Category Archives: Basics

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Body shape is important to make basic saves

At the start of every new Goalkeeper HQ course, we start, or at least touch on the importance of good handling and good footwork. The footwork is to ensure a second barrier of protection. The good footwork we encourage is also to to ensure the goalkeeper has good shape. 

In this footage of the England Women’s goalkeepers training session, the coach also constantly talks about “Shape”

What is good shape?

Good shape is when the following happen;

  • You are catching the ball with your body behind the ball.
  • There is a good second barrier.
  • Shoulders are facing forward.

If the save is slightly off center, the goalkeeper goes to ground in a controlled manner or moves their feet to ensure a balanced upright position after the save.

Notice how the ladies are always going with two hands.

How to get good shape?

Here are some ways to ensure you can save incoming shots with good shape.

  • Eyes on the ball, watching it in the whole way
  • Ensure your handling decisions are correct
  • Be light on your feet and ready to make adjustments with movement of the ball
  • Recognize that the save isn’t over once the ball reaches your hands. Movement of feet or a controlled fall may be needed to keep shoulders facing forward.

The following drill is great for ensuring good body shape.

Server on one side of the poles / cones

  1. Side movement to set.
  2. Shuffle around cone / poles to save.
  3. Focus on body shape once caught the ball.


See an earlier article on being set 

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Watching an international warm up

See the footage from behind the goal when I recently watched England Ladies play Columbia in the Women’s World Cup.


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Protected: Basic Handling, footwork & shot stopping

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Bear and the bull

The bear and the bull! Goalkeeping hand shapes

The bear & the bull – Goalkeeping Hand shapes.

W’s & Cups, Contour & Basket. Both the English and US descriptions for different hand shapes that the goalkeeper should use to save ballsImage aimed at head or below. I was looking for a more visual description to explain the different methods to my younger students and was inspired by the stock market!

“How does a bear kill you?” – I asked my students. They all put their arms up and clawed down. – With palms facing forward, this is the method used to collect balls aimed at chest and head.

“How does a bull kill you?” – Using hands and arms as horns, the GK’s showed me the motion used to collect a ball when shot a little bit lower.

This is great for me to quickly describe to a goalkeeper that their hand shapes are wrong and the two most common times are.
1 – when the ball comes along the floor. I often see GK’s fall to their knees and try to do a “bear” save

2 – when the ball is to the side, goalkeepers try to do a “bull” save, but this leads to errors as the bull save brings the ball up while the goalkeeper’s dive takes their body down.

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Footwork & coordination

Goalkeeper footwork & coordination

Good footwork is very important for Goalkeepers. The easiest save to make is when the ball is directly in front of you and your body creates a “Second Barrier“. The ability to move your feet so that every shot can be saved without diving will help make your job in goal look easy. This has many psychological advantages.

For effective footwork, you, the goalkeeper, should be off of your heels, and keep bodyweight centrally balanced and forward. Good body shape.

These goalkeepers are working hard to ensure a 2nd barrier with good footwork & coordination.

Coordination is vital, as our position as the last line of defense leaves no room for error.

One of the most common blunders occurs when goalkeepers take their eye off the ball before they have it under control. This is particularly difficult as balls often come at us at all sorts of different kinds of pace and angles.

The good news is that coordination can be practiced with fun games.

Basketball, jumping rope and throwing a tennis ball against a wall and catching are all ways to keep up coordination whilst not goalkeeping.

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The front smother save

This save has come into play in recent years due to the swerve and movement of the modern day soccer ball.

Key Points –
Quickly move feet into line
Set position when ball is struck
Head steady, looking at ball
Hand shape decision
Body weight forward for collapse.

Lean over ball and kick legs back so as not to have awkward landing.


UPDATE: ( 1/23/15)

Having really helped my students get this technique correct, I would like to add the following:

The front smother is best used when the whole body is not behind the ball.

  • Take a step to the side that the ball is coming ( left or right )
  • The step must be forward and feet pointing forward
  • With the step forward, you can bend at the knees to get low
  • Scoop up the ball with strong hands using the “bull” technique
  • After the bent leg you should not have far to collapse forward, using the ball and arms to soften the fall.
  • The finished save should have you with one straight leg and one bent leg on the floor.

See below:


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Footwork & coordination

Quick feet get Goalkeepers out of trouble

Although we use our hands, it is our feet that get us out of trouble. As goalkeepers we should have the quickest feet of all. One of my best goalkeepers was actually a dancer.

We are looking to lead with the nearest foot and not to cross legs when gliding or shuffling across.

Only when the ball gets played to the “3 Goal” area – or weak side, should the goalkeeper contemplate crossing legs in a running movement, as this is the fastest way to cover a longer distance.

Ensure you adjust your body as you are about to make the save otherwise a “swimming pool dive” will be inevitable. To create a good “Second Barrier” your shoulders should be facing the opponent.

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GK Second barrier

The second barrier

There is a tendency for many of the goalkeepers to save with no “Second Barrier” when the ball was slightly to the side. I’m not sure if it is the influence of Basketball where the turning of the shoulders is prevalent, but I had to reinforce the fact that shoulders should be facing the opponent and to glide or shuffle across the goal to ensure a second barrier.

The second Barrier is any part of the body that is behind the first barrier – The hands.

The image to the right shows a good example of a goalkeeper getting his body behind the ball, even if it requires a dive.

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The “Set” position for Shot Stopping

The “Set” or “Ready “ position enables all goalkeepers to have the chance to make the best save possible.

There are different “Set” positions based upon the save you are likely to make. These different “Set” stances are for the following:

  • Shot stopping ( Regular distance )
  • Shot stopping (Short distance)
  • Winning the through ball / Collecting a cross

For this article I am concentrating on the “Set “position for saving a shot. This is the position that should be taught to young goalkeepers not only because shot stopping is the aim of being a goalkeeper but from a safety aspect too.

  • Feet facing forward
  • Legs shoulder width apart
  • Knees slightly bent
  • Bodyweight forward
  • Hands relaxed and in front of body
  • Head screwed in tight, looking at the ball

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