If your rec league soccer team wants you to play goalkeeper, it's a recognition of your athletic ability. Literally the last line of defense, a topnotch goalie can single-handedly save the day with her feet, hands and savvy tactical decisions. Most of the warm-up exercises recommended by top soccer coaches are sport-specific, involving drills that focus on basic elements of goalkeeper footwork, flexibility and agility.
Shuffle Warm-Up Drill
U.S. national goalkeeping coach Phil Wheddon uses a drill that focuses on shuffling movements as a warm-up for Hope Solo and other goalkeepers on the U.S. Women's National Team. "Shuffling is the main footwork pattern we use in goal," Wheddon told STACK. "This [drill] gets them warmed up and ready to play." The goalkeeper saves a shot at one corner of the goalkeeper box and them immediately shuffles across the goal to save a shot at the center of the box. During the drill, keep your body compact, hands in front of you and stay equally balanced on your feet.
Flexibility Warm-Up Drill
Mike Toshack, goalkeeper coach for the 2007 Major League Soccer champions, the Houston Dynamo, uses a flexibility warm-up drill "to improve a goaltender's ability to change direction quickly for shots with unpredictable movement." As Toshack explains in STACK, the drill involves a line of six or eight cones placed 1 yard apart. The drill includes zigzagging through the cones with shuffle steps, knee-high steps over the cones, quick, choppy steps over the cones and weaving in and out of the cones. During the first three reps, a partner kicks a ball in the air to you as you move through the cones, testing your catching skills. During the last three reps, a partner kicks a ball to you and you return the kick.
Attacking the Ball Warm-Up Drill
The University of Wisconsin soccer goalkeepers go through an extensive warm-up session focused on coming to the ball and attacking it instead of passively waiting for it at the goal line. During the warm-up, coaches kick balls toward or to the side of the goalkeeper and she touch-kicks them back or she scoops them up with her hands. Since she is moving forward to attack the ball and kick or scoop it up, the goalkeeper must then shuffle back to the middle of the goal in an arcing motion to await the next shot. Other elements of the warm-up involve catching balls at chest height, head height and net height, as well as diving for balls
Shortly before game time and after their normal warm-up, Wisconsin goalkeepers field shots from teammates, including crosses and corner kicks. But this portion of the warm-up is short, otherwise the goalkeeper might get tired or lose confidence if too many shots wind up in the back of the goal. Finally, the goalkeeper does a few long throws, goal kicks, punts and drop kicks. Wisconsin assistant coach Nick Pasquarello says, "By now, the goalkeeper should be well prepared both physically and mentally for the competition since she has been properly warmed up."
Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.