How to be a Soccer Goalie

Soccer goalies are a team's last defense, and the final score can literally rest in their hands. Every soccer player has an important role on the field, but teams ultimately depend on their soccer goalies to be on their game at all times. And although some goalkeepers make the job look easy, it really involves a wide range of athletic skills. Here are a few features of a great soccer goalie, along with some soccer goalie tips to jump-start your job this season.

Soccer Goalie Rules

Outside their penalty area, goalies follow the same rules of soccer as their teammates. While playing inside the box they're under a little different set of rules. Not knowing them can cost them points. What follows are a few of the better-known rules soccer goalies live by, though different leagues may use modified versions. Be sure to check with your league.

The ups and downs of being a soccer goalkeeper

If you're a soccer goalie, then you know it has its advantages and disadvantages. For one, you're the only player who gets to handle the ball with your hands and arms. You're given a little more time to prepare for play, and trade places with your teammates. You also have a certain vantage point. You can scan the field, and communicate strategies to your teammates. Unlike other players, you can intercept high passes. Of course, being the courageous penalty box warrior isn't all guts and glory. You're also under a lot more pressure than your field mates, not to mention you stand a greater chance of injury from being lobbed by frenzied infielders and high speed soccer balls. You might wear a little extra protective gear. And though you're free to go beyond the penalty box, you're kind of restricted to it. Unless your teammates don't mind giving the opponent more scoring opportunities.

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Differences between goalies and field players

There are a few general things that distinguish goalies from the rest. They have to do with uniforms, how goalies handle 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 apart from their teammates. Soccer goalie equipment, like that of a goalie's teammates, must include soccer cleats and shin guards; extra protective gear is optional. Most goalkeepers wear padded goalie gloves, and many don padded athletic pants for extra protection.

Ball handling. The only player allowed to handle the ball with their hands and arms is the goalie, which allows them to catch, punch, throw, and field high passes, provided passes are not kicked directly to the goalie by a teammate, and the ball is not directly received from a throw-in. But such handling is restricted to the penalty area. Outside the penalty area, goalies are under the same rules as their teammates.

The soccer goalkeeper has six seconds after picking up the ball to release it, during which time the opponent cannot challenge the goalie.

Grounds for control are:

  • When the ball is between his hands, or between his hand and other surface, such as the ground or body
  • While holding the ball in an open hand
  • While bouncing the ball on the ground or tossing it in the air

Offenses. 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.

Those times are:

  • After the goalie has released the ball and it has not touched another player
  • The goalie touches the ball with his hands after a teammate deliberately kicks it to him
  • The goalie touches the ball with his hands after a teammate throws it in

Penalty kicks. Soccer goalkeepers must wait with both feet on the line between the goal posts for soccer penalty kicks.

Substitutions. Goalkeeper substitutions must be okay'ed by the referee, and take place during a natural stoppage time.

Time. Goalies get more 'ready' time when starting play, and when trading places with a teammate.

Goalies have a unique position and are under special goalkeeper rules while in the penalty area. Outside that, they're under the same rules as their teammates. Understanding the rules and limitations of the goalie not only helps goalies do their job better, it keeps them from fouling and giving valuable points to their opponent. So be sure and know your rules, and remember that rules may vary.

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Maintain good positioning

To begin, assume a comfortable neutral "athletic stance" which, for a soccer goalie, is feet apart, knees and elbows flexed, elbows slightly out, and hands in front in a 'ready' position. Your 'home' is out in front of the goal line toward the center of your area between the goal posts. A common mistake among soccer goalies is they tend stay at the line and they have to rush back and forth to block shots, opening the opponent up for scoring goals.

  • Get as close to the ball as you can. Mentally visualize a half circle out in front of the goal line. You'll generally be in the center. Assume a neutral stance as close to the ball as you can, to handle balls coming at you.
  • Close the angle. Fill in your goal area as much as possible, giving your opponent fewer opportunities for scoring.
  • Stay behind the ball. If the ball is shot to the right or to the left, or low, don't reach for it, move to get behind the ball so your chest can guard the ball.

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Hand-eye coordination

Guarding the goal area involves a lot of body movement along with keeping a keen eye on the ball. One thing that can train that is to practice using a smaller ball which causes you to focus on your catching, making it easier to catch the larger, soccer ball. There are many great ball drills that can be done alone or with a partner to improve hand-eye coordination, concentration and focus, which has many great life benefits.

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Keeping your eye on the ball

Being a goalie involves a lot of multitasking. Great goalies make a lot of moves and last-minute decisions while being aware of other players, and keeping their eyes fixed on the ball.

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Footwork

Footwork is very important to a goalie's success. Soccer goalies need to be able to move side to side, jump, and move out very quickly to meet the ball. There are two main types of footwork - the shuffle, and crossover. Master them!

  • Side-to-Side. This is where a goalie quickly shuffles side-to-side, moving feet together then apart, without crossing them.
  • Crossover. Goalies often have to take several steps to get to the ball or to return to standing position. The goalie moves quickly by crossing one foot in front of the other.

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Kicking and punting

A good strong kick or punt, that is, dropping the ball and kicking it before it hits the ground, moves the ball as far away from the goal and from your opponents as possible, preventing them from scoring a goal.

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Jumping

The better the vertical jump, the better your chances of blocking high shots. Jumps can be done with one or both legs. Therefore, you'll need good jumping muscles. When training, goalies should be looking for ways to improve their vertical jump.

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Catching and handling the ball

Good goalies have a grasp on when and when not to catch the ball. For instance, sometimes it's best not to catch the ball but to collect it into your chest, or punch it.

  • Catching. 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.
  • Punching. 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.
  • Pushing. Balls that are too high should be pushed over the net rather than punched.

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Know when to use your hands and when to use your feet

Goalkeepers have to make split-second decisions about how best to keep hits from entering 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.

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Be physically strong

Let's face it, all those quick moves and strong kicks demand being in great shape! Regularly do exercises to build your legs, arms, and a strong core.

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Be mentally strong

Command your goalie area with unbounded self-confidence!

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Be fearless

It's no easy task to be a goalie, but don't be afraid of the ball. Go for every shot!

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Stay calm and cool-headed

As goalie, you'll make a lot of decisions very quickly under pressure. There will be a lot of aggressive play happening within feet of you. The more level-headed you are, the better able you'll be to make efficient, rational decisions.

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Know your limits

While it' true that you're important and are the only player who can handle the ball with your hands and arms,you'e still a team player and have limitations. For instance, you can only use your hands and arms while you're within the penalty box. You can go outside of your goalie space and there will be times when you should, but you'll be under the same rules as your teammates. And that's just one example, so know your limits!

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Read your opponent

Anticipate your opponents' moves by paying attention to the direction and position of their body, feet, and other things.

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Quick reaction time

Your rapid reflexes can mean the difference between blocking or missing shots made into the goal. Agility training develops quick reflexes, and is critical to your success.

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Good communication skills

Communicate with your teammates. They cannot see the field from the same vantage point as you do, and they depend on you to let them know which opponents they should "mark" or guard.

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Good sportsmanship

You're a team player and not the boss, so don't yell at your teammates. And don't beat yourself up for missing a shot! Keep trying! Be encouraging to yourself and those around you because it's empowering, and empowerment builds self-confidence. Which in the end, makes everyone a better player. Better players make a more powerful team.

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Have the right playing equipment

A good, comfortable pair of soccer goalie gloves, the right padding, and other gear may not only enhance your performance, it can make you a more confident player. At Epic, we have everything you need to be in prime shape, at greatly reduced prices!

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Soccer Goalie Tips

  • Stay on the tips of your toes
  • Be in great shape physically and mentally
  • Have the right soccer goalkeeper gloves, and take good care of them
  • Move to the ball, and don't be afraid of it
  • Try to fill up your goal space
  • Keep your eyes on the ball
  • Speed up your reflex time
  • Read your opponent
  • Communicate with your teammates
  • Encourage your teammates; don't fault anyone, including yourself
  • Build a strong kick
  • Stay in a good position to defend your goal
  • Know and practice how and when to catch the ball
  • Stay behind the ball
  • Stay in front of the goal line
  • Don't give up!

Being a great goalie is important, and not as easy as it looks! It takes skill, strength, quick reflexes, fearlessness, confidence, and good sportsmanship. A well-rounded goalie knows the game, and is in great physical and mental shape. Be willing to work hard at it, and never give up. And remember to shop Epic Sports for all the best discounts on quality name brand soccer goalie gear.

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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.

Goalie Stance

The first thing that soccer goalies need to know is the athletic stance. This is a neutral standing position the goalie will be in while in the penalty box waiting to start, or field a play.

How: Stand on the balls of your feet, shoulder width apart. Bend your knees and your body slightly forward, hold your head up. Hands are up and 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.

Tips:

  • Maintain the position while sidestepping
  • Keep your hands fairly close together, knees bent, head up

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First Touch

The most important 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 feel for the ball while thinking one step ahead.

Need: Soccer ball, cones.

How: Arrange the cones in a straight line, spaced fairly close together. Touching the ball with the sides of your feet, weave the ball in and out of the cones, all the way to the end. You can do several variations on this drill, such as using the insides or outsides of just one foot, or switching feet while weaving in and out. You can even do this going backwards 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.

Tips:

  • Start out slowly to get a feel for the mechanics and timing
  • Vary the drill to practice different kinds of touch combinations

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Punting

One of the first and most basic 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.

How: With the ball in the hand opposite the kicking foot, extend the arm out and let the ball roll off the fingertips. While the ball is falling, strike through the ball at the laces, keeping your ankle locked and toes pointed downward. Repeat 30 times.

Tips:

  • Step through the ball to generate power
  • Keep ankle locked and toes pointed downward

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Juggling

Juggling the ball works on control, coordination, and timing. Juggling is a great way to practice working the bottom of 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.

How: 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 same foot before catching, repeating several times, then kicking it three times before catching, etc. After a while, kick the ball back and forth between feet. When you're ready, try juggling with other parts of your body.

Tips:

  • Keep your feet loose, and hit the ball with your shoe laces
  • 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

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Shielding

Sometimes you'll need to stall a ball that's just been passed to you, and 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 the 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.

How: Starting out slowly and picking up the pace as you go, roll the ball from cone to cone to complete the square, varying the way you roll 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 square 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.

Tips:

  • Keep your body between 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

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Triangle Push-Pulls

This drill reinforces ball control by rolling the top and sides of the ball in a triangle between the feet.

Need: Soccer ball.

How: 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 10 reps, and reverse the pattern, starting with the opposite foot.

Tips:

  • Stay light on your feet
  • Practice in both directions

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!

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