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Training Session Index

Basic Breakaway Principles
Sliding Saves


There are some basic principles for handling breakaways that a goalkeeper must have down before they should go sliding into an attacker's feet. With younger keepers, I often will spend a whole session on handling breakaways without sliding at all. If a keeper grasps these principles, they can often make breakaway saves without ever leaving their feet. Goalkeepers should always stay on their feet as long a possible, and only slide when they are 100% sure they will get the ball.

  • Warm Up (10 min)
    Jog and stretch, then do some basic footwork exercises like mirroring or footwork to cones. Finish with some 15-20 yard sprints.
    Coaching Points Footwork and sprinting are very important for good breakaway technique. Keep them light on their toes and quick off the line.

  • Close-down Technique (5 min)
    Introduce and practice proper close-down technique. The keeper needs to come off the line hard, then slow as they approach the attacker, get low with hands wide, and leave about two-arm lengths of cushion between themselves and the attacker. First, have keepers close on a stationary attacker, then have them work against an attacker running at them at various speeds.
    Coaching Points A good approach is the key to handling a breakaway. Make sure keepers do not get too close to the attacker and stay on their toes with their weight forward.

  • 1vK in Lanes (15 min)
    Use cones to mark lanes 6 yards wide and about 25 yards long. Attacker starts at one end with a ball; keeper starts at the other end. The attacker has 15 seconds to try to dribble over the far end line; the keeper must prevent the attacker from reaching the end line by holding them up for 15 seconds or forcing them out of bounds over the side of the lane. The keeper may use their hands and must stay on their feet. If the goalkeeper can get the ball with their hands, they may knock it back a few yards but cannot pick up the ball or knock it out of bounds.
    Coaching Points Use good close-down technique and close quickly; the sooner the keeper closes the attacker the less further the attacker has to go. Quick side-to-side footwork is needed to stay in front of the attacker, specifically using the fast crossover step if the ball carrier starts to get around the corner. The keeper needs to stay in a low crouch with hands near the ground, and must maintain this position.

  • 1vK to Goal, no Sliding(20 min)
    Similar to the previous activity, but now to goal with shots. Use a lane the width of the goal (8 yards).
    Coaching Points Now with the threat of a shot, goalkeepers may "pull out" (stand up out of their crouch and lean back) as the attacker gets close, allowing the attacker to either dribble them or score on a quick shot on the ground. This is often compounded when the keeper gets too close -- make sure they leave that two arm's-length cushion. Many saves, if the keeper has closed to within proper distance of the shooter, will simply require a small movement of the hand or foot to deflect the ball wide. Give credit if the keeper forces the shooter to either miss or kick it right into them.

  • 1v1+K to Goal, no Sliding (20 min)
    Widen the area of play to 20 yards (width of the goal area). Now we make things more match-related by adding a defender. Attacker and defender play 1v1. At coaches signal (if necessary), defender allows the attacker to "beat" them and go in on the keeper. Again, the goalkeeper must stay on their feet and use footwork, positioning and reaction to make the save. A variation for older keepers is to allow the "beaten" defender to chase down the play after a second or so has elapsed.
    Coaching Points We've added two main elements here: the goalkeeper must maintain proper starting position, and must have a quick reaction off the line when the attacker comes free. Once an attacker is in the clear with no defenders, the keeper must immediately be ready to come hard off the line. In the variation, we also add more of the decision-making process: the keeper must decide if the defender will catch up and make the play or not, or even if they should call the defender off.

  • Breakaway Game, no Sliding (20 min)
    Play a small-sided (3v3 or 4v4) game with full-size goals. Divide the field into thirds. All players start in the middle zone, and no player on either team may enter a goal zone until after the ball does. This arrangement encourages through balls and breakaways. If necessary, you can add a restriction that only one or two defenders may enter their defensive zone.
    Coaching Points This game adds decision-making to the technique. When a ball comes through, the goalkeeper must decide whether they should come out immediately and intercept a through ball, come out and challenge the ball carrier, or stay on the line.

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Now we introduce the sliding save. It's a good idea for keepers to have long pants and shirts for this session to prevent scrapes and cuts. The exercises are similar to the fundamental breakaway session, but now we allow the goalkeepers to slide if appropriate.

  • Warm-Up (10 min)
    Jog, footwork, and stretching. Finish with some short sprints.
    Coaching Points Footwork and quick sprints off the lines are again important.

  • Sliding Technique Demo and Practice (5 min)
    Demo the sliding save technique and work on the technique with stationary ball.
    Coaching Points Goalkeepers should stay behind the ball -- step forward towards the ball; don't step to the side to set up the slide. Doing so will leave the goal exposed for a quick low shot. Goalkeepers need to get the hands to the ball first, and then slide through ball, and finish in square in a protected position on their side (it should look just like they have finished a dive). Keepers should end up square to the shooter; either a head-first or legs-first finish position is dangerous.

  • First to the Ball (10 min)
    Use flat cones to set up a "gate" about 6 yards wide. Goalkeeper stands about 10 yards behind gate, with server 10 yards away on the other side. The server rolls a ball towards the gate, and the keeper must get to ball and make a sliding save before the ball passes through gate. Serve balls towards either side.
    Coaching Points Sprint hard, get hands to the ball first, and finish square to the field. If the ball is served to the side, the goalkeeper should slide with their feet towards the center of the gate.

  • 1vK to Goal (15 min)
    Start an attacker with the ball from about 30 yards out, and have them go one on one with the goalkeeper. This is the same exercise as in the previous session, except now the goalkeeper is to look for bad touches and slide in to make the save if they can get the ball. If necessary, you can ask the attackers to "accidentally" make a long touch occasionally. Vary point of attack from the center, left and right sides.
    Coaching Points Keepers should only slide if neccessary! If they can make the save on their feet they are better off. Only go down if absolutely sure of getting the ball.

  • 1vK+1 to Goal (15 min)
    As the previous exercise, but now have a defender start five yards behind the attacker. This adds to the complexity of the goalkeeper's decision-making process.
    Coaching Points It now becomes key for the goalkeeper to delay and stay on their feet, in order to give time for the defender to arrive and help.

  • 2v2 Slide/Smother (15 min)
    This game requires four goalkeepers. Set two tall cones about 20 yards apart. Play 2v2, with the attacking pair playing as field players, using their feet to score by hitting their cone with the ball. The defending team plays as goalkeepers, able to use their hands and trying to delay the attackers as in a breakaway, and sliding to cover balls on the ground if they can. Once the defenders win the ball, they then play as attackers using their feet and the other team defends with their hands.
    Coaching Points In the small area, most saves will be right at the feet of the attacker, which can be a dangerous situation. Make sure when the defenders go to grounds, tha they lead with their hands (not heads!), use the ball and forearms for protection, and bring up their top leg to protect the midsection.

  • Breakaway Game (20 min)
    It's time to put it all together. Play the breakaway game as above, perhaps on a larger field than before.
    Coaching Points Look not only for good technique, but good decisions. Keepers should stay on their feet if possible, and slide when appropriate. Give the keeper credit for forcing missed shots, shots right into the them, shots deflected wide, and delaying tactics that allow defensive help to arrive.

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