How To Train Goalkeepers – The Full Plan

There are a lot of goalkeeper training videos out there, some of them made by very enthusiastic young goalkeepers. I don’t want to throw shade on them, but sometimes the problem that you’ll find in trying to mimic some of these youtube videos is that the goalkeepers in them are not exhibiting the best technique. Another important fact that I want to mention is that there is no one training video or specific exercise that you’re going to be able to mimic every day and become great. When training goalkeepers you want to make sure that you use a variety of exercises. Why is that? Well, you want to work on different aspects of the game. At the same time though you want to make sure that you keep it fun. This is how to train goalkeepers! 

Speaking about keeping it fun, the truth is that sometimes you also need to sprinkle in some tough workouts. I had a coach for example that would love to set up “the ring” as he called it. All it was, was 4 stakes with elastic bands wrapped around them. What you would have to do is make a save while jumping over those elastic bands. It’s a great workout, but if you don’t have your diving technique down you could get hurt.   

This definitely brings me to my next point. While it can seem really boring to start out training without any type of fancy equipment and just literally having to throw yourself onto the ground, that’s really the best way to stay safe. There is no reason to sugarcoat it, goalkeeping can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. Therefore, as a goalkeeper coach or attempt of one at least, you have to figure out who you’re going to be training. As a goalkeeper don’t think that you’re ever too good for the basics.    

Starting Out With Ball Security  

A lot of training sessions start out with very simple ball security drills. Usually, what you’ll see is two goalkeepers essentially kicking the ball back and forth. What you’re trying to get here is just loosened up while you work on your ball security skills. One of the things that is very important in some of these more simple drills is to take them seriously. You want to make sure that you can drop/kick the ball right to the hands of the goalkeeper that is in front of you. When it’s time to make the catch you want to make sure that you’re well positioned. It’s very important to take advantage of each drill. Don’t take any drill for granted. Again it’s not that you can’t have fun, but you can have fun while working at a decent pace.   

From There You Want To Start Diving 

If you want to find really quick ways to get hurt during goalkeeper training go ahead and try to dive at full speed in the first training exercise that you do. A lot of people are going to feel that I’m saying things that are polar opposite. You can be intense with a simple ball security drill, and then start easing your way into diving full speed. In a lot of these warm up drills it’s a perfect spot to still be working on diving technique. You want to be closer to the ground at first maybe on your knees. Work on diving to low running shots. These two exercises can be done pretty much on a daily basis. They are a great way to get warmed up and still get a chance to work on fundamentals in each training session. 

Easing Into The Main Course     

Image by Gundula Vogel from Pixabay

You can make your warm up as dull or as colorful as you want it to be. The two exercise examples that I talked about are extremely basic. What I also don’t like though, particularly with young keepers is wearing them out with too many warm up exercises. As a coach you really need to be able to read the room and read your keepers. I know it’s really tough to take goalkeepers in different age groups and skill levels and put them through the same training regiment. In this third step though, you want to introduce the specialized training exercise for the day. If you’re going to be working on reaction time or speed you probably want your keepers to be a little more fresh at this point. Again, there is no need to wear them out in warm ups. 

I may have skipped over the stretching part of the warm up. You should always be stretching out before you do any type of workout. I think it is particularly important when you’re going to be doing a lot of jumping and a lot of diving. For example, if you’re going to be using the stakes and elastic bands that I was talking about before, you really want to make sure that you get good stretching in. When you’re going to be doing exercises where you’ll have short bursts to react to the ball you may not wear out your hamstrings all that much, but stretching is still important.  

How To Train Goalkeepers: Manage Workloads Accordingly 

This is something that I mentioned before, as an aspect of training that can be really challenging for coaches. In learning how to train goalkeepers loadmangment is super important. Particularly, if you’re going to be working with your goalkeepers on a daily basis or at least 3 times a week. You want to make sure that they are fresh enough to be able to get the benefits of each exercise. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t push your players hard. It’s just that you really should know for example who can take maybe 8 shots per exercise and who is only going to be able to go through the course with 4 shots. 

In my career I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum. I’ve trained in scenarios where I felt that I wasn’t getting the type of workout that I wanted because the intensity levels just weren’t there. In other cases, I was just going through the motions trying not to die. Again, I’m not saying don’t push your guys or gals hard. The problem for me though is if for example you’re running an exercise that is meant to help goalkeepers get a sense of proper positioning prioritize the positioning. I see this a lot, uncreative coaches will just resort to taking shots on goal. It’s ok at the end of the day, you want to mimic game-like scenarios. Just forcing your keeper to dive without any real guidance and poor positioning isn’t helping anyone. 

Correcting Mistakes As They Happen 

This can be a bit tough when you’re training a larger group of goalkeepers. If you think about it though, then it begs the question, how many goalkeepers can you train at a time. I would say that ideally you’ll have 4 per coach. Maybe 5 max. I know that a lot of times in some goalkeeper training programs the more that you have the more money that you’ll make. So some coaches are going to take on larger groups. The reason why I talk about a maximum number of goalkeepers per coach is precisely so that each of them has enough time to go through drills and be corrected as they are making mistakes. If you want to correct things after the fact without a chance to dive correctly or attack the ball in the right manner it can be hard to get into the habit of doing things right. 

I’m a big believer in stopping the exercise and correcting a goalkeeper when they are not doing things right. I see a lot of youth goalkeepers get into the terrible habit of diving backwards for example. That’s something that is not only going to effectively reduce the amount of saves that you’re going to potentially make. If you want to move up to a next level of goalkeeping and you find yourself at a tryout some of those primitive technique problems could keep you from getting a shot to play at a higher level. The only way to improve your technique through trial and error. You need to make sure though that you’re effectively correcting these mistakes as they happen. For coaches I would say, take your time with each goalkeeper. There is really no other way to teach.    

What Type of Training Exercises Should You Be Looking Into?  

There are a couple of things that you’re probably going to be doing every session, as I’ve mentioned. You’ll be doing at least some light work catching the ball in warmups and diving. Again, these are meant as warm ups, but they are a great way to be able to perfect technique. As I coach you really want to look into how your players are diving and how they’re catching the ball even in these simple exercises. From there, what most goalkeeper coaches at the pro level do is choose a day for a specific type of training. So you’ll have one day that is almost fully devoted to reaction time. This is where you’ll get those drills where you’ll bounce the ball off a surface and force the keeper to react at short distances. Some coaches love to put a ton of cones and things in front of the goal, then they’ll take shots hoping to get a deflection from these elements forcing goalkeepers to react.

The next day you’ll have a heavier work out that is aimed at leg strength and jumping abilities. This is where you could implement the ring concept that I was talking about earlier. Some coaches like to have their goalkeepers jump over boxes or other types of equipment. I would say that it’s always a good idea to keep things on the safe side for these types of situations. Sure you want to try and essentially force your guys to jump higher. What you don’t want to do is have them crash down hard if anything goes wrong. Some of these drills are better suited for goalkeepers with some experience. If you don’t feel comfortable with your diving technique don’t get into the ring. You’ll fall hard and have the potential of getting hurt.  

When it comes to something as important as positioning it’s interesting because there’s usually not a day that is fully dedicated to proper positioning. Just as there is usually not a day to learn to dive or learn to catch or save. These are elements of goalkeeping that you’re perfecting in every drill. Many coaches love to put the small cones to force players to sidestep or lift their knees as they walk through the goal to ultimately make the save. In these drills don’t take those cones and the side-stepping lightly. They are part of the work out, and also an element of positioning that you need to grasp.                        

How To Train Goalkeepers: Jogging & Weight Training Programs 

man and woman jogging
Photo by Kate Trifo on

With goalkeeping drills you can mix in cardio and even weight training within the drills. This is something that is becoming more and more popular. Some of the functional training regiments that you can find in different studios essentially pride themselves in being able to do this. I would definitely say it’s a good idea to incorporate some type of weight training into some of the drills that you might do. That doesn’t mean that you never have to step into a gym. If you’re really serious about goalkeeping at a professional level pure weight training should be a part of the plan. Make sure that you don’t overwork in the gym though. You want to be fit, not stiff. 

When it comes to jogging or other types of cardio to complement goalkeeper training I do think it’s almost a must. What you’re trying to do is build resistance with more cardio. As I mentioned, you’ll be getting in a ton of cardio in training, so I would understand if you didn’t want to go for a jog afterward. If you’re doing goalkeeper training maybe 2 or 3 days a week extra cardio can really help out. I would recommend jogging just because as a part of a team you’re going to be forced into it at some point. If you’re not used to it, it can get really tough. As a coach and a player you don’t want to get so lost in how to train goalkeepers that you forget you’re also part of the team!  

Some players don’t love to go out and jog not only because they get tired, but also because of the extra strain that they are putting on their knees and feet. With all of the falling on the ground that you do in goalkeeping the strain on the knees can be quite severe over time. Therefore, swimming can be a great ally. You’ll be building up resistance which is what you’re mainly looking for with some of the extra cardio. At the same time, you’ll be giving pretty much all of your muscles a workout. Even if you’re not Micheal Phelps in the water it’s a good discipline to look into. You’ll get the workout and a lot of times even the recovery from swimming without the strain that you can get from jogging. 

How To Train Goalkeepers Conclusion  

There is no formula on how to train goalkeepers. Most coaches in the pro game are going to have plans more focused towards making sure that they are managing loads correctly and maybe correcting some things that come up. To be honest there’s more of a challenge to training youth goalkeepers. You don’t only need to make sure that they’re fresh for Sunday. At times goalkeeper training can get repetitive, but repetition is the only path towards consistent technique. You have to get your body used to proper positioning and proper hand placement. Unlike many other positions a lack of technique can lead to injury real quickly. That’s also something that you have to keep an eye on. Particularly if you’re looking to get creative with the drills. 

If you’re looking into how to train goalkeepers because you want to train yourself the word of advice would be to be honest about your deficiencies. Don’t just repeat the drills that are fun or that you’re good at. Try and add variations to drills as you start feeling more and more comfortable with your game. It’s also important to note that as you’re getting creative you could suffer some setbacks like a hard fall. It’s part of the game, but also don’t be too stubborn about it. Know your limits and try and improve with time. I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but repetition is the only way to really get to where you want to go. If you follow many of the tips here you’ll learn how to train goalkeepers!