Essential Goalie Drills to Boost Skills in Youth Soccer

As a former youth soccer coach, I know how critical it is for young goalkeepers to master the fundamental skills and techniques needed to excel in this challenging position. In this article, I’ll share my top goalie drills that will help boost your skills, improve your reaction time, and prepare you for game situations. Whether you’re a beginner or an aspiring elite goalkeeper, these drills are essential for taking your performance to the next level.

Mastering the Fundamentals: Reaction Training and Angles

One of the most important skills for any goalkeeper is quick reactions, especially when facing close shots. To develop this skill, I always start my training sessions by focusing on the basics, like getting into a ready position and learning how to react to a shot from different angles.

A simple drill I use is to have the goalkeeper stand in the center of the goal with a coach or teammate standing about 10 yards away with a ball. The coach will then shoot the ball at various heights and angles, and the goalkeeper must react quickly to make the save. This drill helps train the goalkeeper’s reflexes and gets them used to adjusting their position based on the angle of the shot.

Another important fundamental is understanding angles. As a goalkeeper, you must always position yourself in a way that cuts down the shooter’s angle and gives you the best chance to make the save. A drill I like to use is setting up cones in an arc around the penalty spot and having the goalkeeper move from cone to cone, setting their feet and getting in a ready position at each one. This helps them understand how to adjust their angle based on the position of the ball and shooter.

As legendary goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel once said, “The most important thing for a goalkeeper is positioning and angles. If you get those right, you’ll stop more shots without having to make spectacular saves.”

Building Core Strength and Agility for Goalkeepers

In addition to quick reactions, goalkeepers need to have excellent core strength and agility. Many of the soccer drills I use focus on developing these physical attributes through targeted agility training.

One of my favorite drills uses a ladder on the ground and a line of cones. The goalkeeper starts by stepping quickly through the ladder, focusing on foot speed and coordination. Then, they must navigate the cones in a zig-zag pattern, changing direction quickly while maintaining balance. This drill improves footwork, agility, and core stability.

Another great core strength drill is to have the goalkeeper hold a plank position for 30 seconds, then quickly get up and catch a ball thrown by a coach. This combination of static core work and dynamic movement helps build the strength and stability needed for diving saves and quick recoveries.

Perfecting Technique: Diving Saves and Shot Blocking

Once the fundamental skills are in place, it’s time to focus on more advanced techniques like diving saves and shot blocking. The goal of these drills is to help the goalkeeper block every shot and boost your skills in making spectacular saves.

For diving saves, I like to set up a drill where the goalkeeper starts in the center of the goal and a coach stands at the corner of the 18-yard box with a supply of balls. The coach will shoot low, hard shots to each corner, and the goalkeeper must dive to make the save. This reflex training helps the goalkeeper learn to deflect and dive quickly to stop shots.

To work on shot blocking, I set up a drill where the goalkeeper faces a line of shooters from close range. Each shooter takes a turn firing a hard shot at the goalkeeper, who must react quickly to block the shot with any part of their body. This drill simulates the chaos of a crowded penalty box and trains the goalkeeper to be brave and use their body to block shots.

Developing a Complete Skill Set for Game Situations

While technique drills are important, it’s crucial that goalkeepers also practice skills in game-like situations. This complete practice approach helps them learn how to apply their skills in the context of a real match.

One drill I use starts with the goalkeeper in their goalkeeping standing stance, with feet shoulder-width apart and weight on the balls of their feet. A teammate will dribble towards them from different angles, and the goalkeeper must come off their line to close down the angle, using sideways steps while staying balanced with knees bent and hands out in front.

As a goalkeeper, you must always think quickly and anticipate what the attacker will do. Being a good shot-stopper is important, but you also need to be brave in the challenge, strong enough to clear a ball, and confident to claim crosses. Mastering these skills in game situations is what separates good goalkeepers from great ones.

Another important game situation skill is distribution. Goalkeepers must be comfortable with the ball at their feet and able to make accurate passes to teammates. I like to set up a drill where the goalkeeper must make a save, then quickly get up and distribute the ball to a target player. This trains them to think quickly and make good decisions under pressure.

Elevating Performance: Advanced Goalie Training

For goalkeepers looking to take their skills to an elite level, advanced training that focuses on the finer details is essential. This includes perfecting techniques like goal kicks, catching, footwork, and learning how to dive and claim crosses.

At this level, training also focuses heavily on the mental side of the game. Goalkeepers must learn leadership skills, how to mentally prepare for matches, and develop the resilience to bounce back from mistakes. Precision drills and resilience exercises become a key part of training.

As the last line of defense, goalkeepers must have unwavering focus and commitment. Focused practice and a dedication to improvement are what separates the best from the rest. For aspiring goalkeepers, the journey to elevate skills to an elite level requires hard work, perseverance, and a true passion for the position.

Putting it All Together: Drills for Match Readiness

The ultimate goal of all this training is to prepare goalkeepers to make vital saves in high-pressure match situations. To simulate this, I like to set up game scenario drills that incorporate all the skills we’ve worked on.

One of my favorite drills starts with the goalkeeper as a static goalkeeper in a small goal, with a full-sized goal and larger penalty box marked out with cones. Attackers will attempt to score in the small goal, and if the goalkeeper makes a save, they must quickly transition to the full-sized goal to face a shot from a different angle. This drill trains shot-stopping, footwork, recovery speed, and decision-making under pressure.

Drill FocusKey Elements
Reaction TimeClose-range shots from various angles, focus on quick reactions and getting body behind the ball
Footwork and AnglesMoving quickly between cones, setting feet, and squaring up to the ball to cut off shooting angles
Agility and Core StrengthLadder drills for foot speed, zig-zag cone drills for change of direction, plank exercises for core stability
Diving and Shot BlockingDiving to make saves on hard, low shots to corners, using body to block close-range shots
Distribution and Decision-MakingMaking a save and quickly distributing to a target, reading the game and anticipating attacks

By incorporating these focused drills into your training routine, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a complete goalkeeper capable of making match-winning saves. Remember, the journey to goalkeeping excellence is a marathon, not a sprint. Stay focused, work hard, and most importantly, enjoy the process of honing your craft in the best position on the pitch!

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Bart Coach