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”

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