Learning and Teaching the Basics  


The Goalkeeper: Part 2

   Monte Nitzkowski


Training for the Goalkeeper differs from that of the field player. Goalkeepers are specialists and should be handled as such. Where possible, an assistant coach should be responsible for the Goalkeeper. As their training needs to vary from those of field players, having someone in charge will greatly enhance their development. A minimum of thirty minutes a day of quality time should be devoted to their special training needs. Believe me, quality time will be extremely beneficial to their development. Unfortunately, too many programs throw the Goalkeeper in with everyone else, and then allow them to fend for themselves when the training plan does not specifically relate to an activity which involves the Goalkeeper. If your program does not have someone who can assist with the Goalkeepers, try to bring them in a half hour before regular practice so they can get some "special" time.

Goalkeepers need to be in shape to go four strong quarters; therefore, there is nothing wrong with having them spend some time with field players during the general conditioning period. However, the goal position does not call for them to swim more than four to eight meters at any one time. When they do swim in a game, it needs to be explosive, so when spending quality time with an assistant coach, goalies should do a lot of head-up, sprint-type work. They should spend a lot of time practicing quick starts, going from the vertical to the horizontal and back to the vertical. They need a lot of sprinting and side-to-side type of work.

Obviously, leg support is paramount to success in the goal. A variety of eggbeater drills should be introduced and practiced daily. Light weights can be used, but coaches need be careful when using weights with young players who are still in their growth pattern.

Also, it's important to remember that Goalkeepers need to rest some before regular season games and to taper and rest going into the championship part of the season. When every game counts, to be quick and mentally focused, you don't want an over-trained, fatigued Goalkeeper.

Before getting into the water, all goalies should go through dryland stretching exercises, concentrating on shoulder flexibility and stretching the knee and groin areas.

A good weight training program starting with high school age athletes also can be beneficial to the Goalkeeper. A strength coach should be consulted before putting goalies on any weight program. This will help guarantee that they are working on exercises which will be beneficial to them based on their individual strength and maturity levels.

GOALIE DRILLS: Swimming and Kicking Drills

When goalies are swimming on their own (away from general conditioning with field players), they should follow dry-land stretching with in-water, swim stretching for proper loosening. Easy front and back crawl swimming, flutter and breaststroke kicking should be included. Also, while warming up, goalies should go easy walking sets (eggbeater) both forward and laterally. When properly warmed up, following are some of the swimming and kick drills which can be employed:


Bursts of Four—Four hard head-up strokes, stop, start again until reaching opposite side of pool.

Burst of Two—Same as Bursts of Four only going two quick strokes before stopping and starting again.

Two on Stomach and Two on Back—In bursts of four strokes, go two strokes on stomach and two on back before stopping, rolling over to stomach and jump-kick starting the next two and two.

Four Strokes Out and Four Strokes Back—From front of the goal, sprint four strokes out on stomach with head up and four strokes back on the back. Do in sets of five, constantly shifting angle of sprint.

Example: While simulating the face of a clock, first sprint should be to the ten o'clock position, second to the eleven o'clock, following across until the final sprint is toward the two o'clock position.


Sprint flutter kicking both front and back crawl kicks.

Sprint breaststroke kicking.

Eggbeater sprint in semi-vertical with kick board.

Snowplow position with kickboard for more resistance. (Illustration #140.)

Illustration 140 - Eggbeater kick with
kick board in snow plow position.

Forward eggbeater kicking in vertical position. Light weights can be added with older players.

Forward eggbeater while varying arm positioning to mimic different blocking positions.

A great deal of swim and kick conditioning for Goalkeepers should feature quick and explosive repetitions.

Therefore, proper warmups are important before starting specialty training. Field players are working constantly whether on defense, countering, playing front court offense, etc. Goalkeepers go from rest cycles (when teammates have ball and are attacking in the front court) to high moments of energy output when opponents attack in the counterattack, front court and player advantage offenses. As such, goalies need to be in the type of shape where they can expend maximum energy in bursts of twenty to forty- five seconds, during the entire four quarters of play.


While breaststroking length of the pool, on whistle from coach, goalkeeper lunges left (as if blocking the ball with two hands), lunges right and lunges straight up before continuing breaststroking down the pool. Repeat each time coach blows whistle.

While walking vertically with eggbeater kick, move laterally to left on whistle, straight forward again on whistle, to the right on next whistle, then forward again. Continue to repeat until reaching far end of pool.

Eggbeater in stationary position: On first whistle, come up higher (kick harder) for five seconds, then full height on next whistle for as long as possible. Sink back to original treading position and repeat when ready. Complete five to a set.


Goalie technique drills are done in the goal with close surveillance by the coach.

LATERAL WALK ACROSS FACE OF GOAL: Start goalkeeper on post of goal. On whistle, Goalkeeper eggbeaters into up position and "walks" laterally across face of goal with arms extended overhead and hands "fingering" top bar of goal. Stop when player reaches opposite post. Rest, then repeat in opposite direction. (Illustration #141.)

Illustration 141 - Lateral 'walk across face
of goal, fingers touching cross bar.  

Illustration 142 - Ball roll drill across face
of the goal.

LATERAL WALK ACROSS FACE OF GOAL, BALL ROLL: Same as above only roll ball along upper bar while walking with arms fully extended. (Illustration #142.)

SIDE TO SIDES, HIGH CORNERS: Start by facing the goal, center cage. On whistle (whistle not necessary), lunge to left high corner, settle back into water, slide back to center position and explode to right high corner. Keep hands light on the water, lunging with legs. Throw head and arms in direction of lunge,
trying to cut off the high corner. Keep legs working while positioning, lunging and repositioning. Run drill in sets of ten or fifteen. (Illustrations #143, 144, 145.)

Illustration 143 - Positioning to start side to side,
high corner goalie drill.

Illustration 144 - Lunging left, high corner.

Illustration 145 - Lunging right, high corner.

SIDE TO SIDES, LOW CORNERS:  Same as above but lunge and reach to block low corners. Remember head, arms and hands must all be a part of the lunging motion. Move entire body toward the block, not just the arms and hands. (Illustration #146.)

Illustration 146 - Lunging right,
low corner.

SIDE TO SIDES, FACING OUT: Same as above but Goalkeeper faces out rather than in toward the goal.

PARTNER SHOOTING AT GOALKEEPER:  Have shooter and Goalkeeper both center cage. Shooter should be four to five meters out from face of goal. Start by shooting ball at one-quarter speed in range where Goalkeeper can make two-hand, pull-down saves. Gradually move ball outside goalie's body, working both left and right sides at one-quarter speed. Slowly extend lateral shooting range until Goalkeeper is forced to extend to the corners. Repeat after rest and increase speed of shot.

DEFENDING THE LOB, NO BALL: Move Goalkeeper to one post and then have him/her practice going from vertical to horizontal, layout position while sculling with inside arm and hand (arm nearest center cage) and reaching across with outside arm in full stretching position while lunging with legs. Finish by reaching and playing like you are reaching and swimming ball out of trouble. Repeat drill from opposite post, crossing back to original position.

DEFENDING THE LOB: When Goalkeepers have mastered positioning and body movement for defending the lob, add ball with teammate making lob pass to opposite corner of goal. (Illustration #147.)

Illustration 147 - Defending lob with
partner lobbing ball.

NOTE: To aid young Goalkeepers with their blocking techniques, make sure they get a chance to block the ball during shooting drills. Too many young Goalkeepers are "thrown to the wolves." Shooters move in and "blaze away" with their best stuff and the young Goalkeeper never gets a save; players shoot before Goalkeepers can regain blocking position. Just as bad is the macho shooter who moves in too close, then throws the ball (notice I didn't say "shoot") as hard as possible and strikes the Goalkeeper in the face. There is no excuse for this type of action and young Goalkeepers quickly can become disenchanted with this position. Just as with field players, young Goalkeepers need to experience early success. Success in the goal is: Making some blocks! Therefore, when doing regular team shooting drills, occasionally instruct the shooters to take some shots which can be blocked. (I don't tell the Goalkeeper this is what is being done, so that he/she will feel successful. Blocking some shots does just that.) From time to time, goalies need psychological, positive reinforcement. They must learn to play with confidence and not be overwhelmed by negatives. There always will be some negatives in a Goalkeeper's career. It's the nature of the position. Opponents will score goals, and every goal is a negative to the Goalkeeper. Goalies must learn to deal with negatives and constantly strive to become stronger persons. As such, they must be trained both physically and psychologically. This training must start from the first day of practice. Having a chance to block shots is a great confidence builder and needs to be built into the goalies training regimen.

BLOCK AND CHASE: In this drill, the goalie starts
center cage. Place a shooter at six meters, center cage. Shoot the ball to a position where the goalie can make the save and control the ball. Goalie then throws ball back to shooter who, in turn, throws the ball onto the water to the left or right of the Goalkeeper. Ball should be placed from one to two meters out from face of goal and approximately one to two meters wide of the goalpost. The Goalkeeper reacts to the ball, sprinting to and controlling it, followed by returning to the goal with ball in hand. He/she then passes ball back to shooter who immediately takes another shot, positioned so Goalkeeper can make the save. Ball is returned to shooter who again throws a placement pass for the goalie to chase. Repeat this Block and Chase Drill five to eight times. (Illustrations #148, 149.)

Illustration 148 - Block and chase drillwith
partner shooting ball and goalie making block.

Illustration 149 - Block and chase drill with
goalie chasing ball.

NOTE: Young Goalkeepers must learn to be aggressive and to defend the goal both by blocking and by stealing the ball. They must be able to come quickly out of the goal and pick off the over pass or rebound. To do this, they must be trained to react to the ball when it's floating out in front of the cage. They must learn to judge distance and know which balls are reachable and those that are not.