“I want to be the goalie!!”

So what is wrong with being goalkeeper? Why don’t children want to play in this position?

1. Fear of letting the team down

Attackers, midfielders and defenders can all get away with making the occasional mistake but if a goalkeeper drops the ball in front of an attacker, scuffs a goal kick or lets a shot go through their legs… well, you know what happens next. For a child, the fear of letting the team down is a powerful disincentive to volunteering to go in goal.

2. The power of the press.

We are all aware of Rob Green’s “amazing howler” at the 2010 World Cup finals and there are plenty of gleeful “Top Ten Goalkeeper Mistakes” videos on YouTube. It’s no wonder young players are put off going in goal when they read about and watch a famous goalkeeper’s career crumble in one second.

But how can we convince our players, (and their parents), that being a goalkeeper is really a honour, not a guarantee of lasting infamy or a quick way to become a scapegoat for the rest of the team?

Specialist coaching for special players

It is not surprising that young goalkeepers make mistakes – many youth football (soccer) coaches never give their players any goalkeeper training. Some coaches say that’s because they don’t have the time and some say they don’t know how. But we should all devote some time in coaching sessions to our goalkeepers.

Try this: ask your players if they would like to practise passing for 10 minutes or spend the same time practising making saves. You may be surprised to find that your players actually want to learn goalkeeping techniques. OK, that doesn’t mean they’ll want to use them in a match but it’s a start.
Dress them up, not down

Don’t make your goalkeeper wear old, dirty gloves and a top that’s seen better days. Buy and use a really top-notch kit. A bright top, warm trousers and some good-quality gloves will make whoever plays in goal feel good about themselves.

Whose job is it anyway?

Make sure your players know that goals are never “let in” by your goalkeeper – they are always “scored” by your opponents and it is the outfield players’ job to stop the opposition from reaching scoring positions. So if an opposition player is within range of your goal, shoots and scores, it is not the goalkeeper’s fault.

Recognise and reward

Make a fuss of your goalkeeper at half time and during post-match chats with your players. Ensure they receive at least their fair share of “Player of the Match” awards and that they (and the rest of your players) know the goalkeeper is a special player.

If you follow these tips you might not get trampled in the rush when you ask for volunteers to go between the sticks. But it will make the position of goalkeeper in your team a desirable one, not a position to be avoided at all costs.

Top tips for goalkeepers


The idea of having the goalkeeper push up to the edge of the penalty area or even the halfway line when their team is attacking is not new or particularly unusual.

Futsal goalkeepers routinely move out their goal area to give their team a numerical advantage and a regular football team goalkeeper often takes free kicks in his own half of the field. Goalkeeping goalies can even be seen in the opposition penalty area when their team has a corner, but only when their team is losing by the odd goal and time is running out.

Why do football goalkeepers leave it so late to move upfield? Because it’s a risky strategy, that’s why.

There is always a chance the goalkeeper won’t be able to get back to her goal in time to protect it if her team loses possession. Even more embarrassing, an alert opposition player with a strong shot could score in an unguarded goal from 30, 40 or even 50 yards away.

But pushing your goalkeeper up out of her penalty area to support an attack is a tactic that can pay off, especially if she is athletic and has an outfield player’s skill set: a good first touch, good “vision” and the ability to find team mates with an accurate pass.


A goalkeeper’s “job description” includes organising the defence at set pieces and coming off her line to claim possession of the ball wherever possible.

To do that, your goalkeeper has to be vocal. A quiet call of “keeper’s” is no good. As soon as the decision is made to come for the ball, you should hear a loud shout of “KEEPER’S”.

When defenders hear this, they know the goalkeeper is coming and they should get out of the way. Conversely, a loud shout of “AWAY” means the goalkeeper is not coming and defenders should deal with the situation.

At set pieces, your goalkeeper should give strong, specific instructions to the rest of the team. A vague shout of “mark up” is unhelpful. “Joe, mark the number 10” is much better.

Defenders should be taught to listen for and obey instructions issued by the goalkeeper and to let her know that they have heard them. A simple wave of the hand or “OK” allows the goalkeeper to quickly move on to organising the rest of the defence.

Quick clearances

When she stops a shot or collects a loose ball, your goalkeeper should immediately try to give her team an advantage with a quick, effective clearance.

She should first look for a team mate in space and within range of a roll or throw out. If there is no one available nearby, your goalkeeper should look upfield to see if any of her team mates are in a “numbers up” situation.

If they are, she should try to kick the ball to them without delay. If a quick roll, throw or kick is not on, your goalkeeper should wait until her team mates have moved to better positions before releasing the ball.

Know the rules

Goalkeepers and goalkeeper coaches need to know all the laws of the game but they need to be particularly familiar with those laws that relate directly to goalkeeping.

Note: the laws below are the laws according to FIFA, the game’s governing body. Your local league’s rules may be different. If in doubt, ask your league for clarification.

Law 4 – The Players’ Equipment

The goalkeeper’s kit must be a different colour to the players on both teams and the referee.

Law 8 – The Start and Restart of Play

It is important to note that a free kick awarded to the defending team inside it’s own goal area (the six-yard box) is treated like a goal kick: it may be taken from anywhere in the six-yard box.

It’s equally important to note that an indirect free kick awarded to the attacking team in the goal area – for example, if the goalkeeper picks up a deliberate back pass – should be taken from the line of the goal area parallel to the goal line at the point nearest to where the infringement occurred.

Law 10 – The Method of Scoring

It’s worth making sure your goalkeeper knows that the whole of the ball must cross the line for a goal to be scored.

Law 12 – Fouls and Misconduct

Your goalkeeper must be aware that she cannot:

  • control the ball with her hands for more than six seconds before releasing it.
  • touch the ball again with her hands after she has released it and before it has touched another player.
  • touch the ball with her hands after it has been deliberately kicked to her by a team mate.
  • touch the ball with her hands after she has received it directly from a throw-in taken by a team mate.

Any of these offences will result in an indirect free kick being awarded to the other team.

You should also make it clear to your goalkeeper that it is an offence to play “in a dangerous manner”. So she should take care not to charge wildly at attackers or jump for the ball in a manner that could injure an opponent. Referees usually allow goalkeepers more leeway than outfield players when it comes to Law 12 but they don’t have to.

Law 14 – Penalty Kicks

An easy one this. The defending goalkeeper must remain on her goal line, between the goalposts and facing the kicker until the ball has been kicked.

Three easy steps to improve goalie positioning

Being in the right place at the right time is the most important part of the goalkeeping art.

You can help your goalie understand the basics of positioning by explaining these three key techniques.

1. Your goalkeeper must know where the goal is. This sounds obvious, I know. But ‘keepers can’t do their job unless they know exactly where the posts are relative to their own position. Make sure they glance behind themselves occasionally and get a fresh fix on the goal.

2. The goalkeeper should be positioned on a line between the centre of the goal and the ball. You can help very young players understand and master this by simply walking around the penalty box with a ball in your hands while they maintain the correct position. Once they have got the hang of it, play the games below to reinforce the technique.

3. The goalkeeper should be able to save a shot aimed at either post. This requires the goalkeeper to be in the right place relative to the centre of the goal and the ball, and also to be off the goal line.

Young players often stay rooted to the spot as an attacker advances. If you can get them to narrow the angle by moving out to meet the attacker, they will stop a lot of goals.

This is not just a good idea because they can save shots aimed at either post, but because their very presence will make many young attackers shoot too early and wide.

Soccer coaching note: If the shot is coming from a very narrow angle (from an attacker near to the end line), your goalie needs to be positioned so that the post is just behind him, not in front.

This will prevent the goalkeeper diverting shots aimed at the near post into his own net.

The continental game

This game has probably been used by thousands of coaches during the years.

It’s a great way to encourage players of any age to play thoughtful, composed football and for goalkeepers to perfect their distribution technique.

Set up: Use a 40×20 yards playing area with a large goal at one end and two smaller goals at the other.

Place a supply of balls in the large goal.

Divide your players into teams of four, plus one goalkeeper, who plays in the large goal for either team.

How to play: Play a “normal” game of football with one condition: Every time the ball goes out of play (or a goal is scored) the game is restarted by the keeper in the large goal who either rolls or throws the ball out.

No kicking!

The outfield players change ends every five minutes.

Coaching points: When the keeper has the ball, make sure the outfield players attacking the small goals get into good positions to receive the ball.

The players attacking the large goal should be encouraged to mark up quickly and try to anticipate what the goalkeeper is going to do with the ball.

For more soccer coaching tips and products visit Soccer Coaching Club.

Soccer goalkeepers guide to shot stopping and distribution

It sounds a bit obvious, I know, but the main job of a goalkeeper is to stop shots from hitting the back of their net.

So your number one job as a coach is to equip your goalkeepers with the ability and confidence they need to do theirs.

A sensible starting point is to make sure they know the correct hand positions.

For shots over waist height, the palms of the hand should be facing the ball with the fingers spread in a ‘W’ shape and the thumbs almost touching although players with small hands may have to have their hands spread a little further apart than that.

For shots under waist height, the hands should be in an inverted ‘W’ with the little fingers almost touching.

What to say to your goalkeeper:

“Soft hands – strong wrists”.

“Keep your eyes on the back of the ball”.

How to practise hand positioning

In pairs, players throw the ball to each other above and below waist height. Walk around checking their technique.

Now put your players into groups of four or five. Each group makes a circle about 10 yards across with a goalkeeper in the middle. Each player has a ball. Give each player a number.

When you call a number, the player with that number throws the ball at the goalkeeper – at varying heights – who catches and returns it.

This exercise helps your goalkeepers to maintain the correct hand position when under pressure. It also encourages her to stay on her toes and to adjust her position quickly.

Make sure every player plays as the goalkeeper and make it competitive by seeing who drops the ball the least.

Ground shots

Ground shots are best stopped by young goalkeepers by using the bent-leg technique.

The goalkeeper bends one knee and the other goes almost to the ground – but not quite – and close to the other heel.

This makes it easier for the goalkeeper to get their hands right on the ground and also puts their leg behind the ball – a useful second line of defence if the ball does slip through the hands.


Your goalkeeper is in an ideal position to launch counter attacks. She can see who is in a good position to receive a pass and can choose where the attack should start from.

So tell her to scan the pitch as soon as she is control of the ball and throw the ball out quickly if she spots a team mate who has the time and space to receive a pass.

To kick or not to kick?

Always encourage young goalkeepers to throw or roll the ball out rather than hoof it upfield in the vague hope that one of her team mates will get on the end of it.

There are several different types of throw – the roll out, javelin, sidearm and overhand throw – but the easiest and most accurate for most young keepers is the simple roll out.

You can get your team in the habit of building up attacks from the back by playing a small-sided game which is restarted by a throw from the goalkeeper whenever it goes out of play. Keep the game flowing by keeping a supply of balls in each goal and encourage your defenders to get in a close, wide position every time the ball is in your goalkeeper’s hands.


At goal kicks, many young goalkeepers have trouble getting the ball past opposition forwards who, once they realise your goalkeeper has a weak kick, will be circling like vultures around your box.

But don’t take the easy way out and tell another player to take the kick – your goalkeeper will never improve if they don’t get a chance to practise!

Instead, teach all your players the right way to kick a “dead ball” and your defenders to stand between the other team and your goal at goalkicks.

What to watch for:

  • Your goalkeeper should approach the ball at a slight angle.
  • The non-kicking foot should be slightly behind the ball.
  • Body should be leaning back.
  • Lock the ankle of the kicking foot by scrunching up the toes.
  • Relax on the run up – trying to hit the ball too hard will often result in a miskick.
  • Strike the ball just under the mid-line with the side of the laces – not the top of the foot.

Practise the correct kicking technique by placing balls on top of flat cones and having all your players aim for a target – you? – about 20 yards away.

What to say to your goalkeeper:

“Take your time, don’t panic!”

“Don’t throw the ball to a player who is under pressure”

For more soccer coaching tips and products visit Soccer Coaching Club.

Soccer goalkeepers guide to positioning

This article will help you teach your young goalkeepers how to save more shots, give them confidence in their own ability and help them to enjoy their “career” as a shot stopper.

But before we start, I’d like to suggest that you teach all your players how to be a goalkeeper.

For one thing, telling just one of your players that she has to go in goal ignores the fact that you really don’t know who is going to be your best goalkeeper until your players have been playing football for at least three years.

For another, not many children want to play in goal. Most want the glory of scoring goals, not saving them. While I will give you some tips regarding boosting the status of goalkeeping in the next newsletter, you should still rotate the position among all your players – even if it just to how them now tough life can be “between the sticks”!

The importance of correct positioning

It’s important that you spend enough time on this topic. Correct positioning doesn’t come naturally to young goalkeepers and one who hasn’t been told how to position themselves in particular situations will concede avoidable goals. On the other hand, a good sense of positioning makes shot stopping so much easier and sometimes removes the need to make a save at all.

1. Where’s the goal?

Some young goalkeepers will watch what’s going on in front of them. Some will watch the match on the next pitch and some will keep an eye on what their mum and dad are doing. Not many will look over their shoulder when the ball starts coming towards them to make sure they know where the posts are.

Make sure your goalkeeper knows they can’t be in the right position to make a save if they don’t know where their goal is! A occasional quick glance round is all that is required.

2. Getting ready to make a save.

Before starting on positioning, make sure your goalkeeper doesn’t stand like a “rabbit frozen in the headlights” when an attacker is bearing down on them.

When the ball is approaching their goal, they should be on the balls of their feet, knees bent and facing the ball square on with their hands by their sides. This is called the “ready position”.

Tip: You can demonstrate the importance of correct weight distribution and movement very simply.

Ask your players to stand still with their weight on their heels and then ask them to jump as high as they can. They will find it difficult, if not impossible, to get off the ground.

Repeat the exercise while they are bouncing on the balls of their feet and they will see how important it is to keep their weight forward and not stand still.

3. Don’t get stuck on the line.

Another common fault, especially with timid or very young goalkeepers, is to get their feet stuck on the goal line.

This has to be corrected as your goalkeeper can’t possibly save shots directed at either post if they are standing in the middle of the goal with their feet planted on the line.

Tip: tell your goalkeeper to stand in the centre of the penalty area, facing the goal line. You stand on the goal line and ask your goalkeeper: “How big does this goal look?”. Answer: “Pretty big”.

Now move off the line so you are standing about five yards in front of your goalkeeper and ask: “How big does the goal look now?”. Answer: “Smaller”.

Now stand toe to toe with your goalkeeper and ask the same question. You’ll get a different answer.

Your goalkeeper now understands the benefits of not standing on the goal line when an attacker is approaching with the ball.

Warning: while it is important that your goalkeeper moves off the line, there is a danger they could be lobbed if they come out too far, too soon – especially if they are 3ft 6ins and the goal is 7ft high!

4. It’s time to draw the line.

As well as reducing the distance between themselves and the ball, your goalkeepers need to be taught that they need to stand on an imaginary line between the ball and the centre of the goal.

This allows them to cover shots directed at either post.

What to say to your goalkeeper:

“Don’t stand on the line!”

“Look over your shoulder!”

For more soccer coaching tips and products visit Soccer Coaching Club.

Soccer goalkeepers guide to communication and mental toughness

As well as teaching positioning, how to save shots and start the next attack, you must teach and encourage your goalkeepers to communicate with the rest of the team.

Silence is definitely not golden

Good, timely communication is a habit that needs to be formed early in your goakeeper’s career but don’t expect seven, eight or even nine-year-olds to be able to organise defensive walls and warn team mates that they’ve left an attacker unmarked.

Spotting when a defender loses track of an attacker, when defenders are watching the ball instead of watching opposition players or when they are leaving big gaps that forwards can run into requires experience that can only be gained by playing lots of matches.

You should, however, encourage even very young players to claim the ball by shouting “KEEPER!” in the loudest voice they can muster when the ball rolls into the box and they are in a position to pick it up.

As she gains experience, your goalkeeper should also be calling “KEEPER!” when the ball is crossed into the penalty area and she should also be telling her defenders to get the ball by shouting “AWAY!” when the ball is in the box and she can’t get to it.

By the time your players are 10 or 11, your goalkeeper should be telling her team mates – loudly and specifically – where to go at corners and be able to organise a defensive wall.

The key words at this age are “loud” and “specific”.

It’s not much use whispering “mark up”.

If your ‘keeper doesn’t shout her instructions in a loud voice, the likelihood is nothing will happen but if someone does hear her, they will just look around in confusion. Instead, defenders should be told – by name and in a very loud voice – “ what to do. E.G. “CHLOE – watch the player on your left!” or “JOE – mark the number 9!”.

How to practise

Good communication can be encouraged and ingrained in your goalkeepers by playing short 4v4 matches in which they are given the objective of giving two or three instructions to team mates.

What to say to your goalkeeper:

“Tell your defenders what to do.”

“If you want the ball, shout ‘KEEPER!’ in a very loud voice.”

Mental toughness

Goalkeeping can be tough, especially on young players who are just starting to learn the skills they need.

They will make mistakes and they will let in shots that, next season, they will save easily.

That’s if they are still a goalkeeper next season. The pressure on children to give up the position of goalkeeper is hard to resist if they are criticised by their team mates in their first few weeks or months.

So you have to make sure that your players know that criticism of team mates is not allowed. We all make mistakes – it’s part of the learning process – and to have a go at any player because they miss a shot, mistime a tackle or fumble a save is unfair and unkind.

At the same time, tell your goalkeeper(s) that you expect them to make mistakes, that no one expects them to keep every shot out of the net and when they do make an error they should try to forget it straightaway.

If they are allowed to dwell on what’s just happened they will probably make another mistake… and another.

But it’s just as important to make sure your ‘keeper doesn’t blame her team mates for allowing the other team to shoot at her – if she gets into the habit of blaming others when the team concedes a goal, she can come to believe that goals are never her fault and she doesn’t need to improve.

What to say to your players:

“Goalkeepers never let goals in, it’s the team that concedes a goal.”

Coaching very young goalkeepers

Four and five-year-olds can practise the basics of goalkeeping by playing throwing, catching and kicking games.

Simple games like Sit Down are ideal:

  • Put your players in a tight circle and toss the ball to each other.
  • If a player drops the ball, they kneel on one knee. If they can catch the ball next time it comes round, they stand up again but if they drop it for a second time they kneel on both knees. Catch it next time and they stand up but a third drop means they have to sit down.

There’s no winner, just play for a few minutes and congratulate everyone.

There are plenty more games for young goalkeepers on footy4kids.

Who’s in goal today?

While I suggest you get all your players to have a go at being in goal during practice sessions, putting the more nervous or younger players in goal during matches may be a step too far for some of them.

If a player really don’t want to go in goal, don’t make them. An unwilling ‘keeper won’t do much except stand on the goal line hoping the ball stays at the other end of the pitch and when they do get a shot to save, they will probably freeze and watch the ball hit the net. And that’s no good for anyone.

Finally, please remember that young kids have a short attention span and may be watching a butterfly, a bird or even a worm while the ball is rolling into the back of the net. Don’t let this bother you.

“Hey coach… I want to go in goal!”

You will find it much easier to find a player who wants to go in goal if you make the job of shot-stopper a desirable one by:

  • Buying smart goalkeeper playing kit.
  • Making the time to deliver dedicated goalkeeper coaching sessions.
  • Allowing goalkeepers to play outfield – in a position of their choice – several times a season.
  • Making sure all your players – especially your ‘keeper – know that the position of goalkeeper is the hardest one on the team.

For more soccer coaching tips and products visit Soccer Coaching Club.

Quick fire

This game encourages link up play and finishing. It is also a simple exercise for improving your goalkeeper’s technique.

Objective: To improve shooting technique and to practise goalkeeping.

Age group: U7 upwards.

Number of players: Whole squad.

Set up:

Divide your players into groups of five. Set up a a small goal with flat cones for each group of players. Have three or four balls per group positioned next to the goal.

How to play:

Put one player in each goal with the remaining four players in two pairs (pair A and pair B). Have each pair about 20 yards away on either side of the goal.

The goalkeeper passes a ball to a player in pair A, who lays off a pass for his partner to run onto. This player shoots. If he scores, the ball is retrieved by a player from pair B on the other side of the goal. He then provides a pass for his partner to run onto and shoot.

If a player misses the goal, he retrieves the ball and puts it with the spare balls you put next to each goal. The goalkeeper uses one of these balls to pass to a player in the other pair and the game continues. If the goalkeeper saves the shot, he turns and passes it to one of the other pair of players.

Make the game competitive by challenging each pair to score as many goals as possible in a set time.

Soccer coaching note: You can play this game with groups of four by having the soccer coach and/or assistants make up the numbers.

You can also play in groups of three by having the goalkeeper provide a pass for the shooters to run onto.