A young goalkeeper who can fly across their goal and stop a good shot hitting the back of their net always gets up wearing a big smile!
Diving is an important part of a goalkeeper’s skills set but it has to be taught carefully. Coaches should remember that their number one concern is player safety, so diving on hard ground must always be discouraged.
It’s much better to concede a goal than allow your goalkeeper to risk hurting themselves.
How to teach the correct technique
The first thing to remember is diving is – or should be – a last resort.
Normally, correct positioning, anticipation and good footwork should eliminate the need to dive but there will be occasions when your goalkeeper has to dive to save a deflected or sudden shot.
So let’s teach them how to do it
A dive begins with a quick, shuffle sideways in the direction the ball is going.
This shuffling movement should also be in a forward direction.
By moving sideways before they take off, the goalkeeper’s weight will be moving the right direction and by moving forwards they will be able to deflect the ball away from the goal.
If this movement is omitted or is backwards, your keeper may not be able to get to the ball and, even if they do, they are likely to drop it into the net. So make sure your player’s weight is shifting forwards as well as across the goal.
At this point, the player’s back leg should drive their body off the ground.
The goalkeeper’s body should be square on to the field, i.e., parallel to the goal line. This enables them to get their hands in the usual “W” catching position, with their thumbs behind the ball.
Having their body square on to the field also allows them to land on the hip/side which is the safest way to hit the deck.
This is perhaps the most important coaching point. If you allow your players to twist their body in the air they could land on their back or stomach and, if they do this, they will hurt themselves.
The risk of injury to your players will be further reduced if tell them to concentrate on catching the ball in the air and use it to cushion their landing.
Young players’ understandable fear of hurting themselves if they dive can be further reduced by making sure you don’t practise on hard ground and you take care to show them the correct technique.
However, this fear can be hard to overcome so be patient and don’t force young goalkeepers to dive if they don’t want to.
Finally, if your goalkeeper dives but doesn’t make contact with the ball, encourage them to get up quickly and get ready to make another save. A fast recovery might still allow them to stop the ball hitting the back of the net.
Time for some practice
To begin, place two balls on the ground about 10ft apart. Your goalkeeper stands between and slightly behind them in the “ready” position.
On your command of “left” or “right”, the goalkeeper dives sidewards and forwards and tries to smother one of the balls.
Progress by tossing a ball to the left or right of the goalkeeper at about shoulder height and three or four feet out of their reach.
Now the instruction is “dive left” or “dive right”.
Watch for the right pre-dive movement, body square on, hands in the correct position and a nice soft, landing on the hip/side.
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