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Goalkeeper saving the ball at her near post.

Keepers. They’re there to stop shots – it’s their ultimate objective. And while plenty of players would rather be at the other end of the pitch, it’s essential to recognise that preventing a goal is just as important as scoring one.  

From fingertip saves to claiming crosses in a crowded box, your keeper can make a huge difference to the outcome of the game. But they're also more than simple shot-stoppers. The modern game needs goalkeepers to:

  • be comfortable with the ball at their feet  
  • be brave enough to receive the ball, move and pass under pressure  
  • scan the pitch and identify the best passing options  
  • develop good timing skills and techniques to accurately distribute the ball  
  • be able to distribute the ball in a variety of ways  
  • have a good sense of positioning to move with play  
  • have excellent communication and decision-making skills.  

Clearly, there’s lots to work on.


Watch the video to see goalkeeping in action – and hear coaches and players discuss the importance of the role.

Here are some ways you can help players develop their goalkeeping skills.  


1. Plan goalkeepers into practices 


It’s not uncommon for keepers to split off from their team and face shots for the whole session. Sure, this provides lots of repetitive practice, but is it the most creative way to develop their skills?  

When planning a session, challenge yourself to think about how to involve your keeper. This helps ensure they connect with the rest of the team and get a variety of experiences. 

A great way to include your keeper is to focus on realism. Make sure your activities have opposition, direction and goals (or a way to score). For example, set up a target game with your keeper as the target. This gives them a chance to work on their footwork, positioning, communication and distribution skills. In essence, it gets them used to playing out from the back.  

2. Work on everyone’s skills  


Avoid pigeonholing players into set positions – especially in younger age groups. This helps your team develop a wide range of skills and discover what they most enjoy. 

To get everyone involved in goalkeeping, try using activities where players can use their hands. Take the target game mentioned above. If you challenge players to pass using their hands, they’ll work on their throwing and catching skills.   

If you want to get players making saves, put them into pairs and give them both a goal to defend. Then, challenge them to score by throwing or kicking the ball.  

3. Tailor practices to alter returns  

Before training, always consider what you want your keeper to work on. Then, adapt your session to match. Take these examples:

  • If you want to improve shot-stopping, make the pitch size smaller. A more condensed area increases the chances of shots on goal, which means keepers need to make more saves.
  • If you want to work on dealing with crosses, create a wide pitch, include a channel on each wing and reward teams for scoring from a cross into the box. This encourages players to deliver from out wide, giving keepers more opportunity to work on their timing, positioning and handling skills. 

Remember: these types of decisions impact your players’ experience – and what they learn.