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Training Session Index

Reaction Training
Pressure Training
Games and Team Training


Quick reflexes are something good keepers are born with, but any goalkeeper can improve their reactions. Keepers must learn to react to subtle cues: visual, like the drop of a striker's head; auditory, like the strike of a foot on the ball or a teammate's shout; and tactile, like the feel of the ball on a toe or fingertip. There are many small exercises here that can be moved through quickly if you want to. These exercises are not only fun, but develop a keeper's ability to focus, block out distractions, and react quickly to input rather than having to take extra time to think. When a keeper can do this, they are in the zone!

  • Warm Up (10 min)
    Do some running, footwork and stretching. The Two-Ball Circle is a good exercise to warm up with, as it really gets the concentration level of the players up.
    Coaching Points Make sure the keepers zero in on the ball and focus during the warm up.

  • Head/Catch, Right/Left (5 min)
    Now we move into some mental reaction drills, with players working in pairs.
    1) "Head/Catch". Players face each other, just a couple of yards apart, and the server easily tosses the ball head high to the other keeper and says "Head" or "Catch". The receiver must either head the ball back or catch it, respectively. After a minute of this, switch the commands -- if the thrower says "Head" they must catch it, and if they say "Catch" they must head it. If it's easy, shorten the amount of time the keeper has to react to the call of "Head" or "Catch"; if it's too hard, give the keeper more time.
    2) The second exercise is "Right/Left". The server faces the keeper just a yard apart, holding two balls, one in each hand, about shoulder high. The server drops the balls simultaneously and says "Left" or "Right"; the keeper must catch the ball specified (use the keeper's left and right). After a minute or so, catch the opposite of the ball specified. Again, the server can increase or decrease the amount of time the keeper has to react to adjust the difficulty.
    Coaching Points The trick with many of these sorts of exercises is to think, but not too much. Let the words get processed almost subconciously and learn to simply let yourself react.

  • Tactile and Auditory Reaction (15 min)
    1) Now we move to tactile input. Again in pairs, with the working keeper facing away from the server, who stands 3-4 yards away. Without saying anything, the server gently tosses the ball at the goalkeeper, striking them anywhere in the back, rear, arms or legs. The keeper must react, turn, and cover the ball as quickly as possible. The server can move to one side or the other to vary the direction the ball is coming from. With older keepers, the throws can be a bit harder to produce a farther rebound.
    2) For an auditory input exercise, place two balls 6-8 yards apart with the goalkeeper in between them. Coach or partner stands behind the keeper and calls "Right" or "Left". The keeper must quickly save the ball on their right or left. To increase the difficulty, then have the keeper save the opposite ball from the one called out.
    3) Same setup as 2, except now the coach or partner, who is still standing behind the goalkeeper, moves to the right or left side and slaps a ball they are holding in their hand. The keeper must react to the sound and save the ball in the direction the sound came from. Increase the difficulty by having the keeper save the ball opposite the location of the sound.
    Coaching Points The keeper should learn to use the tactile and auditory clues to figure out where the ball is and where it's going. Focus in on the feel of the ball striking the body and use that to predict where the ball will end up: which side of the body, landing nearby or bouncing away and in which direction. Concentrate on the sound of the partner's voice or of the ball being struck. The keeper needs to try to block out all other distractions. When the goalkeeper covers the ball on the ground, make sure they use proper form.

  • Visual Reaction (15 min)
    Here are a few visual reaction exercises you can use.
    1) Server holds a ball in each hand, at shoulder height, a yard in front of the keeper. The server will fake dropping one or both balls, but the keeper must not move until the server actually drops one of the balls, and then must attempt to catch that ball before it hits the ground.
    2) Set two balls about five yards apart, five yards in front of the keeper. A partner stands on the opposite side of the balls, and attempts to fake the keeper as to which ball he will attack. The keeper must not move until the partner actually goes to attack a ball, and then must make a sliding save on that ball, trying to beat his partner to the chosen ball.
    3) Like 2, except the keeper must save the ball his partner does not attack.
    4) Have a keeper in goal, with two balls placed 12-16 yards out, one even with each goalpost, and one shooter for each ball. Shooters agree which one will actually take the shot, then both make as if to strike the ball but only the one actually puts the ball on net. Keeper must make the save. In this exercise, the shots ought to be savable -- we are working on the goalkeeper's ability to process the visual cues to react to the correct ball, not necessarily his ability to make the save.
    Coaching Points The trick with all of these exercises is not to try to outguess the server(s) and go too early. The goalkeeper must simply relax and wait for the action, then just react to it.

  • Numbers Games (20 min)
    Similar to the Head/Catch and Right/Left exercises, these games work on the keeper's ability to concentrate, process and trust their instincts. The first few are variations on the theme of "Odd/Even", then we add some simple math problems to try to occupy the brain while the body is attempting to react to the ball.
    1) Server holds two balls at shoulder height, a yard in front of the keeper. Just before dropping both balls, server calls "Odd" or "Even". If "Odd", keeper must catch the ball on their left before it hits the ground; if "Even", they must catch the right-hand ball.
    2) Next, server says a number between 1 and 9 just before dropping the ball. If the number is even, the keeper must catch the ball on their right; if odd, they catch the ball on their left.
    3) Once they've gotten that down, we make it harder. Just before dropping the balls, the server states a simple addition or subtraction problem using single digits (e.g. "2+3" or "7-4"). If the result is Odd, catch the ball on the left; if Even catch the ball on the right. Leave a bit more time between announcing the problem and dropping the balls.
    4) Have one keeper in goal, with two balls 12-16 yards out, one even with each post, and one shooter for each ball. The shooters each aim for their half of the goal (right or left) and shoot simultaneously. Just before the shots, the coach or one of the shooters calls a number between 1 and 9. If the number is even, the keeper saves the ball on their right; if odd, they save the ball to their left.
    5) Like number 4, except now call out a simple arithmetic problem and save the correct ball based on whether the result is even or odd.
    Coaching Points Many keepers will have some difficulty with these exercises. Try not to let the concious brain distract them from making the reaction. The keeper should hear the number or problem, let it process, and then simply react. Let them repeat these exercises a number of times in succession quickly so they have a chance to get into a kind of rhythm.

  • Dynamic Reaction Exercises (15 min)
    These exercises get the keeper moving and force them to track balls while the positions of the keeper's body and the ball are constantly changing.
    1) Throw-Down-Up-Catch. Keeper stands with a ball in their hands. They throw the ball straight up, lie down on the ground on their back and put their arms straight out, then quickly get up and attempt to catch the ball before the second bounce. For more difficulty, the keeper must lie down on their stomach and put their arms out before getting back up.
    2) Throw-Tumble-Catch. From a standing position, keeper throws the ball straight up, does a somersault, then gets to their feet and catches the ball before the second bounce. A variation is to do a backwards somersault, cartwheel, or other tumbling maneuver before the catch.
    3) Throw-Catch-Throw-Catch. This exercise requires a keeper and a partner, each with a ball. To start, keeper stands a couple of yards from their partner, facing away from them. The sequence looks like this: 1. Keeper throws ball straight up; 2. Keeper turns 180 degrees to face partner; 3. Partner tosses ball to keepers hands; keeper makes clean catch and throws it back; 4. Keeper turns 180 degress to starting position; 5. Keeper finds original ball and catches it before it hits the ground. This one is lots of fun, but younger keepers may find it difficult because they have trouble getting their original throw consistent.
    Coaching Points The key to all of these exercises is to worry about only one thing at a time. Make a good original throw; if the first throw is off the keeper will never complete the sequence. Then once the throw is made, forget about it and focus on the next step; if the keeper tries to track the original throw while turning or tumbling, they will likely not be very successful. The sequence for exercise 3 is laid out in five very specific steps, and for the best chance of success those steps must be done in that order and separated. Another vital piece, especially for the first two exercises, is to make sure the goalkeeper gets completely to their feet and balanced before trying to track down the ball. Do not let them lunge after it from their knees! This kind of training for focusing on one piece is vital for a keeper -- think about the situation where a ball slips throught the keeper's hands because they were already thinking about the upcoming distribution, or because they were distracted by the actions of a defender, or they were still trying to regain their feet when the second shot came. Although simple-seeming, these exercises mimic things that can trip up a goalkeeper in a real match.

  • Shots on Goal with Arithmetic (10 min)
    Finish with shots on goal from 14-16 yards out -- with a twist. Just before each shot is taken, give the keeper a simple arithmetic problem to solve. They have to save the shot and come up with the correct answer as quickly as possible. If you have never heard a 15-year-old come up with the wrong answer to "What is 2+2?", you just might while doing this exercise!
    Coaching Points The keeper needs to focus and trust their body reactions, and try to separate out the part of their mind doing the arithmetic problem.

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