The Basics of Soccer Goalkeeping Technique
By Nicholas Chen
, last updated December 21, 2011
In the game of soccer, one of the most important positions is that of goalkeeper. The goalkeeper is the last line of defense to prevent the opposing team from scoring. This article will outline the basics of funadamental soccer goalkeeping technique.
Goalkeeping techniques are hard to teach and difficult to master without demonstration. Just like a picture is better than a thousand words, a visual demonstration and practical exercise is better than memorizing techniques off the paper. However, there are some useful tips that an amateur or a beginner can acquire by thoroughly going over the various ball catching mechanisms and scenarios a goalkeeper faces. In order to progress towards advanced techniques, sound fundamentals are a prerequisite. As far as basics are concerned, there is a simple three-part approach a beginner should use. It includes identifying the ball from a distance, predicting its direction and firmly catching it by harmonizing footwork in a way that either the ball is caught or deflected away from the goalpost.
Goalkeeping requires quick positioning of the player so that more than half of the goal post is covered at all times. Thus, a goalkeeper is expected to have good reflexes and quick decision-making abilities. Catching is the main objective however different shots require different approaches. For instance, diving to deflect or catch the ball is also sometimes necessary if running or efficient footwork is not sufficient.
Stopping Penalty Kicks
Saving penalty kicks is another tricky situation the keeper encounters during the game. This is where player psychology comes in. Analyzing the body language of the shooter and reading his facial expressions puts the goalie in a better position to judge where the opposing player will aim the ball and that allows him to position accordingly. Playing with a stranger is always difficult due to the level of uncertainty, however playing with familiar players allows one the level of preparedness to predict their move and respond a split second before the action.
Passing the Ball Back
It is also important to remember that saving the ball from hitting the goal is not sufficient; the outcome of a soccer game also depends on how the goalkeeper passes the ball back to his teammates. Soccer is a team game, but the role of the goalkeeper is a one-man show, which is very critical for the entire team. The anticipation of a goal puts the goalie in a stressful situation and the marker of a good keeper is not breaking under pressure. The goalie should employ tactics that placate and pacify his stress and anxiety level so that his mental energy is only focused on the ball and the mechanics of catching.
Now let’s embark on some footwork guidelines which are the foundation for goalkeeping. For starters, a keeper’s feet should be in continuous brisk motion. He should put all his weight on his toes instead of his heels. It allows him to position quickly and also gives him the required thrust while diving. Another important thing to remember is that the keeper’s upper body should always be perpendicular to the ball. Trying to catch the ball sideways makes it slip through the hands due to the velocity of the shot. The keeper should always move forward to catch the ball so that, even if he misses, he is able to at least deflect it. The best recommended strategy by experts is to assume ready-position at all times.
Goalkeeping should be done as efficiently and intelligently as possible. Good positioning will save half the energy wasted in diving and running aimlessly after the ball. The first thing to notice about accurate positioning is where both the goal posts are. During the game, the keeper might lose focus, hence checking from time to time gives an accurate idea about the keeper’s exact position. The goalie must position himself away from the goal line in order to cover the angle the moving ball makes with both the goal posts; however he should not be so far away that he is unable to save an overhead throw.
As far as catching is concerned different players have different styles. However, the suggested technique with which the keeper should catch balls above the waist is the “Contour Catch” also known as the “W Catch,” in which the keeper places his hands behind the ball with both the thumbs close and pointing to each other. This particular method is inverted for low height shots, where the keeper has to bend to catch the ball. In this case, the little fingers of both the hands should form a conjunction. In case of a rolling ball, the keeper has two options: a straight-leg pickup or a bent-knee pickup. A bent-knee pickup is usually easier for the keeper if he is moving forward while catching. Both the approaches require the keeper to close his legs to prevent the ball from sliding through. In case the speed of the shot is fast, kneeling down on one knee is a better option. After securing the catch, it is important that the ball is well protected before it is passed on. The best way to protect a ball is by holding it against the chest.
For young keepers diving is what goalkeeping is all about. It gives them the adrenaline rush expected from this sport. A diving save is a courageous one, but keepers should keep in mind that safety is an equally important part of the game. Diving should always be used as the last option after footwork and good positioning. Amateurs should not be exposed to diving before other techniques, as chances of injury are higher. Precision in positioning, accurate timings and smooth catching skills is what constitutes the basics of soccer goalkeeping.