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CoachesNet Insider: Training Fitness and Athleticism at the Goalkeeper Position - Part I

CoachesNet Insider examines training, tactics, game management, and player development with coaches from around the country. CoachesNet is devoted to educating its members on U.S. National Team coaching tactics by breaking down games at the highest level, analyzing training sessions and tactics, and delving into the keys to preparation.

(Part 1 of a 4-part series)

The requirements placed on the goalkeeper are unique, with components of both fitness and athleticism playing varying roles in a keeper’s success. More than any other position the success of the goalkeeper is tied to multiple components of athleticism. The areas of primary concern for goalkeeping are: coordination, agility, speed, and anaerobic endurance, and their constituents of balance, flexibility, core stability and strength. Maximizing the development and performance of the goalkeeper presents a unique challenge for the goalkeeping coach. The goal of this four part series is to increase the goalkeeping coach’s awareness and understanding of how to integrate fitness and athleticism into goalkeeper specific training.

Fitness training for the goalkeeper consists of a three-tiered approach with injury resistance and resilience the primary concern. All coaches want their best goalkeeper to play. Second is the development of athleticism and performance, with development consisting of a long-term approach to increasing movement ability and efficiency in order to maximize performance. Third is increasing the physiological fitness level of the goalkeeper, where the goal is to ensure the goalkeeper’s resistance and resilience to physical and mental fatigue during the course of a match. The integration of movement training into the goalkeeping session may be done via a number of training opportunities with focus being placed on coordination, agility, and speed of movement.

Coordination is grounded in a player’s awareness of the body’s position in space and time, and the ability to perform movement in a purposeful manner. Training the coordination of the goalkeeper consists of general coordination, timing, turning and twisting. All components look to develop the goalkeeper’s ability to move efficiently with focus placed in each area as follows:

General Coordination

  • General coordination is the largest contributor to the technical ability and development of a goalkeeper.
  • Upper and lower body coordination: The goalkeeping coach should look for upper and lower body movement to contribute to the intended action with movement efficiency and control the primary concern. Control of the body’s mid-section, and head should be such that balance and posture is consistently maintained.
  • Developing movement: Movements utilized should be developed in a slow to fast, and simple to complex manner. Movement efficiency should never be forfeited for complexity and speed of action.


  • The keeper’s ability to coordinate movement in relation to the ball, and other players contributes to the keeper’s technical ability, and effective decision-making. This is consistently a well-developed component in elite goalkeepers.
  • Spatial awareness: In developing keepers, the primary goal is to increase spatial awareness by developing the goalkeeper’s perception of the ball, another player’s speed, their own, and increase the keeper’s ability to select an appropriate angle and running speed.

Turning and Twisting

  • Goalkeeping requires the ability to turn and twist quickly, and cover space effectively in response to both the ball and other players. Focus in training coordination of turning and twisting relies on the keeper’s ability to maintain spatial awareness in order to conduct purposeful movement.
  • Coordination of movement: In both actions, movement may be seen as coming from the head downward with the head leading the movement to find the ball and players, followed by the shoulder turning in order to accelerate the trunk and the hips begin to turn.

Part II will be available on Friday, October 3.

(John Cone is a U.S. Soccer National Staff Instructor and current PhD student in Sports Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. John can be reached at

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