scoring a goal.
Catching and handling the ball
Good goalies have a grip on when and when not to catch the ball. Sometimes, it’s best not to catch the ball but to get it into your chest, or punch it.
If the ball is chest high or above, put hands together, palms facing out, with thumbs together to form a W. If below the chest, put pinkies together to form an M.
Sometimes it’s impossible to get behind the ball or do anything except hit it. Punches can be done with both fists together, or with a single fist. Since punches are not as easy to control, they should only be used when it’s necessary.
Jumping and diving
For high shots, lift one knee and push off with the other leg. For low shots, get your hands in front of the ball and follow with your body.
Balls that are too high should be pushed over the net rather than punched.
Stay calm and cool-headed
As a goalie, you’ll make a lot of decisions very quickly under pressure. There will be a lot of aggressive action happening within feet of you.
The more level-headed you are, the better able you’ll be to make significant, rational decisions.
Being a great goalie takes a lot of physical and mental skills. But with patience, determination, and a lot of practice, even you can be one of the best!