With so many crosses, passes and shots being lobbed into the box, it's crucial for goalkeepers to overtake opponents and secure the ball. Here is a video tip that breaks it down.
For younger keepers, focus on the basic technique and make sure they get the ball as high as possible -- don't introduce too much pressure right away. For older keepers, review the basics and move quickly into the higher pressure drills and serve driven, crossed balls rather than simple lofted ones.
- Warm Up (15 min)
Jog, stretch, a little catch to get the hands warmed up. Then do some high-knee skipping to get the knees up and the body ready for jumping, and finally have the keepers leaping to touch the crossbar (no ball). As the final part of the warm up, have the keepers moving and bouncing the ball, then throwing it high on the coaches call, and catching it.
Note: It's important to be well warmed up for this session, as the keepers will be doing explosive jumping technique. Make sure the hips, quads and hamstrings especially are warm and loose. Make sure the players call "Keeper!" loudly when going up.
- Basic High Balls with Increasing Pressure (15 min)
Review basic high ball catching technique if necessary. Now have keepers move within a constricted area, throw their ball high on the coaches signal and catch it. The smaller area will create traffic. Then have the keepers pair up (each will still have a ball). Now, increase the space a bit, but when the coach calls, they now must throw the ball up and catch their partner's ball. As the final step, have the keepers all throw the balls at once at the coaches command and catch any ball they choose. This will be pretty chaotic at first. Challenge the keepers to let as few balls hit the ground as possible. For younger keepers, spend more time on the first few parts of this exercise; they need more work on basic jumping and catching without the pressure. Older keepers can use this to get warmed up for the next exercise.
Note: To successfully handle balls in the air, the goalkeeper's focus must be on the ball, and not on the traffic or other players. As the pressure increases, more balls will hit the ground, and balls will not be caught at the highest point, not because they were uncatchable or difficult to handle, but because players were worrying more about the other people than the ball. Stress focus on the ball, and don't forget to have the keepers maintain good technique.
- Pairs with Increasing Pressure (15 min)
Now we want to practice using the proper leg for protection. Have keepers in pairs with one ball. Server faces away from keeper and tosses the ball straight up and slightly to one side or the other. The keeper then gets the ball at the highest point, with the knee closest to the server going up (taking off of the far leg) to protect the keeper. The next step is to have the server give the keeper a slight push in the hip as they gather the ball. Increase the pressure by allowing the server to step to the side the ball is thrown to and put their hip/shoulder into the keeper, then move directly underneath the ball (no jumping), and finally maximum pressure -- the server attempts to head the ball before the keeper can catch it. Young keepers should simply do the first part of the exercise, practicing taking off the proper foot, without much pressure. For experienced keepers, you can start with some level of pressure right away.
Note: Again, focus needs to be on the ball, and not the pressure. In this type of environment, the goalkeeper should be able to catch almost every ball with good form, high in the air. They may occasionally end up on the ground after getting bumped, but they ought to be able to hang on to the ball. Make sure the proper takeoff leg is used, that the knee is up, and that keepers are not waiting for the ball to descend too much before catching it.
- Moving Through Traffic (10 min)
This exercise needs 5-6 players besides the keeper who is working. Have the players stand in a small group with about an arm's length minimum between them. Keeper stands at the back of the group, with the coach on the other side. Coach serves the ball high towards the front of the group; the keeper must come through the crowd and get the ball as high as possible. Once this has been worked for few minutes, have the group move around in a small area as the keeper has to come for the ball. This is a good exercise for learning to judge the ball in traffic, and is a good exercise for beginners to learn to deal with congestion in the area.
Note: A saying for goalkeepers is, "Last to leave, first to the ball". The goalkeeper should not start for the ball too soon, but should take a beat or so to judge the ball before moving. Then, once they've got it tracked, go hard and be the first to the ball. Don't let keepers take the long way to the ball by going around part of the group of players. They must come hard right to the ball with a determined run, moving players out of the way with a shoulder if need be, and get the ball while it's still high in the air.
- Crosses, Keeper+1v1 (20 min)
One keeper in goal, plus one defender and one attacker. Coach or server is out wide beyond the side of the penalty area serving crosses; all three players play just as they would in a game when the cross comes in. Serve balls from both sides of the penalty area.
Note: This is a more match-related exercise. Make sure the goalkeeper calls either "Keeper!" or "Away!" on every ball so the defender knows what the keeper is going to do, and that the keeper uses the proper leg to protect themselves from the pressure. Do not allow many "Away!" calls, except on mis-hit balls; this is the opportunity for the keeper to try and extend their range. A coaching point for experienced keepers is to have a stance slightly open to the field, and not facing the cross directly -- crosses are usually targeted to land around the penalty spot, so the keeper will more likely be going forward than towards the crosser.
- "500" (15 min)
A fun game that everyone likes to play to finish off this session is "500". Have keepers in groups of 5-6 (divided by height or ability if you have a larger session). Server stands about 30 yards away and kicks or throws the ball towards the group, where everyone is trying to catch the ball. Give 100 points for a catch out of the air, 50 points for a catch on one bounce, and 25 points for a clean moving pickup of a ball that has bounced twice or more (no points if they dive on the ground; this prevents pile-ups). When a player hits 500, they have won and are out of the game, continue until there is only one player left. Vary the service: lofted, floating balls, driven balls, in front of the group, over the group, etc.
Note: This is a difficult game because everyone's hands are in the air, unlike a soccer match where the keeper is the only one who can handle the ball. Insist on good catching technique, as high as possible in spite of the traffic.