A goalkeeper distribution practice plan

Although young goalkeeper often kick the ball away in the interest of getting the ball away from the goalmouth, throwing the ball is much more accurate and is a great way to start the counterattack.

Warm Up (10 min)
Jog and stretch, putting more emphasis on upper body and arms: large arm movements (windmilling, etc.) will get the shoulders loosened up. Have goalkeepers throw & catch in pairs or facing lines, but make the distance a bit larger than usual.

Coaching Points Make sure the arms and back are thoroughly warmed up.

Rolling the Ball (5 min)
Demonstrate or review basic rolling technique; have them roll the ball back and forth in pairs; then have the target player moving so the roll must lead them, like a good pass. Keepers should receive the ball with their feet, like a field player, then pick it up for their throw.

Coaching Points The release point of the ball should be low, so the ball rolls smoothly. Rolls shouldn’t be slow and lazy; they should get there as quickly as possible, so put some zip on the ball! A moving receiver should be able to take the ball in stride.

Baseball/Sidearm Throw (5 min)
Demonstrate or review techniques for these throws. Again in pairs, practice the throw first to a stationary partner, then to a moving one.

Coaching Points As before, the release point should be low. The ball should not be high and looping; it should hit the ground half- to three-quarters of the way to the target so it has time to settle. Some backspin on the ball will help this happen. Again, the throw should have some pace on it. Keepers receive the balls with their feet.

Same/Switch (5 min)
This activity needs four keepers in a square about 20 yards on a side. One player rolls the ball an adjacent teammate. As this is happening, the player diagonally across the square will call “Same” or “Switch”. If the call is “same”, the goalkeeper returns the ball to the player it came from with a roll. If the call is “switch”, the keeper sends the ball to the opposite side with a baseball or sidearm throw.

The player diagonally across from the keeper receiving the ball calls “Same” or “Switch” and the sequence repeats.

Coaching Points Rolls are used for close distribution, which might typically be a teammate on the same side of the field as where the ball is. A baseball or sidearm throw is used for longer distances, as when the keeper might want to quickly switch fields. The diagonally opposite player should call “same” or “switch” before the keeper across from them has received the ball, so the keeper must quickly distribute the ball in the proper direction and with the correct technique. Make sure they keep up a quick pace in this exercise.

Overhand (Sling) Throw (5 min)
Demonstrate or review the overhand throwing technique. Keepers should practice in pairs at a distance of 25-30 yards.

Coaching Points Once again, look for a low release point with a low trajectory throw that hits the ground a ways in front of the receiving player. Three common problems I see with this throw: 1) Bent elbow. The arm needs to be straight, elbow locked, throughout the throw. 2) Ball not locked in. The ball must be held securely between the hand and the forearm with a bent wrist, not just held in the palm of the hand. 3) Sidearm throw. This throw should be straight over the top for better accuracy.

Throwing square (10 min)
Four keepers in a 25-yard square, with one defender in the middle. Keepers throw the ball around the square, using a roll, baseball or sidearm throw to teammates on either side, or an overhand throw to the player across diagonally, keeping the ball away from the defender. Keepers receive the ball with their feet before picking it up to throw; if the ball can’t be received cleanly the defender may challenge for the ball. If the defender in the middle are keepers, they can exchange places with an outside keeper if they win the ball. You can vary the number of players outside and number of defenders based on ability and the number of players available.

Coaching Points Encourage quick decision making — find the open player fast, before the defender closes down. Throws should find their teammates feet and be on the ground (not bouncing) to prevent loss of possession.

“Ultimate” Throwing (15 min)
Divide keepers into two groups, and mark out a field a bit larger than you would use with a similar number of field players. Add an 8 yard deep “end zone” at each end. This game is similar to Ultimate Frisbee, except that players receive the ball with their feet. One team throws the ball to the other to start; a team advances the ball by throwing to a teammate, who receives it with their feet and controls it. Once they have, they may not move, but must pick the ball up and throw it to another teammate from that spot. Score a point by throwing to a teammate who controls the ball in the end zone. Defenders on the other team may intercept the throw or win the ball using their feet if the thrower’s teammate does not control the ball. The thrower may not be closely marked; defenders must stay at least two arm-lengths from the thrower.

Coaching Points: Find open teammates quickly and hit them in the feet. Enforce good goalkeeper throwing techniques; often players begin to simply lob the ball up towards the end zone. Using a neutral player or two who is always with the team in possession will make this game easier.

Throwing Distribution Game (20 min)
This game uses two keepers in goals at each end (cone goals are fine for this activity) and field players in the middle, one or two of whom are neutrals who always play with the team in possession. Minimum in the middle is 1v1+1 (1v1 plus neutral), it can go all the way up to almost full sides if you like (8v8+2). Field size varies with the number of players, but it should be on the large side. Play like a regular game, except that the objective of the offence is not to score goals — it’s to “shoot” the ball right to the goalkeeper so they can then distribute. The neutrals make this work by giving the attackers a couple extra players to get “shots” on goal, and giving the goalkeeper a couple more distribution options. Defenders can play less than 100% as well to give the keepers more work.

Coaching Points Keepers should look to distribute quickly when the receive the ball — look long first, and if there is nothing there go shorter. The longer they wait, the harder it will be to find an open player as the defence gets organized. Make sure throws are to feet and easy to receive, and have enough pace to get to the receiver before the defence can pick off the ball.

Soccer Golf (Throwing Only) (15 min)
Soccer golf is one of the most popular activities with my goalkeepers every season. Before practice, chart out a “golf course”, noting “tees” and “holes”. Tees just need to be a grassy location; holes should be 75 to 150 yards in length with an object at the end to hit. Please use objects nobody will mind getting hit with a soccer ball! Trash cans, street signs, goalposts, and fenceposts are some items that are usually acceptable. You can also mark out your own course using corner flags or coaching sticks. Then play “golf”, using throwing technique to get the ball near to, and then hitting the “hole” object, in the fewest throws.

Coaching Points Use the appropriate throw — tee off with a long overhand throw, then a more accurate baseball throw to get close, and a roll to finish it off.