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Goal keeper saving the ball

Goalkeeping session: save, support, repeat

The FA's Ian Bateman shares a simple small-sided game that gives goalkeepers the opportunity to practise making loads of saves and distributing the ball. 

Session plan

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For this 3v3 practice, set up an area that uses the width of the six-yard box and runs from the goal-line to the edge of the ‘D’. Put a goal at each end and place footballs off the pitch, near each net. Each team has a keeper in goal and two outfield players. However, you can adapt this for your team.  

Keep the opportunities in mind when setting up an appropriate area for your players’ age and developmental stage. For instance, a short pitch results in more shots to save. If it’s also narrow, it increases the number of players in the way of goal-bound efforts – meaning keepers may need to react to deflections. In contrast to this, a long pitch provides more 1v1 situations, more time on the ball and an opportunity to distribute the ball in a variety of ways.  

The type of goals you use will also change your keeper’s experience. For example, using futsal goals with young players result in more shots aimed high into the net. Long five-a-side goals encourage more efforts that are low and into corners. While bigger goals encourage players to shoot more and lead to the keepers having to make diving saves.  

This is a regular small-sided game – players combine with their teammates and try to score.  

As the pitch is small, it provides plenty of opportunities to shoot and make saves. Repetition of this is ultimately what the activity is all about.  

If a team scores, restart play from the opposition goalkeeper. This will give keepers time on the ball and get them working on their distribution. If a shot goes wide, the keeper can quickly restart play with one of the footballs placed near their goal.  



If your players master your activity – or find it too hard – try adding a progression. This is also a good way to change the returns of your activity. Here are some examples. 

  1. To make this a counter-attacking game to increase the chances of more shots taking place, add the following rule. When a player shoots, they must run and touch the post of the goal they aimed at. This provides the opposition with a temporary overload – which they should try to use to their advantage.

  2. Add a halfway line and only allow one player to go into their opponent’s half to provide keepers with more opportunities to save shots from distance. This gives teams a 3v1 scenario in their favour when they’re in their own half. So instead of going alone and outnumbered in the opposition’s territory, teams are more likely to stay in their areas and shoot from distance.

  3. Double the length of the pitch to place more focus on 1v1 scenarios. This creates plenty of space to defend and increases the likelihood that opponents will break and run through on goal. This gives the goalkeepers more decisions to make. Where should their starting position be? Should they stay where they are or rush out? When should they move to close down the space? How can they limit their opponent’s options with their positioning and stance?  

Whatever progression you choose, remember that learning takes time. So don’t alter your activity too quickly – or too much. Try using the STEP framework (Youth Sports Trust, 2002). This helps keep things fun, engaging and appropriate.

Extra resources

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