Soccer goalkeepers don’t run up and down the field all day, but they’re still athletes who need quickness to cover the 8-yard-wide net, as well as strength and stamina. Goalie workouts, therefore, should incorporate physical fitness exercises to improve their strength and flexibility, as well as on-field drills to work on their skill development.
Footwork Field Drills
Developing good footwork is key to helping goalkeepers maintain the correct position when attackers have the ball. “Mirroring” drills help develop both footwork and positioning skills. In a simple mirroring drill, a coach moves back and forth, varying the tempo and sometimes stopping and starting. The keeper mirrors the coach’s every move, while keeping her body square to the coach, as if the coach were an attacker with the ball. The coach may occasionally yell “shot!” during the drill, at which point the keeper assumes a ready position. Alternatively, a player with a ball on the ground alongside the coach can take an occasional shot, forcing the keeper to make a save.
Footwork Gym Drills
Goalies can also develop quick feet in the gym through a variety of exercises. Keepers may work with a platform raised 1 or 2 feet off the floor, quickly stepping or jumping on and off the platform, moving forward or sideways, and landing on either one or two feet. In a box jump, for example, the keeper faces the platform and jumps on and off the platform quickly for a specified length of time. Or have the goalie perform a side-to-side box shuffle by starting with one foot on the platform and one on the floor. Have her jump to the side, with the foot on the floor moving up to the box and the other foot landing on the floor.
Goalkeepers need strong legs for jumping and for kicking the ball, plus good overall strength for stamina and for battling attackers for the ball. Jump squats, for example, help build a goalie’s thighs and calves. Have the keeper stand erect with her feet should-width apart and arms crossed on her upper chest. Have her squat until her thighs are roughly horizontal, with her weight centered on the balls of her feet, then immediately jump as high as she can. As she lands, she’ll transition into another squat, followed by another jump. Other good strength exercises for keepers include pushups, chin-ups and bench dips.
Obviously, the goalkeeper’s principal task is stopping the ball, so shooting drills are key parts of any practice. To help goalkeepers improve their reaction times, position the keeper between two cones, with a forward in front and behind the keeper. The first forward throws the ball to the keeper, forcing her to jump to catch the ball. The keeper passes the ball back to the player, then turns quickly as the other player tries to shoot the ball between the cones. Don’t set the cones too far apart; the keeper should have a reasonable chance to stop the shot. Alternatively, set up three cones in a triangular shape, and have a trio of shooters try to kick balls between the three openings. After the keeper faces one shot, she moves quickly between the next set of cones to take another shot.
M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.