Goalkeeper’s most challenging moves are when they need to pick up a rolling ground ball. If the ball is missed or the goalkeeper has their legs spread open when trying to pick up the ball, the opposing team can easily kick it on through to score. With this in mind, it makes sense to spend a good deal of time working on the best ways to pickup ground balls.
To ensure a clean catch the goalkeepers should get used to putting their hands all the way down. Their fingers should be spread wide open and the tips of their fingers should be brushing the ground. The small fingers should meet at the back of the ball while the thumbs wrap around to the sides.
As you are practicing the hand positions, you can simultaneously practice the knee bent pickup. This is where the goalkeepers keep their feet staggered slightly, one foot should be beside the ball, and one foot should be directly behind the ball. This will keep an opposing teammate from kicking it between their feet. As they position their feet, they can bend their knees and put their hands in position.
The next skill to practice for picking up rolling ground balls is the moving pickup. This is like the knee bent pickup, but is effective when the goalkeepers are on the move towards the ball. With this, the goalkeepers should come in low, scoop their hands behind the ball and keep moving.
With every one of the knee bent or moving pickups, the follow through needs to be protective positioning. The best position for this is with the ball in hand, move forearms vertically and curl hands over the top of the ball. This will assure that an opposing teammate can’t easily knock it out as they could if the goalkeepers kept their forearms in a horizontal position. But this protective positioning move should only be done after goalkeepers are sure they have a firm grasp on the ball.
The obvious position of a goalkeeper is to keep the ball from getting past them. Unfortunately with many teams not enough time is spent on teaching the goalkeeper that once they get touch with the ball their position turns into an offensive position. They turn into an offensive player because when they have control of the ball, their goal needs to switch from saving the goal to assisting teammates with getting the ball into the other goal. For this position, strategy goes beyond how to throw, punt, or dropkick and should be focused on where to distribute the throw, punt or dropkick.
The best tips when working on distribution skills is to clear the goal in a way that will help teammates score. The first thing to practice is if the ball comes in from one side, the goalkeeper should distribute it to the other side. The chances are higher that an opposing player is not going to be ready on the other side to return the ball towards the goal as they would be from the same side it came in on.
Another valuable skill to work on is making sure teammates get possession of the ball. The best way to assure this is to have the goalkeeper throw the ball to the outside areas of the final third, but only if the players are open. Goalkeepers can also help teammates get possession if they sling the ball to players that are further away, yet open. Or, they can roll the ball underhand to players who are close by and still open.
Practicing a variety of distribution skills will help goalkeepers be able to think quickly on their feet during a game. For this type of practice have your goalkeeper take the action they think would be best in keeping with the goal of assisting the offense during scrimmages. As your goalkeeper gets used to switching from defense to offense at first touch, his or her game will improve dramatically.
When working on catching skills with goalkeepers the most important skill to perfect is getting the hands to the ball first. Every other technique in goalkeeping should come secondary to that because the hands are the goalkeeper’s advantage. Kicking may sometimes be necessary, but catching should be primary. Before you get into too much focus on getting the hands on the ball though, working on proper catching techniques can help get good habits started right away.
The proper catching stance to have is “soft hands”. With soft hands, a goalkeeper must use their arms, back and legs to cushion the ball which will help absorb the energy and allow them to get a better grip on it. Elbows should stay unlocked even when reaching for the ball. Using easy throws for these techniques are helpful. When they are mastered you can move on to absorbing the energy of harder throws.
When working with fast incoming balls, many goalkeepers makes two mistakes, one mistake is to not give enough play with their hands when catching the ball. You will be able to tell if that is happening if you hear a loud slapping sound at first touch. If this happens, working on softening the hands more is needed. The next mistake is taking steps back to absorb the balls energy. A goalkeeper should always move forward, never backward into the goal. If this is a mistake your goalkeeper is making, work with them on bending backwards slightly and bending their knees during the time of impact instead of taking steps backward.
When the goalkeepers catching skills become more consistent they should then begin to practice securing the ball into their body as soon as they have control with their hands. Soft hands, unlocked elbows, not stepping backward and securing the ball will be skills that will make a noticeable improvement to any goalkeeper’s game. They can then distribute the ball by throwing, rolling or dropkicking it.