How to save a penalty

Here are some tips and tricks that give your goalkeeper a good chance of saving at least some of the penalties in a shoot-out… and help her to get through the whole experience without being emotionally scarred!

What to tell your goalkeeper

  • Make yourself big – standing tall and stretching your arms out wide will make the goal look a lot smaller to a nervous penalty taker.
  • Look confident – try to make eye contact with the kicker as she prepares to take her run up. Show her that you confident. Smile at her!
  • Stay mobile – bouncing on the balls of your feet as the penalty taker runs up allows you to move quickly to the left or right.
  • Sidestep – make a small, quick step to one side and back to the middle of the goal as the penalty taker is approaching the ball. This is often enough to make her take her eye off the ball and lose focus.
  • Don’t dive before the ball is kicked – in junior football a lot of penalties are directed straight at the goalkeeper. You might just have to stand still and wait for the ball to be kicked into your hands.
  • Dive forwards – if you have to dive, try to dive forwards. This cuts down the angle and makes it easier to reach the ball.

Visual cues

  • Keeping a careful eye on the penalty taker will often give a keeper some useful clues as to which way they are going to shoot.
  • Do they keep glancing in one direction?
  • Are they left or right footed? Most right-footed players shoot to the goalkeeper’s right and left-footed players shoot to the keeper’s left.
  • Watch the plant foot. In youth football, the ball will nearly always go where the plant foot is pointing.


The law relating to penalty kicks states that the goalkeeper must be on the goal line and may not forwards until the shot is struck.

But the keeper does not have to stand in the middle of the goal.

In fact, it has been shown that by standing slightly off centre, the keeper will encourage the kicker to shoot at the wider half of the goal.

Standing just a few inches to the left or right often does the trick – even if the shooter hasn’t consciously noticed that the keeper is not standing in the middle of the goal, they will usually aim for the wider side.

To catch or not to catch?

The pressure of trying to save a penalty in a shoot-out is enough, don’t make it worse by trying to catch the ball.

Remember that the penalty taker in a shoot-out can’t touch the ball again after she’s kicked it. So if the shot is saved, that’s it.

Practising penalties

If you’re about to play a cup match that could end in a penalty shoot-out or you’re entering a tournament, devote one coaching session to penalty taking and saving.

Discuss a few of the key points with your players then play a small-sided game (SSG) where all restarts, even throw-ins, are penalty kicks.

But don’t get overly concerned with penalties. Try to win the game in normal time instead!