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The information on this page compliments our Soccer Goalkeeping practice book.


High Balls - Catching Above Head

The basic position of the hands resembles the letter "W". If the hands are too small to keep thumbs together and secure the ball, then open up the thumbs to get fingers and palm to control it.

Medium High Balls - Catching Chest High

The basic position of the hands resembles an inverted "W", with the little fingers touching. The thumbs and palms put pressure on the ball while the fingers bend to form a "basket".

Medium High Balls - Catching Stomach High

The basic position of the hands resembles the chest high catch, however the hands are a bit more underneath the ball to cradle it into the stomach.

Low Balls - Catching Between Knees And Ground

Same hand position as for medium high balls. You need to drop both (or at least one) knees to the ground as you catch the ball to get body securely behind ball.

Diving - Catching While Moving Horizontally

The concept of the "W" still applies. You do want to make sure that the hand closest to ground provides a "backstop" for the ball while the other puts pressure from the top.


Shots from a distance

This is your basic ready position. It allows you to generate momentum for a "big" dive by lowering knees and then pushing off one foot for the dive.

Shots from close in

Here you are in a reaction or reflex situation. You do not have the time to drop down as much and generate momentum for a big dive. Your "ready position" is lower so you can push into dive instantly. That is why leg strength is important.


One Knee Down

We recommend a straight drop with the knees and heels as close together as possible. This ensures that there are no holes for the ball to slip through.

Two Knees Down

This is a more recent development, mostly seen for softer shots or shots from a distance. After the ball is secured, the goalkeeper often falls forward and buries it under the body.


Upper Body


Be sure to hold each position for 30 seconds. Also do regular soccer stretches. You may want to keep knees and elbows bent very slightly.


Be sure to feel the stretch. Do not push against the post, rather let the weight of the body provide all the force.


Keep your back straight and do not overstretch for the sake of getting the ball to your feet. Start shorter if needed and extend over time.


Basic Principles of Soccer Goalkeeping

Principle # 1: Reaction

Unlike all other positions on a soccer team, where anticipation and proaction are necessary, soccer goalkeepers must react. Goalkeepers must wait to know where the shot is going, then react appropriately as fast as possible. That is why improving reaction speed and reflex speed is so critical. After knowing where the ball is going, the soccer goalkeeper must anticipate where the ball will end up in order to time the dive and body positions accordingly.

Principle # 2: Cushioning

First, make sure you get your body behind the ball as fast as possible. Not any part of the body, but soft muscle tissue. This will prevent rebounds. For instance, getting your quads (upper thigh) behind the ball while picking up or saving a low shot is safer than getting your shin or knee behind it. That's why a quick drop is important. Second, while you need to attack the ball, at the time of contact you need to relax your hands and body just a bit, to the point of slightly retracting. A good practice exercise is to have a couple of soccer goalies play catch with raw eggs. Throw the egg a little short of the body forcing the goalie to step into the throw, i.e. attacking the egg. At the last second, the goalie will relax the body to avoid braking the egg. Same is true for shots. The coach may choose to bring hard boiled eggs and tell the goalies they are raw eggs, just to avoid a mess the first time around.

Principle # 3: Hands

If at all possible, get two hands on the ball. Don't cheat with one hand or making foot saves when you could dive.

Principle # 4: When in Doubt

Knock it out. If the keeper is at all unsure about being able to hold onto a ball when diving, reacting or jumping for a high ball, push it over the goal line or the cross bar. It is better to give up a corner kick than a goal.

Principle # 5: Simplicity

Don't try to look great by making spectacular dives when you don't have to. Keep it simple.

Setting Realistic Goals for Younger Goalkeepers

Do not expect young and shorter soccer goalkeepers to save every ball, regardless how high it comes in or how close to the post it gets. Just because they are wearing replica soccer jerseys doesn't mean they are going to be able to play like the pros. Make the goal smaller. Ask the goalie to stand by the post, jump up as high as possible and touch the post with the finger tips as high up as possible. Tell the goalie that is how high the goal is for the keeper and that you don't expect shots above that imaginary cross bar to be saved. Do expect the keeper to work on jumping so that you can raise that bar. In the same way, ask the goalie to dive from the center of the goal line towards each post and make the goal smaller as needed. Same expectation to improve as for high balls.