What Do Goalkeepers Need To Be Good At To Succeed?

There’s a lot that goes into being a good goalkeeper. Certain God given abilities, or physical traits like height can help. As I covered in another article though there are ways to overcome some of the shortcomings that you may have had in your gene pool. Virtually all of the things that you need to be a good goalkeeper are things that you can learn. Now are there things that are worth learning over others? I certainly think so, and that’s why I’m going to be providing an honest view on what do goalkeepers need to be good at to succeed!

The first thing that I want to get out of the way is that success comes in different shapes and sizes. Basically though I would say that if you focus on these key elements of goalkeeping you’ll certainly be able to improve your game regardless of the level that you’re playing at. Speaking of any level of play, I also want to make sure that I point out very specific things that you can do at virtually any age to get better at the position. I am not saying that if you do these things that I’m going to tell you here you should just stop training every other aspect of the game. These are things though that could help you make more saves, which in turn builds your confidence and slowly but surely hopefully allows you to become a better goalkeeper. 

Positioning Is The Most Important Thing In Goalkeeping 

bungee cords training goalkeepers

There is virtually nothing as important to goalkeeping as positioning is. You can be average at catching the ball cleanly, or even have a funky diving motion. If you’re in the right spot though you’ll have a better chance to make the save regardless. Positioning is something that most goalkeeper coaches essentially train a lot. What I sometimes criticize particularly with coaches that are grooming younger players is that they don’t allow kids to get a sense of what positioning looks like in a game. What I mean by this is that you can set up the goal with a bunch of those plates and have them do some footwork, and take shots from set angles. That certainly helps goalkeepers learn how to walk in goal. That’s not the whole story though! 

Players are not necessarily going to be taking shots on goal just from the spots that are designated in training. Essentially they could take shots from anywhere. One of the things that you may want to do as a goalkeeper potentially on top of your regular training is just train with a friend who shoots from different angles that are not previously designated. This can be a drill that will help strikers too. Because you can understand where the goalkeeper is supposed to be when you have the ball in a particular area. As a goalkeeper, you also need to figure out how close to the ball you need to be at any point. Learning about angles and different things is going to be key to your success as a goalkeeper. This is something that’s a goalkeeping fundamental and working on it even late into your career is important.     

Catching or Saving When To Do Each 

Alisson Training With Brazil

I could point to multiple goalkeepers that literally don’t catch the ball cleanly at all, and they’ve been able to make a name for themselves. Mexico’s Ochoa, and Acevedo both fit that bill. As of late there’s an argument to be made that the goalkeeper with great catching skills is a dying breed. Another example is Marc Andre Ter Stegen you’re never going to catch a ball with those one hand saves that he makes. The most important thing though is to be able to punch or save the ball away out of danger. If the ball is coming in too hard, or for whatever reason you just don’t feel confident enough to make the catch cleanly then make sure that you’re clearing the ball away, and never give up those rebounds to the middle of the goal.  

Would you be better off if you were able to make clean catches consistently? Yes!I’ve been pounding the table to promote this for a while now. As I just mentioned though, fewer top goalkeepers can really boast having great hands. Neuer is one of those goalkeepers for example that has better than average hands. Courtois for example could be a lot better than he is if he had a little better hands. He’s not Ochoa bad, but there’s some room to grow. DeGea is another one of those guys with really bad hands. If you have bad hands you can make it work just make sure that when making saves you’re deliberately deflecting the ball out of harm’s way consistently. 

Playing Smart With Your Feet 

Luis Malagon training with Mexico

You don’t have to be Manuel Neuer on your feet and play a million yards out of the box or anything like that. What you do have to be able to do is make a clean reception, and then clear the ball safely. If safely means that you have to clear off to the side into the next county so be it! This is something that I stress a lot to defenders, and goalkeepers alike. There’s no need to get cute on the ball. In fact, most coaches are not going to love the fact that you get cute on the ball. Ideally you’ll be able to clear the ball up field and to the side.

The reason why you want to clear the ball to the side is so that in the event that you leave the ball short it doesn’t become a scoring chance for the other team. At least not as easily as a ball cleared to the middle of the field would. This is the minimum level that you have to get to when it comes to playing with your feet. If you’re good, and you feel like you’d like to be a sweeper keeper that’s great. What I described with clearing the ball and those things is essentially the level that I believe that you need to reach to be able to succeed as a goalkeeper at any level. Not everyone is Neuer and that’s ok. What’s not ok is not being close to Neuer, and taking as many risks!        

Not Hurting Yourself When You Dive 

Sunday league goalkeeper diving

I talked about diving already. I actually said that you can have poor technique, but if you’re constantly in the right spot, and you make saves you can move up in the goalkeeping world. What you do need to be able to do is make sure that you can dive and do all of the things that you need to do as a goalkeeper without hurting yourself. A lot of people watch a soccer game and see that the goalkeeper doesn’t do much, so they automatically think that the position is the easiest to play on the field. Nothing could be further from the truth. In goalkeeper training you’re going to be hitting the ground a lot!   

Think about it, in professional goalkeeper training you’re going to be hitting the ground north of 100 times a session. College, and even club soccer goalkeeper training is the same thing. When you’re young you’re going to be able to get away with a lot of the punishment that you’re taking. As age kind of creeps in on you any hole in your technique could come back to bite you. What happens is that you’ll get to a point where you’re always nursing some type of injury. That’s just not a good way to live in general. I have an article that you can check out on the topic that I’m going to link to here. To make sure that you learn how to dive without hurting yourself.  

Infectious Confidence

David Ochoa goalkeeper

Have you ever watched a goalkeeper for a couple of games and just wonder how in the world he got there? This may just be your answer for you! Being modest about your abilities with yourself or within yourself is key. That’s going to keep you with that drive to continue to work and get better, which is something that you need in goalkeeping or in anything that you do in life for that matter. Between the sticks though, you have to portray a character a lot of times, and you have to believe in those moments that you are the best player that walked the earth. That confidence needs to be able to bleed out into your coaches and your teammates. 

One of the most important parts about being a goalkeeper, particularly one at a high level, is having a coach that believes in you. For the most part you don’t necessarily have to be better than your competition on the team. All that you have to do is make sure that the coach believes that you’re better than the other option. Does that mean that you have to get arrogant, cocky or whatever that looks like? To be honest to some degree yes. You have to do it within your own personality, but having a strong sense of self belief can go a long way! You need it because ultimately you need to convince a coach to put you on the field that’s the bottom line!   

Literally You Can Be Average At Everything Else 

Kasey Keller coming to cut a cross

Are you average at coming out and cutting crosses? Guess what most goalkeepers in the world are! Are you just ok at ball security if you give up too many second chances opportunities? That’s certainly not ideal, but as I mentioned before there are certainly ways to be able to work around that. Maybe your issue is that you’re not great with the ball at your feet. Well, there are also effective ways to be able to get around that. In life in general we are always working around some of the things that we don’t feel that we do all too well. Does this mean that you’re not going to try and get better? Of course not! That’s actually something that a lot of top goalkeepers need to hear.   

Yes, you can adapt your game to make sure that you’re able to work around some of your weaknesses. That’s literally one of the best things that you can do. If you’re doing that though, it also means that you’ve clearly identified what your weaknesses are. At that point if you’re not working on getting better at them, it just doesn’t make sense. Don’t feel bad if there’s a part of your game that you don’t feel like you’re improving in. Casillas was never great on his feet, or at cutting crosses, and look at the career he had. Victor Valdes wasn’t even an all around good goalkeeper, but he’s got a trophy case full of hardware at home. Goalkeeping is weird like that. 

What Do Goalkeepers Need To Be Good At To Succeed – Conclusion  

I want to make this clear, because after rereading my article I realized I never acknowledged this. The whole point behind writing an article titled “What do goalkeepers need to be good at to succeed”, was to show that there are a ton of different play styles that can succeed. There’s no clear recipe that’s going to allow you to be a great goalkeeper. There are certainly what I would call base ingredients. I’ve highlighted these in the different sections. 

Ultimately though that’s the beauty of goalkeeping each of us can have our own interpretation of what it means to be good. The numbers are going to paint a picture as well at the end of the day. That’s why for example I can acknowledge that it doesn’t really matter if you dive funky just as long as the ball doesn’t go in. Although you’re going to be working on all aspects of your game, or you should be, you’re inevitably going to develop a play style. It’s not a bad idea to ultimately lean into what you do well!