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5 essential goalkeeper skills

Training consistency is an important part of any athlete's routine, and goalkeepers are no exception. Knowing what aspects of goalkeeping to focus on in goalkeeper training is equally as important. As the last line of defense on the pitch, goalkeepers need to be agile, quick, and have excellent reflexes in order to make those game-saving stops. On top of that, goalkeepers have to be able to read the game effectively, make split-second decisions, and manage the flow of the game when given the opportunity. In this blog post, we will explore some of the most important skills a goalkeeper needs to possess at any level in order to be successful.


If you talk to any of the goalkeepers I work with, whether it is in our Pre-Academy or the professionals I train in the off-season, they will all tell you the same thing. I am very consistent with my message on communication. Quiet goalkeepers will always have a hard time organizing the team in front of them. A lack of organization is what often leads to a busy goalkeeper. Making a ton of saves isn't always a sign of a complete goalkeeper.

"Communication is the key to success as a goalkeeper"

Learning how to effectively communicate with your teammates is one of the most important skills a goalkeeper can master. Being effective in your communication is vital to successful communication. Too often, goalkeepers think that simply yelling at their teammates is the best way to go about communicating. Shouting things like "Step up!" or "Pressure the ball!" sound good to the parents on the sideline, and less than knowledgable coaches, but it isn't the most effective way to convey your point and organize your team.

Typically, you don't have a lot of time to get your point across. Goalkeepers have to make split second decisions in order to stave off impending danger from the attacking team. Being as specific and concise as possible with your information will help your teammates better understand what is needed. Instead of saying "Step up!", can you be more specific with your backline to tell them "Step the line 5 yards!". This gives your center backs a better idea of where they should be. Whenever possible, can you connect a name with your directives. Instead of telling the team to "Pressure the ball!", can you identify which teammate is closest to the ball and tell them how you want them to pressure. "Stephanie, force the ball out wide!" is a lot more specific and helps your team understand how to shift and pressure the ball to force it into areas that you want it. Effective communication can be a huge difference maker for goalkeepers.


Understanding the importance of angles as a goalkeeper is absolutely necessary for long-term success. Putting yourself in the right position on a consistent basis will help you make more saves than simply being a great athlete. Don't get me wrong, athleticism is important. Explosiveness is definitely helpful as a goalkeeper. Speed and agility are key attributes to help you move around the goal efficiently. But if you can't consistently find the correct position and ball line, then it will be hard to make consistent, comfortable saves.

Positioning is all about where the ball is in relation to the goal. Distance from the goal massively impacts where a goalkeeper decides to get set. This is one of the biggest points of emphasis for youth goalkeepers as they develop their initial goalkeeping skillset. Very often, goalkeepers and parents get caught up in making flashy saves and flying around the goal but want to ignore the most necessary details that will help them develop.

Consistently being on the right angle, and finding the correct ball line, will cut out a large portion of the unnecessary flying around the goal that some goalkeepers do. Big extension saves look great on social media but are very rarely necessary in games, especially if your positioning is spot on. Being out of position is what often leads to the need for the spectacular. This skill comes with experience and consistent repetitions. Not all goalkeepers get set in the same position or on the same angle. Some goalkeepers feel more comfortable giving away a bit more of the near post while others tend to line up in order to guard against that. It is all about where the goalkeeper is most comfortable but it takes time to develop that level of comfortability.


At this point, in the modern game of soccer, it is absolutely necessary for a goalkeeper to be comfortable with the ball at their feet. One thing I will consistently tell goalkeepers, and their parents, is that they will most likely touch the ball more with their feet in a game than they will with their hands. Whether it is the youth, collegiate, or professional level; teams are relying more heavily on their goalkeepers to help maintain possession of the ball.

Goalkeepers are expected to have a wide variety of distribution techniques in their arsenal. Being able to pass, over various distances, with both feet is becoming increasingly important. Confidence to distribute with your weak foot is a differentiator that college and professional coaches certainly look for. First touch control and direction are huge. Weight and accuracy of the pass are heavily scrutinized. But it isn't all about the ball at your feet either. Can you distribute quickly from a side volley, half volley, or full volley? Which technique is best in certain situations and which one are you most comfortable with.

Don't forget about distributing out of your hands. Does the situation require a roll, a bounced in ball, or an overhand toss to the chest? There are so many different varieties of distribution that need to be practiced and improved on a consistent basis. Having them all in your toolkit, and being confident with a large majority of them, will help you standout as a goalkeeper. Plenty of goalkeepers are athletic and can make great saves. Can you also be the 11th field player when necessary?


As goalkeepers get older, the pace of the game drastically increases. Speed of play improves and the pace at which the ball flies at you gets faster and faster. A shot from the 18 yard box when you're 15 years old looks a lot different when you've reached the college level. Adapting to the different levels of play can be jarring at times. Improving your cognitive and physical ability to react to different situations will help you quickly raise the level of your game.

From the mental side of things, a lot of it has to do with hand/eye coordination and learning how to track the ball. Staying focused on the ball instead of being distracted by body feints or misdirections is key to quick reactions. Having the confidence in yourself, and your abilities as a goalkeeper, to stand in goal a make saves without guessing is a hard skill to develop. Once you mentally figure out how to focus on reacting to the ball strike, your ability to make more difficult saves will continue to increase.

Looking at the physical side of things, having quick reactions requires a good amount of consistent training to put yourself in game-like positions that need quick movements and sharp reactions. These types of drills being utilized consistently in your training regimen will give you the mental and physical confidence to make game-changing saves. There are a number of good goalkeeper drills to help you replicate some of these game-like situations in our training videos on our YouTube channel .

Reading the game

This is a massive skill that is often overlooked during the developmental process for goalkeepers. Decision-making for goalkeepers can make or break a performance. Making ten saves in a game is often forgotten when you hesitate on that one crucial decision to come clear a ball and that mistake ends up in a goal.

This is often the most difficult skill to develop as a goalkeeper because it requires in-game repetitions, or at least integration into team training to replicate game-like situations. A goalkeeper coach can simulate a variety of one v one, reaction, or crossing situations but it is very hard to recreate a situation when the ball is played over the backline and you have to decide whether you should come out or not.

Knowing when to come off of your line and when to stay is such a fine balance. A lot depends on your positioning, speed & agility, reactions, and ability to communicate. A lot of these skills tend to be intertwined so it is important to make sure you are consistently addressing all of them. Overall, incorporating a variety of drills into a goalkeeper's training routine is crucial for improving their skills on the field. With the right training, goalkeepers can be ready to make those crucial big-game saves to help their team come out on top.

For all of our goalkeepers in the Charlotte area who want to continue to develop these skills, and more, come check out our Prime Focus Goalkeeping Academy (ages 13-18) and Pre-Academy (ages 9-12). Learn more about our program HERE!


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