Integrating your Goalkeeper Within Your Team Training Session

GK Article

Whether you are working with a grassroots team without any dedicated goalkeeper resources, a National Premier League environment with a part time goalkeeper coach at your club, or within the A-Leagues with a dedicated full-time goalkeeper coach at your disposal,  there are plenty of opportunities for you as head coach to have your goalkeepers more involved within your session outside of their position-specialised training.

In this article, I will look to encourage a different approach to how your goalkeepers are utilised within your own training environment to both improve their overall development but also the performance of your team as a whole on match day;

Involve your Goalkeeper in Passing and Positioning Exercises

A common scenario at many clubs is that once the team has completed their warm up and is ready to commence the footballing component, goalkeepers are sent down to the other corner of the pitch, either by themselves or with a goalkeeper coach (if they are lucky!), until such time as they are needed for shooting or small-sided games.

As vital as it is for goalkeepers to be able to focus on their own specific techniques and scenarios with regards to protecting the goal, it is equally as important that your goalkeeper has the opportunity to practice elements for which the modern game now demands of the position; good first touch, the ability to use both feet with distributing the ball, positioning themselves to properly support their backline in build up, identifying and executing opportunities to penetrate opposition lines, plus much, much more.

A good opportunity to involve your goalkeeper could be to have them start a passing practice or be at the finish of a passing practice, depending on the theme of your training session. For example, your goalkeeper could start the practice by playing out to your centre back or full back to replicate the start of a build up phase, using either a push pass or instep drive to distribute. Alternatively, your passing practice could end up with a forward player needing to clip the ball into the goalkeepers hands, thus incorporating a handling warm up element for the goalkeeper.

As you move into your positioning exercises, either using the goalkeepers within the teams or placing the goalkeepers on each end of the playing area as targets to play into will allow opportunities to work on first touch, positioning and distribution whilst under pressure. To further increase realism, why not look to set up your positioning game using the top of the 18 yard box as an end zone for your goalkeeper to operate in. This will encourage them to move across the top of the box to support their team as the ball moves and offer a supporting outlet, just like in a match.

Design Game Training Exercises around your Goalkeeper

Looking to dedicate one or two training sessions per month to address a goalkeeper-specific football problem of your team will allow your goalkeeper the rare opportunity to replicate relevant scenarios in a realistic fashion. For example, does your goalkeeper struggle with dealing with crosses? Instead of practicing catching crosses from a stationary server under no pressure by themselves down the other end of the field, could a game training exercise be designed where the attacking team needs to play the ball into a wide area and delivered into the box in order to be able to score. This will introduce factors such as opposition, defenders and relevant cues for the goalkeeper to take into account, just like they will encounter on a match day. Furthermore, this will allow your outfield players to practice crossing, finishing and off the ball movement whilst addressing the goalkeeper problem.

Does your goalkeeper struggle with low diving saves? Set up cones in the corner of your goals  for your training game and create a rule that goals can only be scored within those areas. Does your goalkeeper struggle with 1 v 1 saves? Set up an end zone utilising the 18-yard box where the ball needs to be played into for a single attacker to run onto in order to score. The possibilities are endless!

Don’t be afraid to ask!

Goalkeeper coaches are always more than happy to share their knowledge with head coaches in order to support their goalkeepers better. If you are not sure about what a goalkeeper should be doing in a specific moment of the game, take the time to ask your goalkeeper coach their opinion and how they think it can be addressed within a training session. If you do not have a goalkeeper coach to ask, get in contact with your club administrator, local association or Football NSW who will happily put you in contact with some one who can answer your queries.

Alternatively, Football Australia offer fantastic courses to further your goalkeeper knowledge and education. Register your interest with your local association or the Football NSW Coach Education department.

Written by David Plowright – Sydney FC Senior Academy Goalkeeper Coach & Philippines WNT GK Coach.