Soccer goalies have an intimidating role to fill, but when played with skill it is a highly rewarding position to play. These tips are for coaches and players alike. Follow these tips and practices to improve the game of any goalie.
The Basics – Gear
Goalies are often hailed as being the most important player on the field. And while it is without a doubt an extremely important role on a soccer team, it is a position that is still just that: a part of a whole. That said, a goalie should always wear her team’s jersey underneath her goalie jersey. It’s an important reminder that the goalie is always a part of a team, and that the team is all in this together. Furthermore, in the event injury, it is best to have the team jersey available so that the goalie can still support her team while on the sidelines.
Goalies should always wear a goalie jersey. Goalie jerseys are necessary to differentiate the goalie from the rest of her teammates, as well as the opposing team. These jerseys are made for a bit of rough play, with longer sleeves and breathable fabric. The great thing about goalie jerseys is that they come in a variety of sizes and colors.
A goalie should always have a spare jersey in her bag. Having an extra jersey is imperative; if a goalie normally wears a green jersey, and the opposing team wears green, this will create confusion on the field and the ref will insist she changes her jersey. Be sure to have two jerseys that are different colors. Also, in the event that her jersey rips during play, a back up will be needed. Goalie jerseys can be picked up at any sporting goods store, such as Modell’s or Dick’s Sporting Goods.
A goalie should never play without wearing gloves. Gloves act as an added form of protection; they help protect the hands from hard impact shots. Not only do they vary in size and color, they also vary in thickness. Some gloves are made with thicker material than others. Other gloves have more breathable fabric between the fingers. Goalies must try different types of gloves out to see what kind of material and thickness is preferred.
Just like jerseys, a goalie should always have two pairs of gloves. It is best to have two pairs that are made with differing kinds of fabrics – one thick pair and one thin pair. Thicker pairs are better for cold and/or rainy days. They help keep the fingers warm and dry. Thinner gloves work best for nicer days to keep the hands sweat free and more lightweight.
Also – never layer gloves, no matter how cold it is. Do not layer several pairs of goalie gloves, or goalie gloves with thinner snow gloves. It decreases hand and finger mobility drastically. While the ball can leave your hands stinging from a hard shot on a cold day, layering will only make this problem worse.
Often times, a goalie must slide on the ground to make a save. Because of this, a goalie should always wear sliding shorts underneath her uniform shorts. Sliding shorts are tight fitted shorts, much like bicycle shorts, with one big difference: soft pads are sewn into the inside of the shorts. That way when a goalie slides, she does not bruise or cut her upper legs or thighs. These are a must for any serious goalie. They can be purchased wherever other goalie gear is found or online at Web sites such as Sports Unlimited or Amazon.
Positions – Be Ready for Anything
A goalie should always keep her knees bent. Goalies have to be ready to react at a seconds notice. Having her knees bent allows a goalie to jump up to stop an incoming shot or get low to the ground to scoop up the ball at any minute. It also keeps the player alert and ready for anything.
Along with bent knees, a goalie should never have her arms down at her sides. Arms should always be raised, with hands open and ready to block the ball. Hands should be kept in the “W” position. To do this, both hands should be held open, with palms facing the opponents and with the tips of the thumbs touching. When the tips of the goalie’s thumbs touch, this creates what looks like the letter W, or what is referred to as the window. This allows the goalie to see the ball and simultaneously be ready for an attack. The hands can be separated for this pose, with each elbow bent and hands hips width apart. For new goalies learning the game, keep the thumbs together as practice.
With the knees bent and hands in window position, the goalie should look like this.
Having an Edge – What the Best Goalies Do
Be vocal. The goalie has the best view of the field at all times, so she should speak to her teammates. She should let the players know who else is open to pass the ball to, or when an opposing team member is gaining on them. If she has the ball and needs to punt it out into play, but does not see any open teammates, she should yell for them to get open. Goalies should never be afraid to speak up.
Goalies should take kicks from the six yard line. This is not only becoming customary in the game of soccer, but it will give any goalie an edge. It will strengthen her kicks and leg power, as well as her man-to-man advantage on the field. If another defensive player must take the kick (rather than the goalie), that’s one less player to try to clear the ball on the field. Goalies should learn to take the sixes.
A goalie should not be afraid to slide, lay on the ground or drop to her knees to grab the ball. Goalies must learn this, or simple goals will consistently be scored.
Throw the Ball
Goalies should learn to throw the ball. Throwing the ball comes in handy when there isn’t an open player to punt the ball to. There are two main kinds of throws for goalies: overhead and sideways. Overhead is just like a throw a player would use when doing a throw-in (after the ball has gone out of bounds). This is for more near reaching players. The kind of throw also gives the ball some air, allowing it to pass over other players on the field. Sideways throws allow for much more distance and body power. To execute a sideways throw, a goalie should place the ball in her dominant hand and wind her arm back behind her. As she pulls her arm forward, she should pick up speed. Then, she should release the ball just as her arm becomes level with her hip. Keep in mind that this throw will not put the ball high in the air as the overhead throw does, but it will allow for more distance if done properly.
As a goalie develops her own style of play, she will find what works best for her – be it a brand or type of gloves and jerseys her prefers, how she slides and when and how often she chooses to talk to her teammates during plays. All of this comes with experience and time, so don’t give up!