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Mastering Penalty-Kick Saves: Techniques and Insights for Goalkeepers

goalkeeper penalty kick saves

Penalty kicks have greatly evolved over the years, becoming increasingly more challenging to deal with as referees and lawmakers crack down on what is acceptable for goalkeepers to do during these tense situations. Penalty-saving is an art that requires a combination of physical ability, psychological strength, and strategic thinking. As a goalkeeper, facing a penalty kick can be one of the most nerve-wracking moments of the game. However, with the right preparation and execution, penalty-saving can also be one of the most rewarding moments for a goalkeeper. In this blog post, we will explore the art of penalty-saving and provide tips on how to become a successful penalty-saving goalkeeper.

Physical preparation

Before we dive into the psychological and strategic aspects of penalty-saving, it’s important to note that physical preparation is crucial. A penalty kick is essentially a wide-open shot from 12 yards away which is one of the reasons they are so difficult to deal with. A strike like this requires goalkeepers to be agile, quick, and reactive in a short span of time. Focusing on your explosive lateral movements, and being powerful in these moments, during training is one of the keys to being able to get down to the corners in a short amount of time. Through specific training drills, such as reaction drills, jumping exercises, and footwork drills; you can maximize your ability to cover the goal. A goalkeeper who has good physical ability is can increase their chances to pulling off the spectacular penalty saves that help win games.

These can also be really tense moments for goalkeepers. Calming your nervous and focusing on your breathing can help to make your body less tense and therefore more prepared to make a save. Penalty kicks for goalkeepers aren't situations where goalies are typically expected to make saves. The pressure should be on the shooter so figuring out how to slow your heart rate to a comfortable place and simply focus on the aspects of the situation that you can control is what will help you dominate penalties.

Psychological preparation

Penalty-saving is not just about physical ability; it’s also about mental strength. These situations are as much a mental game and they are physical. The shooter has 1,000 things running through their mind and they are trying to focus on not giving away any hints as to which side they are planning to go to. The other field players for both teams are trying to get in the heads of the shooter and the goalkeeper. Penalty kicks can be very challenging to stay focused during because of all the mental games being played.

goalkeeper penalty kick saves

The goalkeeper needs to be confident and focused when facing a penalty kick. Goalkeepers can also use visualization techniques to imagine themselves making saves during a penalty shootout. This can help them build confidence and prepare mentally for the pressure of the moment. You can look no further than World Cup winning goalkeeper Emi Martinez when talking about the psychological side of penalty kicks. He has become one of the masters of mind-games during these situations. Talking to the shooter, making himself as big as possible in the goal, stalling the kick to force the shooter to think longer; these are all tactics that can help increase the nerves of a shooter. The odds are stacked against goalkeepers during penalty kicks so you have to take whatever advantages you can. Check out our Mental Strength Guide which will help you master the psychological aspects of the goalkeeping position.

Strategic execution

Once the goalkeeper is physically and psychologically prepared, it’s time to execute their strategy. If possible, strategy should start with the kicker’s penalty-taking history and tendencies, including their preferred direction and technique. This information can help the goalkeeper anticipate where the ball might go and increase their chances of making a save. Once you are on the line to face the penalty, you have to decide if you want to guess or simply react. Being patient and waiting until the last possible second to dive is typically common practice. In this day and age, strikers are utilizing a wide variety of run-ups which can sometimes make it challenging for goalkeepers to time their movements. Field players do this purposely in hopes that goalkeepers will tip their hand early to which side they are going and make it easier on the shooter to go the opposite way.

However, waiting too long to make your move could end up with you diving too late and not giving yourself enough reaction time. The shooter is only twelve yards away and more often than not these strikes are hit with enough pace to make it extremely difficult for goalkeepers to react. At the younger age groups, it may be more beneficial for goalkeepers not to guess which side or try to read the shooter because the field players aren't as skilled or capable to placing the ball in the corners. As goalkeepers get older, and start to face more skillful and powerful shooters, it is recommended to start utilizing specific tactics to manage these situations. Goalkeepers can also use their body language and positioning to influence the kicker’s decision-making. For example, by standing in the center of the goal and shifting their weight to one side, the goalkeeper can encourage the kicker to shoot to the opposite side.

goalkeeper penalty kick saves

Reading the penalty kick taker

Sometimes, goalkeepers aren't able to get information regarding the kicker's previous penalty attempts. In the age of technology, many youth clubs are starting to provide more film to their players so taking advantage of these opportunities to study your opponents actions is crucial but not always readily available. In this case, it is about reading the shooter. This is never going to be a precise art but if it is all you have then you can at least use some tips to help you in these situations.

First, understand what type of player you are dealing with. Creative midfielders and strikers who tend to put a lot of spin and whip on the ball throughout the run of play tend to take penalties differently than a defender who is more accustomed to driving balls consistently. Again, it isn't an exactly art but there can often be small signs depending on who the shooter is. Second, analyze the run up. Is the shooter running more straight on to the ball or is their run-up more curved? This can often dictate which side a shooter is more likely to shoot on. Oftentimes, a straight run up makes it more difficult to open their hips and place the ball into their strong side (think about a right footer running straight on the ball and trying to place it to the goalkeeper's left).


Penalty-saving is an art that requires physical ability, psychological strength, and strategic thinking. By preparing both physically and mentally and developing a strategic approach, goalkeepers can increase their chances of making a save during a penalty shootout. The key is to remain confident and focused under pressure and to always be prepared for the unexpected. With practice and persistence, any goalkeeper can become a successful penalty-saving goalkeeper. If you want to learn more about the art of goalkeeping, head over to our YouTube channel now. Be sure to subscribe so you can stay up-to-date on the latest video releases. We have plenty of educational videos that talk about goalkeeping for beginners, goalkeeper training techniques, best goalkeeping tips, and more! Modern goalkeeping is an ever evolving art and we want to help you stay as current as possible. You can also head over to our resource page to see what other great goalkeeping content we have for you. Make sure you follow up on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest as well!


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