Here on our blog we try to give you as much advice as possible on how to work on your personality, but also how to become a better goalkeeper technically. Among other things, we have already written an article about your catching technique, but the most important thing is to learn the correct basics as soon as possible, because the older you get the harder it will be to unlearn the wrong things. But what is the correct goalkeeper technique?
Let’s start with what is “correct”?
The literal dictionary definition of ‘correct (as an adjective) is as follows: ‘without errors’.
So, if we are talking about a goalkeeper’s technique, what can we glean from this definition?
Well, if something that is correct is ‘without errors’, then there is no such thing as a ‘correct’ goalkeeper’s technique, because you don’t need to have a defined technique to be able to goalkeep without errors. Now that is put in very simple terms and goalkeeping is not simple. In other words, if the chosen method of making a save means keeping the ball out of the net, then the technique is correct in a sense isn’t it?
Please note because what we are discussing here as “proper goalkeeping techniques” may be different in your country. Each country has a way of playing to which the goalkeepers’ technique is also tuned and thus may differ from country to country! Still, the basic principles will be the same, but what is expected/’acceptable’ of execution might be different per country.
Because it’s hard to explain every goalie technique per country, we’ll base ourselves on the FIFA rules. This organization is above all countries and should have a general goalkeeper manual. However, you will notice that some techniques can cause confusion and discussion.
The step or movement you make just before you have to catch a ball.
Just before you see a player charging to kick at goal, you make a slight jump forward on the tips of both feet. In this way, you can quickly switch to go in any direction. You can take off much quicker in the event of poor control to intercept the ball before the player has another chance, you can push off immediately to make a nice save or you can jump up faster and with more power to tap the ball out from under the bar. Now so far our personal opinion on the jump.
The “jump” has already caused a lot of debate in the goalkeeping community. Many feel that it shortens the reaction time for a shot, and further creates an imbalance in momentum for the goalkeeper upon landing, which affects the goalkeeper’s ability to move forward on a save.
So we can already see that even in the literal goalkeeper’s manual created by FIFA, many goalkeepers and coaches disagree with the technique mentioned.
What does FIFA’s manual say about the diving technique?
As just with the jump, we will first give our opinion on how we teach it to our goalkeepers. In the usual method the goalkeeper is taught to go towards the ball with both arms bent on balls that come fairly close to the body and to extend the lower arm on balls that are played further away. In my opinion, the goalkeeper always works from the lower arm and always extends it, so also for shots that come closer to the body. The upper arm can then be joined at the last. The advantage of this is that when the lower arm is extended forward, the rest of the body automatically goes with it and the goalkeeper will therefore always cut and attack the ball and he will always close the space under him. In the case of balls which have an unexpected bounce, the goalkeeper also always has the opportunity to correct with the upper arm. Balls that are slower can be attacked by the goalkeeper with both arms extended.
How much variation can we ‘allow’ in goalkeeper techniques?
To understand why goalkeepers need a ‘technique’ at all, we need to discuss how far from the ‘norm’ a technique is allowed to deviate.
If a young goalkeeper (we are talking about children’s soccer here) were to use the ‘Kasper Schmeichel’ technique, that is an acceptable technique used to achieve a specific result, in this case that is catching the ball between the chest and the top of the head. This is a VARIATION of a technique. If done correctly, there is nothing to indicate that the save will not be made.
But if a young goalkeeper makes a save, but falls backward with his body way too much while making the save, and ends up catching the ball with a bent back, this is just an INCORRECT technique. Why? Because this trait will inevitably lead to a different and undesirable result, because shots become faster and harder as the goalkeeper goes through the age groups, and you are not using the maximum capacity or reach of your body with this technique.
So, to what extent should technique be “standardized”?
We have established that there can be variation in a technique, but this variation should lead to desirable results in all circumstances of its use. In other words, we want to teach techniques and see that the chance of making mistakes is minimized.
In that case, we want to have basic goalkeeping techniques, and do we already have them? Now, maybe not, because even the first two pages of the FIFA goalkeeper manual come across as very subjective, and that’s from the world soccer body. So we need to be a little more specific when we talk about a standardized technical base. For example, we have to take into account the country of that goalkeeper, and the requirements for him.
The actions of a technique must remain the same, and every goalkeeper will have them (the idea of stepping in before being able to push off to make dive, the idea of shifting body weight forward, etc.). There is no escaping this. You can make a good save with a bad technique, but if that technique is used consistently, then you are basically defying fate and sooner or later you will give up one and even several goals that could have been avoided with the right technical actions.
For example: The top hand…
We can take the example of top hand saves. Mechanically (as in the way the body physically moves), shots in the upper third of the goal from a distance should be attacked with the upper hand for various reasons. However, you can find a goalkeeper who has a great jump off, and can reach the top corner with the bottom hand in the same amount of time.
Yet it is inevitable that if he or she were to go with the top hand, they would have a better chance of keeping the ball out of the goal (in certain/most circumstances). So that one time when they can’t keep the ball out of their goal because the ball is just a little faster or was a little more curled, their technique will be criticized. This is because they would have had a better chance if they would have gone to the ball with their top hand.
Yet we must make it clear to goalkeepers that they are not expected to save every shot and that they are allowed to make mistakes, of course they are, we are all human! Everyone makes mistakes but in the case of goalkeepers 90% of them are translated into goals. Still, I think it’s important that goalkeeping techniques are scrutinized, because that’s essentially what training is, for any player or goalkeeper in the world. We train to make our basic techniques better and to optimize them in such a way that in matches we don’t have to think about it anymore, but just start executing it, so to speak.
It can be argued that when one becomes professional, technical choices are less relevant compared to tactical choices and mental toughness. In the professional game, a lot of goalkeeping now revolves around avoiding having to make a save at all. Technical skill can be seen as the backbone of a goalkeeper’s soccer skeleton, but it is also really the last resort when it comes to making a save. As they say, if you don’t put yourself in a position to make a save, you won’t make it.
You can work with a small group, but if you don’t then point them to the proper technique then of course it has little relevance. Therefore, be sure to emphasize in small groups the application of correct goalkeeping techniques because what works for kids may not work as we move through age groups because of the different environments (type of shot, skill of player, strength of shot, pace of players, etc.) in which a goalkeeper will play.
So, is there such a thing as a "proper" goalkeeping technique?
Well, yes, there is. It is the natural choice that gives your body the best chance of making a save. That’s not to say that goalkeepers who don’t make the right technical choice and still make a save are “lucky”, but they will often have been helped by some other circumstance that sooner or later will not be so lucky and therefore an avoidable goal will still be scored.
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