BASIC BREAKAWAY PRINCIPLES
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.
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.
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
- 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.
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
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).
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
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.
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.
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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THE SLIDING SAVE
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.
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
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.
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
- 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.
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
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.
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.
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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