Coaching Soccer Goalies: The Rules of the Position

Youth soccer goalie kicking the ball.
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I always had a ton of fun playing goalie in soccer as a kid, despite not being amazing at the position. I think I enjoyed playing goalie so much because the position offers a unique perspective of the game. This perspective and the pressure that comes along with playing goalie is a feeling every kid should experience at least once during their younger years.

So how do you coach soccer goalies and explain the rules of the position?

You can coach soccer goalies and explain the rules of the position by discussing the use of hands and the concept of cutting down the angle. Once players have a good grasp of how they can use their hands, you can introduce the proper punting technique, how to throw the ball and take goal kicks.

No one masters the goalie position overnight. The best players in the world have played goalie for most of their lives and are still students of the game. If you’re looking to start your journey to becoming a world-class goalie, you’ve come to the right place.

Allow Everyone the Opportunity

Throughout a season, every player should have the opportunity to play goalie. You should highly encourage players who have never thought of playing the position before to at least try it out.

If they don’t like the position once they’ve tried playing it, that’s fine. But there will be kids who fall in love with the position and originally had no desire to play it. That’s what happened to me.

In a different sport at least. I decided to volunteer to play goalie for an ice hockey team our work was forming, despite not being able to skate.

I questioned my decision many times before I hit the ice for the first time, but I found the position to be quite fun and grew to love it.

Seven years later I’m still playing goalie in hockey. My point is, talk to your kids about the importance of trying new things. You never know what may stick with them for the rest of their lives.

Playing goalie also offers players a unique view of the game they wouldn’t have received without playing the position. The whole field is in front of them and they can see how plays develop and who’s open.

Goalies also have to develop their own set of skills to be successful on the field. This includes catching and punching the ball, diving, throwing the ball and much more.

Time in net for all of your players will help them better understand the rules surrounding the position. Some of these rules include not being able to pick up a ball that you’ve already dropped and not being able to pick up a ball that your team intentionally passes back to you.

It also doesn’t hurt to put yourself in high-pressure situations. This will help your players understand what it feels like to be in someone else’s shoes. Things won’t always go as planned, but this will help build character.

Use Your Hands!

The thing that separates the goalie from the other possessions is that they’re allowed to use their hands. They can use their hands to throw, catch, block and punch the ball.

However, they can’t use their hands when a teammate passes the ball back to them or when a ball is thrown into them by their team. Doing so will result in an indirect free kick for the other team.

Goalies can pick up balls that are deflected off their own team. As long as there isn’t any intention of passing the ball to the goalie, it’s fine to pick up. With that said, the goalie can pick up balls that their teammates head to them.

When a goalie goes to catch a ball, they should form a “W” with their hands. Their thumbs don’t necessarily need to be touching but should be fairly close together so shots on net are absorbed with both hands.

Keeping that in mind, catching the ball isn’t always the best option for shots on net. If a ball is struck hard it’s often better to punch the ball aside or push it over the top of the net on higher shots.

To help goalies handle and not be afraid of hard shots, you should encourage them to wear gloves.

Gloves come in all kinds of sizes and types and offer better protection and grip. As the coach, it would be a good idea to have a couple of different pairs of gloves of different sizes. Before you purchase gloves, make sure you’re looking at the right type.

Some gloves are designed for higher levels and others for specific playing surfaces. If all your games take place on grass, don’t buy gloves meant for artificial turf.

You also don’t need to take out a deposit when buying gloves. The younger ages don’t need the top of the line gloves. They should, however, have gloves that fit snugly.

You don’t want your goalie’s hands swimming in the gloves. Gloves that are too big will hurt instead of help your goalie’s performance.

Goal Kicks in Soccer

Male soccer player taking a goal kick.

The highlight of playing goalie for many young players is the goal kick. Goal kicks give the goalie opportunities to show off their leg by booting the ball downfield.

Every kid on the team will want to take these, but you should encourage the goalie to take them. A defender taking a goal kick just means one less player downfield.

Start with the basics when teaching goal kicks. Explain to your players that the kick has to be taken within the goal area (the smallest box) and the ball has to be stationary.

The players can’t use the ball’s momentum to boot it upfield. Most goalies will opt to place the ball on the most forward line, but the ball can be placed anywhere within the goal area.

You should also make sure your players take goal kicks from level ground. A lot of the fields the younger age groups play on will be torn up and far from ideal.

Avoid taking goal kicks from divots. This will help prevent your players from getting injured and will make the ball’s trajectory more predictable.

Goal kicks also don’t have to be all about seeing how far you can kick the ball up the field. A lot of the time, it’s better to pass it to a nearby defender.

This is a good play because it ensures your team keeps possession as opposed to a 50/50 chance at winning the ball when it’s kicked downfield.

If your players prefer to kick the ball downfield, they should avoid the middle of the field. When they kick the ball, they should make sure to lock their ankle and follow through.

Locking their ankle will ensure they get maximum power out of their kick and following through will make sure the ball goes to the intended target. If the goalie doesn’t lock their ankle during a goal kick, the ball won’t go nearly as far.

Corner Kicks in Soccer

Corner kicks are usually quite hectic for goalies. On corner kickers, it’s on the goalie to direct traffic and get everyone situated. Your team should have a plan in place for corner kicks.

If there isn’t one in place, make sure at the very least that every attacking player is marked. You also want to make sure someone is covering the front post to clear any balls that are crossed low into the box.

Your goalie should position themselves on the goal line 2/3rds of the way to the back post. This positioning is important because it’s much easier to come forward than going back to clear the ball.

The goalie is responsible for everything within the goal area (6yd box) and this positioning gives him the best opportunity to reach any ball within this area.

If you’re playing goalie, you don’t need to gain possession of the ball off corner kicks. Unless the ball is struck in a way that you can safely collect the ball with your hands, you’re better off clearing it. Clearing the ball is a much safer play.

Let your goalies know that they should call the ball if they’re certain they can get to it. This will ensure your team gains possession or that the ball is cleared at the very least. You want to avoid calling the ball and then changing your mind at the last second.

By calling the ball, your team is going to back off thinking you have the situation covered. When you call a ball and then back off going for it, you eliminate yourself and your team from the play and allow the other team the first touch at the ball.

Cutting Down the Angle as a Goalie

When you hear people talking about cutting down the angle, they’re talking about the goalie coming out of the box to attack potential shooters. By coming out of the box, goalies reduce the amount of open net attackers have available to shoot at.

Imagine drawing a line from each goal post to the ball. This is the angle the shooter has available to them.

The farther the goalie comes out (within reason) the fewer ways the opposing team will be able to score a goal. This puts pressure on attackers and requires them to have pinpoint accuracy to put the ball into the net.

Goalies should be wary of coming too far out of their box because this can open them up to being dribble around and the ball being tapped in for a goal. Players at the higher levels will be able to chip the ball over goalies as well if they come out too far.

For goalies, position matters as much if not more than skill. To help improve the positioning of your goalies, emphasize the importance of squaring up the ball and the concept of how the angle applies to them.

In ideal situations, the goalie should be directly between the ball and the center of the net. Try to avoid favoring one side over the other as this will allow attackers more net to shoot at.

Soccer Goalkeeper Mentality

Female soccer goalie looks on as her team tries to score.

The best goalies in the world are very strong mentally. They don’t let game situations dictate how they play. They don’t get down on themselves when they let in goals and they don’t get overly cocky and zone out when their team scores a goal.

Goalies need to remind themselves that they’re the last line of defense and that their team is counting on them to play their best.

Goalies also need to keep in mind that shutouts are very rare. So many things have to go right to get a shutout. It’s not reasonable to think that you’re going to go into every game and have a clean sheet. Learn from the mistakes you make during a game and move on.

You should also not get mad at your teammates for making mistakes. You’re going to make plenty of mistakes yourself over time and you wouldn’t want others getting mad at you.

I would also advise your goalies to not worry about giving up goals to breakaways and odd-man rushes. These situations highly favor the attacking team and worrying about them after the fact doesn’t do much good.

You definitely can work in practice to better yourself in these situations but even with all the practice in the world, the attacking team is going to score more times than not.

The games you play against better competition and get scored on multiple times are the games that offer more opportunities to learn and grow.

There’s not much room to improve when you’re facing teams you severely outclass. There’s tons of room to grow when you’re facing competition that outclasses you.

Good goalies also need to accept the fact that they’re going to get some bumps and bruises along the way. Between the diving for balls and players trying to kick the ball as hard as they can in your direction, you’re going to get banged up.

It’s important goalies expect this to some degree and stay strong in net. The best goalies are fearless in their pursuit of the ball.

As a goalie, it feels like all eyes are on you. This is true to a certain degree. When you let goals in, people will naturally look in your direction rather than another player who might have given up possession.

Accept this fact and get on with your life. At the end of the day, it’s just a game and all you can do is try your best.

Passing as a Goalie in Soccer

Even when goalies don’t have the ball or the other team isn’t pressing, they should still be aware of what’s happening. This includes serving as a passing option for defenders who are struggling to move the ball up-field.

Sometimes to maintain possession the defense will opt to pass the back to the goalie. It’s not super uncommon and your goalies should always be ready for this.

Your goalies should also see when the defense is struggling to move the ball and offer their assistance. They should let the players know in front of them that they’re open and ready to receive a pass if needed.

It’s always better to keep possession when you can, rather than aimlessly kicking the ball up-field.

Goalies need to keep in mind that they can’t pick the ball up in these situations. Despite this fact, passing the ball back to the goalie is still very useful. It opens the field up and gives the goalie, who sees the entire field, plenty of options to get an attack started.

Distributing the Ball in Soccer

Punting the ball is tons of fun but throwing or rolling the ball are generally better. Kicking the ball downfield is much more inaccurate and the hang time of the ball gives the opposition time to position themselves.

With practice, goalies may be able to develop increased accuracy with their punts but possession is never a sure thing in these situations.

Throwing and rolling the ball are much more accurate options and all but ensure possession. Throwing works as a great option for someone in your half of the field that isn’t super close to you.

When throwing the ball, you want to adopt a sideways position where you’re leading with your non-throwing arm.

You begin the act of throwing the ball by first cradling it in your hand. Make sure that you don’t grip the ball with your fingers and that you keep your throwing arm straight throughout the process. As you begin to rear back to throw, transfer all your weight to your back foot.

As you come forward with the ball, make sure you transfer your weight to your front foot and that you follow through with your throw. Not following through will cause the throw to be much less accurate and defeat the purpose of throwing the ball in the first place.

Diving as a Goalkeeper

For young goalies, the prospect of diving to save a shot may seem scary. To help these goalies get over their fear, you should break down the act of diving into parts.

You should start the goalies on their knees and practice their technique without a ball. Have them press off their knees and go to each side. They should have their hands extended and kept low to the ground as they’re doing this.

Once they feel confident doing this, we can begin to work on actually diving. To start, we want our goalies to be bouncing slightly with the balls of their feet. This will allow them to move easier from side-to-side.

They should continue to do this until the ball is about to be struck in which case they should take a very slight hop forward. This may seem insignificant at first but it will slightly help with cutting down the angle.

Once the ball is struck, you want to take a step in the direction the ball is going and explode off that foot. The height of the dive should match that of the ball and your hands should extend away from your body to cover as much ground as you can.

Punting the Ball as a Soccer Goalie

Youth soccer goalie closes his eyes while punting the ball.

Even though it’s often not necessary, punting the ball is tons of fun! It ranks right up there with goal kicks for goalies. When punting the ball, it’s important to slightly toss the ball up. You don’t want to throw the ball up or drop it.

The jury is out on whether the ball should be tossed with the same or opposite hand as the kicking leg. A lot of professionals like to drop the ball with their opposite hand so they can rotate and put their body more into the punt.

Keepers who do this tend to strike the ball more horizontally by crossing their bodies with their leg.

On the other hand, there’s the camp of people who think dropping the ball with the same hand as the kicking foot is optimal. While I don’t agree that it’s optimal, I think this is the way youth goalies should be taught.

This method is a lot easier to learn and excel at. Once your goalies start getting the hang of this method you could introduce dropping the ball with the opposite hand.

In either case, we want the act of punting the ball to be one motion. It’s also important that you follow through and lock the kicking ankle. This will help with accuracy and distance.

Try to keep in mind that punting the ball doesn’t always end with your team gaining possession. If your goalies have the option to distribute the ball to a nearby defender, let them know not to be afraid to take those opportunities.

The Power of Punching

Punching the ball is a legitimate skill you should work with your goalies on. In many situations where you’re not 100% sure you can secure the ball, punching it is a great option. A couple of examples would be a ball struck with lots of pace or a ball that’s placed in the top corner.

By punching the ball you’re trying to clear it and remove any chance of the other team scoring. If you were to try to secure a ball that’s well placed or struck hard, you may offer up a rebound. A rebound in the goal area is just asking for trouble.

When punching the ball, it’s important to use the momentum of the ball to clear it. If the ball is struck hard to the left side of the net you need to clear the ball to the left side.

Don’t try to clear the ball across the face of the net. You might be able to clear the ball this way sometimes, but you will also increase the chance of offering up a rebound or deflecting the ball into your own net.

In regards to how many hands you should use to punch the ball, it depends on the situation. If the ball is kicked directly at you, try to use 2 hands so you can deflect it as far as way as possible.

When the ball is positioned more to one of the sides, use one hand. You want to use one hand for shots to the sides because doing so will increase your range.

There are some things you should keep in mind when punching the ball. Don’t put your thumb inside the palm of your hand when making a fist. If the ball is struck particularly hard, you could end up with a broken thumb.

You should also jab at the ball instead of swing at it. Jabbing is far more accurate.

Lastly, if there are a bunch of people around you, make sure you make contact with the ball and not a player’s face. I’m looking at you Wes!

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Steven G.

My name is Steven and I love everything sports! I created this website to share my passion with all of you. Enjoy!

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