Posts tagged ‘goalkeeper’

Goalie Wars

Goalkeepers have often been overlooked and under appreciated. In recent years, a competition that focuses on the special skills of goalkeepers has become increasingly popular. Goalie Wars tournaments started as a part of Goalkeeper camps but have started to be held as stand-alone events.

The rules are simple, two goalies are positioned 20-30 yards apart and they shoot, dropkick, throw or punt the ball to try to score on the other goalkeeper. They play two halves of three to five minutes.

Here’s a example Continue reading ‘Goalie Wars’ »

Training a Team with Two Goalkeepers

This is the first time I’ve coached a team with two players that think of themselves as full-time goalkeepers. We came to an understanding before the season began as to how playing time would be divided. We also decided which events they would have a chance to play on the field when they were not in goal. In other events they would play one half in goal and not play in the other half.

This has worked well in large part because everyone has known what to expect and there have been no surprises. I also think it has been very good for both goalkeepers because there is an element of competition that Continue reading ‘Training a Team with Two Goalkeepers’ »

Integrating the Goalkeeper into Team Training

I don’t think most coaches give a lot of thought to the needs of their goalkeepers when they sit down to plan their session. They’re usually just another player in the team for most of the session and then go in goal when it comes time to shoot or play a game. While it’s important for all goalkeepers, especially young goalkeepers, to work with the ball at their feet they also need to train with the team in functional exercises. This establishes a link between the goalkeeper rest of the team that will translate to game day.

A book that got me thinking about this subject is, “Team Training for the Goalkeeper” by John Murphy. In this book Murphy gives examples for training your goalkeepers with the team in all phases of training. Warm-up, Functional Training, Possession, Small-Sided Games, Phase of Play exercises and 11 v 11 setting are all discussed. He also includes full sessions that integrate the goalkeeper throughout the session.

Here are a few warm-up exercises Continue reading ‘Integrating the Goalkeeper into Team Training’ »

Footwork, Anticipation and Breakaways

Welcome to the Goalkeeping Newsletter.  Today’s featured activity works on footwork, anticipation and breakaways.

Start with a keeper and a server.  There are 4 cones making up a 4 yard square and the server is just outside of one part of the square and the keeper is just outside the opposite side.  There is a ball 4 yards outside of each side of the square.

In this example the black player is the server and the yellow player is the keeper.

The server moves side to side within the boundaries of the sides of the square and the Continue reading ‘Footwork, Anticipation and Breakaways’ »

Goalkeeper and Team Warm-Up

Integrating goalkeepers into team sessions is often a challenge for coaches who have experience playing or coaching the position. John Murphy deals with this subject in his excellent book, ” Team Training for the Goalkeeper“.

Below is an excerpt from this book. It is from the Goalkeeper and Team Warm-Up Chapter.

If the goal is to integrate the goalkeeper more effectively into your training sessions, a good place to start is in the warm-up.  The lack of connection between the goalkeeper and the team in training often begins in the warm-up.  It can stem from a lack of understanding of the position by the coach, compounding an existing cohesion issue.  This gap in training will eventually trickle into a weakened link within the team shape in match situations.

It is an issue that has began less than a generation ago with the advent of goalkeeper coaches.  Before that time, the goalkeepers would just train with the team or worse, on their own.  But despite all the positives a specialist coach can bring, the situation does have its downsides.  At its worst, specialized goalkeeper work taken to an extreme can present goalkeeping almost as its own SPORT rather than a position within the game of soccer.  But even in good training situations, the goalkeepers are often to one end of the pitch working for 30 minutes and then join the team.  While this time alone with the goalkeeper coach has its value, doesn’t it make sense to further develop the connection between the goalkeepers and the rest of the team by training together?

Regardless of your resources, there is a value of including the goalkeeper in the team warm-up on a regular basis:

  • integration into the team dynamic
  • to develop him further as a leader within the group
  • for the individual technical development
  • place the goalkeeper in technically/tactically challenging situations

Exercises such as fast footwork using hurdles and ladders as well as other technical work such as passing exercises are beneficial.  In addition, if you are creative, you can get repetitive shot handling established in the warm-up for both the goalkeepers and the team.  By doing so, you are moving the training session along more economically where you can get into a small-sided game or a functional attacking exercise quicker.  When you have two training sessions a week, this can be time well spent.

Finally, I have a personal preference of using lines and dimensions on the pitch whenever possible, particularly in the warm-up.  So with that in mind, I have provided three exercises using the center circle, two with the 18-yard box and one across the width of the pitch within warm-up routines.

Center Circle Exercise 1:
Organization: 2 goalkeepers in the center circle w/ a ball in their hands
Players move freely in the center circle
Goalkeeper passes to player and gets a return pass to his hands
GK’s and field players move while looking off their shoulders

GK Coaching Points:

  • Alertness / looking to link in w/ teammates
  • Quality of serves to teammates
  • Handling/body shape
  • Composure/speed of play
  • Emphasizes movement and understanding of space with all players


  • Crescent kicks w/ the inside of the foot
  • Instep volley
  • Chest and pass
  • Head
  • All exercises performed twice in succession


  • Field players share 4 balls to pass among themselves and clip into GK’s hands
  • All players have a ball and look to dribble and clip ball into GK’s hands coach can place movement requirements on the players (shuffles/skipping/high knees, etc…)

Center Circle 2:

Use corner flags or cones a 6 yard gate on halfway line
w/ a goalkeeper on each side
Players lined up opposite of each gk 15 yards away
Ball played into the goalkeeper / player moves to the cone to
his right, then joins in opposite line
Goalkeeper plays the ball back into next player

GK Coaching Points:

  • Starting position in the gate
  • Body shape
  • Correct handling surface and technique
  • Quality of pass to teammates


  • Place cone further or closer to circle to change movement requirement of players
  • Add hurdles or ladders on the side of the circle for players to move through
  • Three extra balls at the outside of the circle for players  to run to, dribble a ball out and back before joining next line
  • Work both right and left

This is just a small sample of the warm-up exercises that are included in this chapter. Other chapters include Functional Training, Possession, Small-Sided Games, Phase of Play and 11 v 11 Setting.


Incorporating the keeper into team training is vital to do but so often neglected. Those teams “fortunate” enough to have a designated keeper coach tend to have the keepers go with this coach for part, if not all, of the team training. The reason for doing this is because the skills, techniques and tactics in goalkeeping are so different than the rest of the team.

The problem with sending the keepers “off to train” is if they aren’t incorporated into the teams tactics, major problems will occur in games.

As an example, if a team is going to occasionally push up into an offside trap, if the keeper isn’t aware of his positioning, great goal scoring opportunities might be created AGAINST you.

In the diagram below the black team is establishing a line around 25 yards out from goal.

If the backs all decide to step up, in order to condense the field or to push the opponents into an offside position, the keeper must step with them.

As the backs are stepping up, the keeper takes on more of the role of the “sweeper/keeper”. One way to beat a team stepping up into an offside trap is for the player with the ball to “pass” the ball to himself by pushing it forward and running onto it himself. If the keeper doesn’t step with the back, this will be difficult for the defending team to deal with. Another way to beat this type of an offside trap is to make a through pass to a teammate making a run from the back. If the keeper has stepped up with the backs, it’s easy to defend. If the keeper has stayed back, it’s much more difficult.

If the team has worked on stepping up defensively while the keepers were off doing their own training, the entire team training gets defeated because of this lack of understanding.

There are many other examples where the keepers MUST be incorporated into as much of the team training as possible. This is the reason many teams will do their keeper training prior to the team training so the keeper can then participate in the entire team session. Another way to do this is to have the keepers their individual training while the team is doing their skill work in the beginning of training sessions.

To learn more about how the keeper should react to this type of offside trap, check out the book Offside!

Should the “Pass Back to the GK” Rule Be Changed?

I often think about rule (laws of the game) changes that could be made to improve the game of soccer.  For instance, during the World Cup, I posted about changing the red and yellow card system, by maybe having a sin bin or using video replay after the game to catch the cheaters who are diving.

Really, I can only think of one major rule change in my lifetime and that is the GK not being allowed to use his hands on a back pass.  This rule change was made about 20 years ago.  There have also been modifications to the Offside rule, but they have been modifications and not a drastic rule change.  I guess the six second rule for GK’s to get rid of the ball once in their hands is kind of a major rule change, except, I think for the most part this has been forgotten about.  I can’t remember a ref making a point of this in the last season or two.

Well I have thought for some time that they might take the “no hands” rule on a back pass to the GK a little further.  The rule was initially changed because it was too easy to kill the game or slow it down.  When a team was leading by a goal, it could easily kill the last 10 minutes or so by passing the ball back to the keeper.  The keeper would then roll it out to a defender and when the defender was pressed by an opponent, he would simply pass it back to the keeper who would pick it up.  If an opponent pressed the goalkeeper the goalkeeper would simply kick it up the field leaving the player out of the game and in an offside position, or if a defender was open, he could continue the same process and roll it out to him.  A team could also kill most of the game once they were ahead like this, especially if they were the weaker team and fortunate to be one goal ahead.

So, if the intention of the rule change was to stop the game being killed or played negatively, has it done so?  Well I guess it has, but only to some degree.  The game can still be played somewhat negatively with players passing the ball back from long distances.  This happens two different ways.  In one instance, players under pressure will pass the ball back to the GK from 40-50 yards or so.  In the other instance, teams can be attacking and have the ball in the attacking half (sometimes close to the 18 yard box) and then with a series of passes be forced to go backwards and eventually pass the ball back to the GK.

My thought is, if FIFA think this is slowing the game down too much, they could further the rule with an additional change, by incorporating the same “over and back” rule from basketball with a slight change to adapt for soccer.  This rule is pretty simple, once the ball goes in the attacking half of the basketball court, the team in possession cannot take the ball back to the defending half.  So, to adapt this rule for soccer, once the ball is in the attacking half, you can still bring it back into the defending half, but you can’t pass it back to the goalkeeper.

So let’s say a team starts with the ball in their own half, make a few passes and advance into the attacking half, then the opposition puts the pressure on and forces them to go backwards with a few passes and the team ends up in its own half again (happens a lot in the pro game), then they cannot pass back to the GK.  This would force teams to be more positive by taking out the safety valve of the back pass.

Another addition to this could be the rule used in Futsal.  If the GK distributes the ball to the defender, then that team cannot pass back to the goalkeeper at any time unless they lose possession and then regain it.

So with those two rules in place:

No passing back to the GK once your team has possession in the attacking half.
No passing back to the GK if he started with the ball unless your team loses possession.

Then there is no safety valve and it would force players to play the ball forward more thus producing a more attacking game.

On the other hand, I can foresee a negative in that if players don’t have the safety valve of a pass back to the GK when under pressure, then they would likely be tempted to play long balls rather than a more attractive possession style of play.

Just some random thoughts.

A Wall or No Wall?

This is something I have thought about for years.  I remember talking to a goalkeeper coach a few years ago and he thought I was out of my mind.  This only spurred me on even more to thinking I was on to something.  After all, sometimes it takes thinking out of the box and going against tradition before things get changed.

What happens when a team gets a free kick 25 yards from goal?  Simple, the defending team sets up a wall of 4-5 players.  This wall is designed to cover one side of the goal while the goalkeeper covers the other side.  Walls are often set up with kicks up to 35 or more yards out, although the number of players in the wall might be just 2-3 at this distance.

Up until 20-30 years ago, putting a wall up for a free kick that was 25-30 yards out made sense.  The ball was heavier than it was now and didn’t do crazy things like a knuckle ball or dipping at the last minute.  In those days, if a ball was hit hard enough and high enough to get over the wall, it would most likely end up above the crossbar.  The only way it could keep below the crossbar was if it wasn’t hit too hard.

Another thing that was different 20-30 years ago was the wall was often allowed to be set up 7-8 yards from the ball whereas now, the officials do a better job of setting up the wall closer to 10 yards.

So with the wall being closer at only 7-8 yards, the shooter had to strike the ball on a higher trajectory and then the heavier ball had little or no chance of dipping below the crossbar if struck hard enough.  If it was struck with less pace, then the goalkeeper would have a good chance of getting across the goal to make the save.

Think about it.  How many goals from free kicks in the 60’s, 70’s and even 80’s, did you see that were struck hard over the top of the wall and stayed low enough to go under the crossbar?  Not many, if any.  Most of the goals that were scored from free kicks in those days were swerving balls that curled around the wall.

So in a nutshell, in those days, the wall did it’s job.  It covered one side of the goal so the goalkeeper could cover the other side.

But things have changed since then, and yet defending these kicks have stayed the same.  What’s changed.  Mostly the ball.  The ball is now lighter and made with space-age material.  The ball now does all kinds of crazy things and moves in ridiculous ways.  Not only that, players are stronger and more athletic and hit the ball harder and hit it harder while still swerving it.

So why does this mean that these kicks need defending differently?

Quite simply, these days, players can hit a hard dipping shot over the wall that will drop below the crossbar and into the goal.  They can hit this shot while the goalkeeper who is covering the other half of the goal has no chance to get across to make the save.

So now, in most cases the wall isn’t suitable for defending these type of free kicks.  So what should the defending team do?  Well here is my crazy suggestion.  Or at least I was told it was crazy.

DON’T PUT UP A WALL.  Yes it’s that simple.  Now before you laugh it off, bear in mind what I have said earlier and then take this into account.

First, there will be an optimum distance where it is effective to put up a wall.  Maybe 25 yards or closer.  But anything further than 25 yards, I contend that a goalkeeper would, could or should save a direct shot.  Put it this way, in training line up your players from 25 yards out and have them take 25 shots.  The goalkeeper is on his line.  How many of these shots will score.  I would suggest that 25% or more might miss the goal and the goalkeeper should be able to save all if not most of the shots.  I also suggest that this % would be as good or a better % than if the players took 25 shots with a wall present.

As I said, I think a goalkeeper should be able to save most shots from 25 yards out and this gets more effective as the distance increases.  For example, in training, if your players took shots from 30 yards and 35 yards, would you expect your goalkeeper to save them?  I would think so.

Here are a couple of reasons not having a wall helps the goalkeeper.  First, he has a better view.  He can see the ball directly leaving the players foot.  So he has more time to react to the shot.  With a wall present, he doesn’t see the ball until it has traveled maybe 10 yards. And the other factor that is a help is that the shooter will often use the wall as a guide for his shot.  Don’t believe me, have your players try and curve a ball into the top corner of the goal in training.  Then have them do it with a wall present and watch the success rate increase with more shots getting closer to their target.

So there you are.  I have given you reasons why a wall was effective in decades past and why it is less effective now.  My suggestion is that a goalkeeper should be able to save shots easier with no wall.

Don’t dismiss it without giving it some thought.  Even better, I would love to hear from anyone who is willing to give this a test on the training field.  Let’s say a minimum of 50 shots with and without a wall from 25-30 yards.