It's time to clear up the confusion that has been clouding one of everyone's favorite end-of-training games. There has been a lot of chatter recently about what the actual rules of this popular game are so in order to avoid any discrepancies in the future, we felt it was necessary to highlight the key aspects. For those that have never played it, the point of the game is to hit the back of a soccer net in the air by striking a ball off the ground from various distances. As you progress through the game, the distances get further and further away from the net. Let's breakdown some of the key rules that goalkeepers need to understand before joining the game.
Using the same foot
Some goalkeeper coaches aren't a huge stickler on this rule but I think it is extremely important. I often like to play the game with the weak foot in order to give goalkeepers a fun way to practice striking the ball with their opposite foot. Once the game is announced with either the strong foot or weak foot, that side has to be utilized the entire game. Switching between feet is one of the quickest ways to get disqualified at a Prime Focus Goalkeeping training session.
Utilizing the mulligan
We never expect perfection at goalkeeper training sessions. Mistakes happen and there should be room for you to fix your mistake. This is why the mulligan rule was implemented. I'm not sure how many golfers we have amongst our goalkeeping group so lets explain what a mulligan means. There will be a time during the game where you just don't strike the ball very cleanly and it ends up going somewhere you didn't plan for it to go; like not hitting the back of the net in the air. When this happens, you get the opportunity to go grab your ball from wherever it ended up and try again from that same distance.
One important caveat; YOU ONLY GET ONE MULLIGAN PER GAME. Use it wisely. If we start from six yards out, it probably isn't a good idea to play around and miss the net because using your mulligan at the very beginning of the game isn't going to help you when we get outside the 18 yard box. Once you use up that mulligan and you miss the back of the net again, it's time for you to grab a spot behind the goal and start shagging balls for the rest of the goalkeepers who are still in the game.
Hitting the net in the Air
This leads us to the most important, and hotly contested, rules of the game. What constitutes a successful round of "Nets". Typically, when I explain the game, I tell goalkeepers they have to hit the net in the air. More recently, I've had a number of youth goalkeepers debating the subjectivity of that statement. I can appreciate their arguments but it is time to clear things up. No more arguing, debating, or questioning; let's all get on the same page.
In order to move to the next round in "Nets", your ball must hit the back of the net (attached to the soccer goal frame) in the air BEFORE hitting anything else. This includes, but is not limited to, the crossbar, posts, grass, turf, training bags, cones, etc. If you strike your ball and it nicks the post on the way to hitting the net while in the air, that does not count. There can't be any disruptions between your foot striking the ball and said ball hitting the back of the net. It's one of the most commonly contested aspects of the game so I want to make sure everyone understands the rule completely.
The point of the game is to have fun while also working on ball striking and accuracy. Learning how to control a driven ball is a key part of successful distribution for goalkeepers. You can have fun with the game but taking it seriously can immensely improve your distribution. Oftentimes in a game, its not about how far you hit a ball but how accurate you are. "Nets" is a game that can help you drastically improve your accuracy.
Recently, one of our Prime Focus Goalkeeping Academy goalkeepers started a petition to amend the rules of the game. She is a firm believer that as long as the ball hits the back of the net in the air, no matter what it hits first, then the goalkeeper should get to move on to the next round. If you would like to support her efforts, please sign her petition HERE . Don't worry, if you sign the petition you will still be allowed to participate in the post-practice tradition.