The goalkeeper is the last line of defense in soccer. It is a unique and important position. Sometimes this position is called the goalie, keeper, or goaltender.
The goalkeeper is the one position in soccer that has special rules. The rest of the players are really the same regarding the rules. The biggest difference with the goalie is that they can touch the ball with their hands while in the penalty area of the field. For more on the rules see goalkeeper rules.
Many people may think that the goalkeeper doesn't need to be athletic, but this is not true. Often the goalie is the best athlete on the team.
Unlike many of the other players, the goalkeeper doesn't need superior ball handling, shooting, or dribbling skills. The goalie needs to be very quick, athletic, and have great hands. Goalies also need to be smart, brave, and tough.
Catching the Ball
Goalies need to have sure hands. They need to practice catching all types of balls, even easy rollers. Even the slightest mistake or a funny bounce of the ball can cost you a goal and maybe the game.
The Rolling Ball
Picking up a rolling ball sounds easy, but the ball can bounce funny or have a spin on it that can make it harder to grab than it looks. To pick up a rolling ball make sure your body is always between the ball and the goal, go down to one knee, lean forward, and scoop the ball to your chest with both hands.
A Ball in the Air
A ball in the air can be tricky, too. Balls can curve, dive, or just move funny depending on their spin, or lack of spin, and speed. To catch a ball in the air you need to make sure your body is always between the goal and the ball, keep the palms of your hands forward and close together, and bend your elbows.
Blocking the Ball
If you can't get to the ball to catch it, then you need to deflect it from the goal. The most important thing to do is to make sure that the ball does not get in the goal. However, you don't want to deflect it directly to an opponent, either. It's good to practice deflections so you can learn to hit or punch the ball away from the goal.
Sometimes you need to dive on the ground using your entire body to try and deflect a shot rolling on the ground. Other times you need to jump and stretch to deflect a high shot. Remember you can stretch a bit higher by reaching with one hand and jumping off one leg.
An important part of being a good goalkeeper is proper positioning. The most important thing to do is always stay between the ball and the center of the goal. The goalie should stand a bit out from the goal line, never on the goal line or in the goal. Proper positioning can cut down the angle that a shot has to the goal.
The goalie should always be prepared to make a quick move to the ball. It's important that the goalie's stance is balanced and ready. A proper stance is slightly crouched, feet apart, and weight slightly forward.
Passing the Ball
Once the goalkeeper gets control of the ball, they need to pass it to their teammates. They can either throw the ball or punt it. Generally punting the ball will go further, but there is less control.
The goalie punting the ball
A goalie needs to communicate with the other defenders. Since the goalie has the best view of the field, he can call out unmarked players or warn defenders of another player approaching. The goalie is the director and in charge of the defense on the field.
A Short Memory
Goaltenders need to be mentally tough. If a goal is scored on them, they must try to forget about it and keep playing their best. Just like a pitcher who gets hit for a home run or a quarterback who throws an interception, the goalie must have a short memory, be a leader, and always play with confidence.
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