The new season is here and we shouldn’t say it, but most of us have been without football for a few months. To avoid injuries, it is therefore advisable to do a thorough warm-up before going into intensive action. Whether it is a training session or a match, many trainers will agree that many young people come onto the pitch and immediately start kicking long balls or even at goal. No, it’s certainly not wise, but what’s the best way to get the most out of your warm-up time?
I think it’s best to start with that everyone’s ‘perfect’ warm-up will be slightly different, depending on the strengths and weaknesses of each goalkeeper, the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent and the level you play at. Every warm-up should consist of a few basic principles that we have summarised below, you can choose which ones need the most attention for you as an individual!
Warm up your body!
Before we can even begin to concentrate on handling a ball, the first thing we need to do is warm up your body! Depending on the warm-up that your team does, it is often useful to join in with their warm-up, they will usually do the basic actions such as gentle jogging and stretching etc.
If your team-mates don’t do a proper warm-up, then do it alone or together with your fellow goalkeeper and do at least 3 lengths across the width of the 16-metre area, mix it up with side-steps and short backward jogs to mimic the kind of movements you are likely to do during a match, this should include keeping your knees high as you would when coming for a cross etc. and making sure you stretch your whole body!
There are a lot of ways you can start to introduce some basic touches into your warm-up, the easiest way to start is by having your goalkeeper coach or a player kick the ball towards you. Explain to them that you want simple balls at waist- to head-height that you can catch You do not want to parry or dive at this stage, you are just concentrating on catching the ball and building confidence in your game. As well as warming you up, this will also increase your confidence in handling the ball, a lot of goalkeeping is mental!
Once you feel more confident, you can ask the server to speed up the pace and play the ball further away from your body, but the most important thing is that you stay focused on handling the ball rather than making TV saves.
One way to warm up your body for diving and concentrate on ball handling is to sit down with your legs bent in front of you and have a server throw the ball to your left and right, so that you can stretch out as you would dive, but still concentrate on your ball handling.
Bringing reaction speed into your warm-up
In a match, there are numerous times when you have to make split-second decisions about what action to take. This can range from intercepting a deep ball to executing a reflex ball. There is no exact science to performing these in a warm-up, but our preference is, we put 5 balls in the corner of the small goal area and kick them left or right next to the goalkeeper.
In this way, the goalkeeper has to decide which way to keep the ball out of the goal. By kicking them in quick succession, we also anticipate that your concentration will be very high during the match and that, should your first save not be enough, you will be ready to try and keep the next ball out of the goal.
Crosses or corner kicks
This is often overlooked during a goalkeeper’s warm-up, but it is so important! There is no magic formula for this one, just have a server fire off about 5 crosses from each side that you can come up with in the air, make sure there is a variation of crosses, in and out swingers, to the 1st, but also to the 2nd post.
If you can get a substitute to play the role of a striker and fight lightly for the ball while in the air, all the better, if not then make sure you make the effort to simulate a real match. Make sure you claim the ball at the highest possible point and raise your knee to protect yourself.
In today’s game it is no secret that a goalkeeper must be able to play football, it is not enough these days just to be a great goalkeeper and not be able to kick a ball. Take a few minutes to practice a few kicks from both sides of the 6-metre area, focusing on accuracy and technique rather than sheer power. Through our years at various levels, we have developed our own preferences. For example, we do not kick stationary balls, but play the ball to the goalkeeper who has to control it and move it to the other side. In this way, we not only practise kicking, but you also learn to deal with the state of the pitch as a goalkeeper.
Test the pitch
Fortunately, artificial grass has been adopted by many football teams, which means that you usually have a nice flat grass pitch at your disposal. Unfortunately, for many people reading this, this is not yet the case and they will not be playing on a grass surface like professional pitches, so as part of your warm-up it is always extremely useful to make sure you observe how the ball bounces or where there are uneven spots in the goal area. If necessary, you can adjust your style of play and go a few metres forwards or backwards to take advantage of the most ideal conditions of the pitch.