uhlsport USA
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Training Session Index

Collapsed Dives
Extension and Aerial Dives
Advanced Dives


The collapsed dive is the foundation for all diving, and proper technique is critical for the goalkeeper to dive both effectively and safely. Goalkeepers should have this technique down solidly before moving on to extension and aerial diving; with U11 and younger players I often skip extension dive training entirely, depending on the players' ability level.

  • Warm Up (10 min)
    After jog & stretch, get the feet going with footwork mirroring; coach or leader doing shuffles and crossovers back and forth with the keepers facing them and mirroring the footwork of the leader.
    Coaching Points Make sure the keepers are comfortable with the basic footwork steps, and that they stay on their toes with weight forward.

  • Down and Up (5 min)
    Now we add going to ground and recovering to the footwork mirroring. As players shuffle back and forth, leader will call "Forward", "Back", "Right" or Left". At each call, the players will quickly go down to the indicated position (forward on stomach, on their back, or on their right or left side) and recover to a standing position as quickly as possible. Increase the speed of the calls as you progress.
    Coaching Points Encourage keepers to not use their hands to recover, if possible (this is most difficult when on the stomach). Hands need to be kept free to make the save. Recovery must be almost immediate; the sooner the keeper is back on their feet the better off they will be.

  • Collapsed Dive Demo, Collapsed Down and Up (10 min)
    Introduce or review the basic steps of a collapsed dive: step towards the ball at an angle, hands to the ball and make the catch, ball to the ground, finish on hip and shoulder with the ball/arms and top leg protecting. Then do Down and Up as above, but the calls will only be "Right" or "Left". When the call is made, keepers go to the ready position, then perform a collapsed dive with an imaginary ball to that side. After a few minutes, if the technique is sound, have the keepers hold a ball and do a few more minutes getting used to taking the ball to ground and using it to cushion the fall.
    Coaching Points Make sure the keepers do not forget to step forward in the direction they are diving. In fact, the goalkeepers should be steadily moving forward during this exercise, and the leader backing up, as each dive should take the goalkeepers few feet forward. When the ball is introduced, make sure they finish the dive with the ball in front of them, one hand on top and one hand behind, and that they don't lift the ball off the ground after the save is made.

  • Sit/Kneel/Squat/Stand (15 min)
    Keepers in pairs, one is the server. Other keeper is sitting about 5 yards away, legs out in front of them with knees slightly bent. Server rolls a ball to the side of the keeper; keeper has to go over onto their side with proper diving position to make the save, then give the ball back to the server who serves it to the opposite side. Each keeper takes 3-4 serves to each side, then switch places. Then the keeper moves to a kneeling position. Again, server rolls 3-4 balls to each side and keeper goes over to make the saves. Next, keeper goes to a squatting position. This time, add a small "step" (here just a small movement of the foot) towards the ball before going over to field the rolling ball. Finally, make 3-4 saves to each side from a standing (low, knees bent) position. Then, do the whole sit/kneel/squat/stand progression again, this time with the server softly tossing the ball in the air at about keeper's shoulder height for sitting/kneeling/squatting and about waist height for standing.
    Coaching Points All this really should take only 10 minutes unless you are working with young or inexperienced keepers who need lots of correction. A series of 3-4 serves on each side to one keeper should only take 20-25 seconds if they are working hard. Make sure the keepers go forward to the ball, even when sitting and kneeling. When squatting and standing, make sure they step towards the ball. This is a key -- don't let them get away with no step! And it should be a step, not a fall onto one knee. Make sure they finish in good position, on their side square to the ball, ball (and arms) out in front and top leg up for protection. Make sure they reach out to the ball, so the elbows stay out and don't get caught under the body when they land. Finally, make sure they finish with their body square to and behind the ball, not on top of or rolling over it.

    You can extend this portion of the session if you need to correct basic technique -- don't move on until you are sure they have it down. If they don't, not only will they not get anything out of the rest of the session, but they run the risk of injuring themselves.

  • Two-Sided Saves and/or Triangle Goal Game (20 min)
    You can use the Two-Sided Saves game or the Triangle Goal game to work on the basic diving technique, with servers tossing balls between waist and shoulder height. Adjust the size of the "goals" based on player's ability. As they progress, the servers should throw the balls with a bit more pace and closer to the cones. For more advanced players, have servers stand farther back and either strike the ball from the ground (if they're accurate enough) or volley it out of their hands.
    Coaching Points Make sure the basic technique remains sound: step towards the ball, forward at an angle, make the catch first, ball to ground, soft and square landing. Now that we have a "goal" as a reference, keepers should be going forward with the dive, out in front and away from the goal. Correct them if they end up going "backwards" with their head towards the goal. Younger keepers will sometimes flop and roll with the ball after the save; encourage them to remain on their side and behind the ball, not exposing their back to the field and the attackers.

  • Mini Keeper Wars (20 min)
    You can use cone goals for this game, but corner flags work better. Set cones or flags about 6 yards -- collapsed diving range -- apart; set another goal facing it, 12-14 yards away (adjust goal size and separation for keeper age and ability). A keeper is in each goal. One keeper starts on their goal line with the ball and attempts to throw it past the other keeper (throws over shoulder height do not count). The keeper must make a collapsed dive to save if necessary. If the keeper makes the save, or the thrower misses, the keeper gets the ball and tries to score on the other goal. You can either play most goals in a set period of time, or first player to a set number of goals wins.
    Coaching Points Make sure the game set-up encourages collapsed diving with proper goal size and good serves.

  • Shots on Goal (10 min)
    Although the keepers will probably want to play mini keeper wars for the rest of the practice, I feel they should finish with shots on a full-sized goal. You should have servers, if possible, who can place the ball accurately within collapsed diving range for a keeper.
    Coaching Points You will find that younger or less experienced keepers will often have their technique go right out the window when they get in a real goal. Encourage them to make the effort of the dive, not just turn and bat at the ball. Diving is the only way, on hard shots to the side of the keeper, to get the body down and behind the ball. Also, at this point, encourage good decision making -- if a keeper doesn't have to dive to get a ball, they shouldn't. Make the easiest save possible.

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Extension and aerial diving can be hard on a goalkeeper. As much as we try to cushion the impact of landing, it's still going to hurt a bit. Make sure your keepers wear long sleeves and pants if they have them to save on the scrapes, even if it's hot out. If you have access to large crash mats, or a sand pit, use them! You can train much harder if you don't have to worry about beating your goalkeepers to a pulp. Mats or a sand pit are also useful if you want to introduce extension diving to younger players. Otherwise, find the softest patch of grass you can, and don't push too hard. However, a few bumps and bruises will be part and parcel of this kind of training.

  • Warm-Up (15 min)
    Jog and stretch, warm up the hands with some easy catch, then review collapsed diving technique with the sit/kneel/squat/stand progression from above (balls served in the air).
    Coaching Points Keepers need to be well warmed up for the explosive activity that will follow. Basic collapsed diving technique needs to be sound.

  • The Power Step (10 min)
    Set up a row of 6-8 cones (preferrably ones with some height) with 1 to 3 yards between them (smaller spacing for younger, smaller keepers). Keepers stand a few feet from the first cone, facing perpendicular to the row, take a small step towards the cone, then push hard with the near leg, drive the opposite knee up and get as much height over the cone as possible. Repeat down the row of cones a few times, then start at the other end and go the opposite direction. Next, set up a zig-zag row of 8-10 cones: a cone, another a yard or two away and a few feet forward, another in line with the first cone and another few feet forward, etc. Keepers start to the side and slightly behind the first cone, shuffle and power step over the first cone and try to get enough distance to clear the second cone. Then they back up, and power step over the second cone trying to clear the third cone (now going to the opposite side), etc. Go through the cones several times. The distance between cones should challenge the keepers. Use taller cones, balls or other obstacles to make it more difficult if you want.
    Coaching Points Goalkeepers must have a good step and explosive drive if they want to get height and distance. The step should be low, with the knee bent to provide the power. The opposite knee should drive up to provide height. The shoulders and hips should stay "square to the field" -- that is, face forward, perpendicular to the direction of the jump. Don't let them turn forward and face the direction they are jumping.

  • Extension Diving: Rolling and Low Balls (15 min)
    Work in pairs, one server and one keeper. Have the keeper mark their range with three cones: one as a starting point, then step low to the right and push out as if diving far for a low ball. Mark that with the second cone, then mark the same way to the left with the third cone. (The left and right cones, naturally, should be forward from the starting cone.) Keeper stands at the starting cone, and saves balls rolled by the server just inside the right/left cones, then gradually increase the distance to just beyond the cones. Start in a squatting position to emphasize staying low for low balls, then move to a more natural standing position. Once the keeper has taken repetitions with balls on the ground, move to balls served in the air but low (knee to waist high). The server should start these a little closer to the keeper, then work out towards the left/right cones.
    Coaching Points Starting with low balls lessens the impact of the dive and keeps things from getting too intense early in the training session. On the step, the keeper should get low with the knee bent to put themselves at the level of the ball right away. Make sure all the basics are there: the initial forward step, the push with the near leg, hands to the ball. Now that the keepers are extending, their weight needs to be transferred over the near leg. Often, a keeper will step forward, but then fall backwards (and not get much extension) because their body weight is still behind the stepping foot. This happens particularly when the keeper is diving to their weaker side.

  • Ground-to-Air Missle (15 min)
    This exercise works on generating height for aerial dives. Again, have a keeper/server pair. The keeper kneels, with one knee on the ground and one knee up. The "up" knee is the side the keeper is diving to (the "near" leg). Server holds the ball in the palm of one hand, about head height, a few yards away from the keeper and a bit in front of them. The keeper pushes hard with the near leg and drives to the ball, catches it off the server's hand, and then lands properly. Repeat to the right and left side. As the exercise progresses, challenge the keepers by holding it higher and farther away. When they have this down, server then serves a soft toss in place of the stationary ball, then move to harder served balls.
    Coaching Points Don't let the keepers worry too much about the landing. Focus needs to be on driving to the ball and catching it cleanly. If possible, the keepers should dive through the ball. Only then should they think about landing -- ball down first, use it to cushion, and come down on hip and shoulder. Goalkeepers need to get their body up to the level of the ball, if possible. Timid goalkeepers will attempt to "catch" themselves with the near foot -- that is, the body will not get up in the air, and the near foot will be the first thing to hit the ground. Tell them to focus on getting airborne and making the catch; the landing will take care of itself. Crash mats, if you can get them, are invaluable for helping reluctant keepers get their technique right.

  • Aerial Diving Over Obstacles (20 min)
    This is the drill that old goalkeepers remember fondly: diving over cushions, bags, trash cans, or even other people. Obstacles should be about a yard long and 1-2 feet high (depending on the skill of the players); soft and non-pointy obstacles are preferred for obvious reasons. I like to use 5-foot long sticks (3/4-inch PVC or coaching sticks), with a third person holding it at the desired height. (In the old days, we used to use another player, on hands and knees with their head down. Visions of lawsuits have made me abandon that practice.) Keepers start a little bit away from the obstacle, then shuffle and power step forward and dive over the obstacle, trying not to touch it, and make the save. As with Ground-to-Air Missle, above, start with servers holding the ball in their palm, then move to soft tosses, then harder serves and balls further away. Work both left and right sides.
    Coaching Points The point of the obstacle is to force the keeper to get height and distance to clear it; this won't happen unless the technique is all there. The initial shuffle should get the keeper into position to take their first step right next to the obstacle, get low, push hard with the near leg and drive the opposite knee up and over to get to the ball. If the keeper doesn't get their near leg up or tries to "catch" themselves with it to break the fall, it will be obvious because they will hit the obstacle. Again, encourage keepers not to think to much, but drive up and to the ball and just let the landing happen. Get the body up to the level of the ball and the feet will come along for the ride.

  • Shots on Goal (15 min)
    Finish with shots on goal, either taken by coaches or players, or in a game-like situation.
    Coaching Points Here, encourage good decision making as well as correcting technique. A goalkeeper should always make the easiest save possible, so they shouldn't dive unless they have to. The only thing worse than a keeper who doesn't dive when they should is a keeper who dives when they shouldn't!

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Teaching the forward smother and the rotation ("windmill") dive probably won't take a full 90 minutes. I will often teach one or the other at the end of another session on diving, or work on one of them at the start of a game-situation or full team practice. Here are the progressions for teaching these two advanced dives. Long sleeves are a must for practicing these dives!

The Front Smother

  • Front Smother - Basic Technique (5 min)
    We use a kneeling/squatting/standing progression similar to other dives. Keepers start on their knees, with arms in front of them as if protecting an imaginary ball. Keepers then fall forward, using their forearms to cushion the fall. Do this several times. Then have the keepers actually holding a ball in the protected position, and fall forward again using forearms to cushion, and smothering the ball securely. Now have keepers squat, holding ball, take a step forward and go to the ground on their forearms. Gradually have keepers go to a more upright position, and start to move forward as if intercepting a ball. Finally, have keepers receive balls softly served to them at ankle height and smother them.
    Coaching Points The goalkeeper's body should be directly on top of the ball, with the forearms parallel, hands over the top, and the ball trapped firmly against the chest below the collarbone (not under the belly!). Keepers should not roll over on their side. This is not a "collapsed" dive; keepers should attack (or pretend to attack) the ball aggressively and use their momentum to carry them forward and over the ball as they go to the ground.

  • Front Smother - Facing Line Serves (5 min)
    Have keepers in two lines, facing each other about 10-15 yards apart. One line has balls and will serve, the other line receives. Servers throw balls low and hard, so they are going to land right at the feet of the keeper. Keeper charges, gets low, and performs a front smother of the ball (preferably before it hits the ground), then gets up and takes the ball to the server line. Server goes to the goalkeeper line.
    Coaching Points This gets the keepers moving towards the ball. Don't let them wait for the bounce, unless the ball is way too far in front. Even then, they should attack and get the ball on the short hop.

  • Front Smother - Shots on Goal (10 min)
    Move to live fire, with shots being aimed to bounce just in front of the keeper or low - ankle high - and hard. These types of shots require the front smother.
    Coaching Points Attack the ball, make sure the keepers catch it with their hands, and get over the ball so it's completely smothered and there's no chance for the ball to come loose.

The Rotation Dive

  • Rotation Dive - Basic Technique (10 min)
    Start from a slightly crouching but standing position. Roll balls on the ground about two feet from the keeper's foot. Keepers drop their shoulder closest to the ball, get their near hand as low as possible, and just drop on the ball, getting the far hand on it as quickly as they can. The next step is to have the keeper reach low for the ball, and just kick the near leg out away from the ball, and get the upper body down behind the ball as quickly as possible. Finally, as the near leg kicks out, the far leg then comes up and the knee drives across to complete the rotation, and the keeper lands on their hip and side. Repeat to the right and left sides.
    Coaching Points The trick for this dive is not to think about the feet too much, but to think about getting the hands and upper body down to the ground as quickly as possible and let the feet come along for the ride. The keeper should start low to help this. Serve balls with good pace to make the keepers react quickly. This dive really can't be done in slow motion.

  • Rotation Dive - Shots on goal (10 min)
    This doesn't actually require a full frame, since this dive is intended for shots close to the goalkeeper's feet. Server should be fairly close, 8-10 yards away, and hit hard, ground-hugging shots (probably using push passing technique for accuracy) a yard to either side of the keeper.
    Coaching Points This is as much a reaction type of dive as a technique dive, so encourage keepers to react quickly and not over-think on these dives.

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© 2004 Jeff Benjamin, all rights reserved