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The building blocks to better Goalkeeping: Exercises to help with Low Diving Saves and Recovery Saves

The best thing about Social Media, is that it can help you get in contact with others with a similar ethos. That being one of providing information to Goalkeepers, that can help and inspire. I have recently been in discussions with @Greeney1987, who also has a blog for Goalkeepers, A site well worth a look.

I am also interested in learning from and observing other coaches in action, so I was delighted, when he recently did a blog post for me to give me some extra ideas when I do my exercise on High-Diving Saves:

I have offered to do a blog piece in return of which I was asked to do something on Recovery Saves

Recovery Saves are not necessarily something I work on with my Goalkeeper Students as a solo topic on a nights training. It is usually something that is built up to after other diving exercises, to really push them… For example last friday, I worked with my Goalkeepers on the Low-Diving Save, ensuring that I had worked on tightening up their technique, improving the basics first and then gradually built up to an exercise that had either the pressure of:

  • An attacker ready to pounce on the loose ball, encouraging the Goalkeeper to get back and set to make a second (recovery save); or
  • A second server, serving a ball in to the Goalkeeper after they had just made the save from the first server.

So as a session plan I would also want to ensure the basics and dependant on the age and ability, I may either do this by starting with observing the Goalkeeper or just building up on the basics first to start with certain key exercises that then build into an observed exercise… This then is up to the coach to gauge which is best for the type of student they have… For this blog piece we will start at the basics and work up…

“Without the basic building blocks, would the end product be the same?”

The basic technique of a Low-Diving Save is as follows:

  1. Starting Position – Should be off their line and set for the save;
  2. Agility – Taking short steps and having quick footwork to get across goal or out of goal;
  3. Handling – Taking a step forward, pushing off this step (Steps 1, figure 1) with hands leading (Steps 2 in figure 2) to make the save;
  4. Vision – Watching that ball, following with hands;
  5. Positioning – Placement in front of the goal, narrowing the angle.

figure 1

So we now need to plan for this, which could be done by such exercise like:

  • Using SAQ (Speed-Agility-Quickness) equipment, such as: a ‘Speed Ladder’, to encourage short, quick footwork, running forward and going sideways; or set cones in a zig zag getting the student Goalkeepers to take short sidesteps round them…
  • Putting the Goalkeeper on their knees and holding the ball out to the left or right of them to encourage diving forwards with correct handling…
  • Still holding the ball to the left or right, with Goalkeeper now on their feet, encourage them to take the step out towards the ball with hands leading…
  • Etc…

There are many exercises that can be done that can encourage correct technique, these are just a few. However once technique has tightened, then the Goalkeeper can now be tested, not only by taking shots to the left or right to observe their Low Diving Save and if the basics have helped improve them, but also by making things a little more competitive, such as:

  • Having the goalkeeper start out of position, to then use that quick footwork to get into correct position and make the save… Short steps, to help with agility…
  • Maybe even distracting them, so you test their reactions too…

As discussed earlier, this could now be the time to test their recovery from one save, to making a second successive save… Thus introducing exercises for the Recovery Save. A couple of great ways to exercise for this are:

  • Having multiple servers set round in a circle in front of the Goalkeeper, all sending in a served ball to the Goalkeeper, one after each other, immediately after the Goalkeeper has completed the previous save (and if caught the ball, thrown it back to the server). The Goalkeeper now must make a save, recover and save again; or
  • Having 1 server serving a low ball to save (or if limited on numbers getting them to dive on a stationary ball), then immediately after the save, getting back on their feet for a serve from the 2nd server, which this time could be a different type of service (high ball or even 1v1…), testing them on something different immediately after the first save… adding a sense of realism… 

… I did Low-Diving Saves last week and this week I will be training on high ball saves (including High Diving Saves), so this 2nd option would be good follow-up from week 1, so I can mix low and high saves with recovery…

You  do sometimes see Goalkeepers in a match, pull off a string of successive saves.  These last exercises are mirroring this (As commented, adding a sense of realism). However you must remember that the basics must be worked on for this to be a successful exercise, as without short/quick footwork, stepping into the save with hands leading, diving forwards, the agility to get up for successive served balls, or even to not have the hands in the right position, could mean the difference between a successful save or not… 

So ‘Keep it real’ making training realistic, fun and challenging for the development of Goalkeepers… 😉


Confident Goalkeeping – Being brave isn’t easy

Finding your voice in Goalkeeping is difficult as confidence plays a big part. Confidence can also be bravery too. Being not only brave enough to call out, but also being brave against an opposing player, either when they are running at you in one and one situations, or jumping for a ball with players around you, or making that tackle at feet, etc.

image from

It’s hard being brave… it’s a massive psychological hurdle to get over.
Yes they say you have to be mad to be a goalkeeper, especially when you have to dive at feet as you are always scared of getting hurt. Just ask my daughters… The youngest is 8 and she is still wary of diving at feet bur through fun exercises and games to encourage it, she is slowly improving. Whereas my 13 year old does dive at feet bravely. That this weekend she did just that, saved the ball, but has just sprained her ankle in the challenge. That said it hasn’t put her off but for others this can make them wary of making the challenge next time for fear of getting hurt.

The mind is a powerful thing! But as a goalkeeper consider this:

  • Remember outfield players too can be just as scared as you – in fact there is more pressure on them to score in a 1v1 situation as they are expected to beat the keeper. Although actually the odds can usually be in the favour of the Goalkeeper;
  • OK, injuries can happen, not just to goalkeepers but to outfield players too.
  • Often if football is played in the proper environment (such as FA standard) then it should be played to minimise injury anyway;
  • On the ‘rare’ occasion that an injury happens then the necessary help and equipment are there. To get you soon back in action; and
  • If you worried about ‘rare’ injury and wrapped yourself in cotton wool you wouldn’t have so much fun as a Goalkeeper – football should be about fun after all!

“I think you have to be brave, you know that a goalkeeper is always going to take blows. When you dive at someone’s feet, that player doesn’t always have time to jump and they bang into us” – Petr Cech.


So be brave and be strong – remember injuries are actually quite rare and you have coaches there to help you.

Continual Development of Goalkeepers: Technical Development

Technical Development is the biggest area of the Development process as it incorporates the needs of Handling and Kicking, together with Diving, Positioning, Distribution and Dealing with different types of shot at or across goal.

Technical assessment of all areas of Technical Development include:


  • Throwing – Left and Right Hand, Distance and Accuracy; and
  • Kicking – From Hands or Dead ball – Left and Right Foot, Distance and Accuracy.

Diving and Handling:

  • At Feet, to the Left and to the Right;
  • High and Low Diving Saves; and
  • Collapse and Smother.

Back Pass, Corners, Set Pieces and Dribbling (Dribble and Drive).

Assessments of these could include the other aspects of development: Physical (Stamina, Speed and Agility), Psychological (Confidence, Decisions and Reactions) or Social (Team work, Communication and Coach-ability).

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