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

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 2 of a 4-part series)

Training the physical speed for the goalkeeper consists of developing starting speed, acceleration speed, reaction speed, and running mechanics. In training these movements there are a number of components which the goalkeeping coach must focus:

Starting Speed

  • Starting posture: The goalkeeper’s starting posture is determined via tactical components. The key factor in determining the keeper’s posture is the playing possibilities of the attacking player. If he can shoot the keeper must be in a set position, in such a case if the player elects to play the ball into the space in front of the goalkeeper, the keeper must respond from the set position. If the player cannot shoot and the primary danger is a ball played in behind, the keeper should take up a staggered or “sprinter” position ready to attack a ball played into the space in front.
  • First step direction: Regardless of posture, the direction of the keeper’s first step must be forward and in the direction of the play.
  • Stride length: The keeper’s initial stride length maximizes starting speed and should increase with each stride in a short to long manner.

Acceleration Speed

  • Stride length: The goalkeeper’s stride length should increase over the initial several strides. Stride length is decided to a great extent by the distance which needs to be covered in order to make the save with the keeper looking to maximize acceleration via increasing stride length with each subsequent stride.
  • Running posture: The goal is for the keeper’s posture to allow for maximum acceleration into the save. If the keeper is standing too high, then acceleration is sacrificed, and too low, then the keeper will be unbalanced. Keep in mind, if the keeper is coming to make a play on a through ball as opposed to a ball in the air, there are technical implications of the type of save which will impact running posture.

Deceleration Speed

  • Running posture: The primary mechanism for deceleration is the movement of the body’s center of gravity backwards as the upper body becomes more erect. This presents a challenge for keeper who must quickly gain balance in order to react as needed.
  • Gaining composure: In approaching the targeted end point of deceleration the body’s weight must return forward, with smaller steps being taken as the keeper decelerates. The end goal is a balanced position, with weight distributed evenly over both feet to allow for movement off of either foot.

Reaction Speed

  • Response: The keeper’s reflexive response must take them in the appropriate direction and at the appropriate angle allowing them to make the save efficiently.
  • First step: The keeper’s first step must lead them immediately into the type of save to be made and for the appropriate technique to be selected and used.

Running Mechanics

  • Of all the components of speed, running mechanics is the most general in nature, with the primary focus of training being to increase the keeper’s movement efficiency.
  • Running posture: Head should stay looking forward in neutral and with little movement. Chest up and steady in line with hips with little rotation.
  • Coordination of upper and lower body: Opposite arm and leg movement should be coordinated with movement occurring in a linear manner with little twisting, or movement across the body.
  • Triple extension: The hip, knee, and ankle work in a coordinated fashion in order to maximize power of the push-off phase and thereby speed.

Part III will be available on Monday, October 6.

(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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