How to Teach Goalkeeper Positioning
Good positioning is arguably one of the most important skills for a goalkeeper to learn.
Here’s a very easy way to teach basic angles and positioning to goalkeepers of all ages. And, if you’re a visual learner, like me, this method is perfect!
What you need
- A soccer goal (age appropriate)
- A long 100 foot braided nylon rope, which you can buy from the hardware store or Amazon. Brightly colored rope is best so it’s easy to see.
- 5–7 soccer disc cones
Using the rope, make a triangle between both posts and the middle of the top of the penalty area.
Tie one end of the rope to the bottom of one post, and then let out the majority of the rope, walking to the top of the penalty area (apex of the triangle), and then back to the opposite post—tying it off.
Have your goalkeeper stand in the goal, while you move to the apex of the triangle at the top of the box with a soccer ball. Pull the rope tightly, so it forms a triangle.
Place the soccer ball on the ground right inside the apex of the rope. Stand directly behind the ball as if you were the shooter.
Ask your goalie to stand where he or she thinks is the best place to make a save if you were to shoot from where you are standing (at the apex).
The rope allows him or her to visualize the path of the ball (i.e. the angles).
When your goalie is happy with their own stance, go place a cone right where they’re standing (between their feet). Resist the urge to correct them.
Then swap spots with them (or use another goalie their size). Have your goalkeeper go to the ball and see what it looks like for the shooter.
- How big is the goal?
- How much space did you cover with where you were standing?
- Are there any large areas the goalkeeper isn’t covering?
- Would you make any adjustments? Where should I move to make the goal feel smaller for the shooter?
Typically when the ball is down the middle at the top of the box, the “right spot” will be along the center line of the ball to the goal, and just below the top of the goal box. However, this exact spot may differ slightly based on goalkeeper’s height, confidence and ability.
Note: positioning changes depending on the distance of the shooter from the goal as well as the angle of the shot. This method allows the goalkeeper to visualize the standard shot from most areas about 15–25 yards from goal.
Don’t skip the perspective of the shooter part! Seeing what the shooter sees is invaluable, especially when it involves seeing bad positioning corrected to good positioning.
Correct their position as needed—moving the cone to the right spot.
Now, swap back and have them stand where the cone was re-placed.
While they’re standing there, ask them about how easy it would be to lay down (or dive) to touch the rope. Then, have them lie down on one side to touch the rope.
Note: they should be able to lie down and with a fairly minimal stretch be able to touch the rope.
Have them try lying down to the other side too.
After they’ve seen how far they’d have to stretch to save the ball, explain to them how the distance they stand out from the goal affects how “small” the goal becomes.
Now ask them:
- Are there any risks to where you’re standing?
- What type of shot would you be worried about?
When cutting off the angle like they would be in this new position, it exposes them to shots over them (“getting chipped”). However, standing too far back makes the goal bigger and harder to cover.
Now ask them:
- Are there any visual cues on the field that would help you know where you’re at?
- The goal box line
- The posts
- The penalty area box lines and penalty spot
- The other goal
Have them look at both posts over their shoulder and recognize where they are in the goal. Have them look at the other visual cues.
Take a mental picture.
Move the ball and rope to a lower angle, and repeat everything above.
Place a cone at each new spot. There should be about 5–7 in the shape of an arc—from one post to the top of the box and then to the other post.
The lowest angles
When covering the lowest angle closest to each post, the goalie should stand slightly in front of the post and central to the rope angles.
The reason they stand slightly in front of the post is so that they don’t hurt themselves by diving into the post or into the goal. Instead they would be able to dive outside the post if needed. This is important.
Now that you’ve placed all the cones down, ask them:
- What shape do the cones make?
Have them recognize the arc, and understand why the lowest angle cones are outside the post.
The arc differs for each goalkeeper
It’s important to note, again, that this arc may differ slightly depending on the height, confidence and skill level of the goalkeeper. Meaning, it may not be as much of an arc.
At higher levels or older age groups where shots are faster and goalkeepers are often taller, your keeper may prefer to sit a little close to his/her line (i.e. less of an arc). This allows them to adjust to the reaction time needed on harder shots while utilizing their size and ability in diving to make up for the larger goal area given to the shooter.
Continuing the lesson
Repeat throughout the season or their career as needed, and continue to remind them of their positioning, their arc shape and the visual cues.
Other positioning tips
One tip I discuss with younger goalkeepers I train is the following easy-to-remember phrase:
“The closer they are to the goal, the closer you want to be to them.”
What is meant by this is that if the player with the ball is at or just inside midfield, the goalkeeper should drop back closer to his or her goal line. From this distance a shooter has the ability to more easily chip a goalkeeper, while the goalkeeper has more time to react (covering more goal). So, it’s safer to be on the goal line.
As the player with the ball (or shooter) approaches the penalty area, the goalkeeper should begin cutting down more of the angle by stepping closer to his or her preferred “arc”.
And, once the shooter has entered the penalty area and approaches the goal, the goalkeeper will want to cut off a little more of the angle a bit at a time.
However, the goalkeeper should always be in his or her ready stance (and not moving) when the shooter has the ball at their feet or in a position to shoot. Only move forward when the shooter moves the ball forward—a little at a time, then get set again.
“Don’t get beat near post” myth
Now it’s time to talk about one of the 8 goalkeeper myths: don’t get beat near post! Not only is this terrible advice, but it’s counter-productive.
Read more about the “keepers shouldn’t get beat near post” myth in my 8 Goalkeeping Myths post.
Questions or comments
If you have any questions, comments or other tips on positioning and angles, please feel free to ask or share.
If you’ve found my post helpful, I’d love for you to let me know in the comments or through a “clap” or two. Thanks!