The need for speed

Not the video game I used to enjoy playing as a youngster, but making use of a title with the phrase with an allusion to the same premise, when it comes to getting involved with the game and being able to instantly sprint out when called upon, rather than looking like you’re not interested in winning! Arguably, whilst a goalkeeper may not be ‘on the move’ all the time as their team mates go up and down the pitch, the goalkeeper needs to able to react explosively and be able to run as quickly as possible within their kit to charge down an attacker or rebound opportunity say. And when it comes to your role and play within the overall game as a goalkeeper, you have to be ‘quick off the mark’ and a ‘speed demon’ (well, maybe not, that’s more like ‘Need for Speed’ but the metaphor’s there!) in relation to sprinting out for loose balls or interceptions; same for foot work and getting across goal.

Not the video game I used to enjoy playing as a youngster, but making use of a title with the phrase with an allusion to the same premise, when it comes to getting involved with the game and being able to instantly sprint out when called upon, rather than looking like you’re not interested in winning! Arguably, whilst a goalkeeper may not be ‘on the move’ all the time as their team mates go up and down the pitch, the goalkeeper needs to able to react explosively and be able to run as quickly as possible within their kit to charge down an attacker or rebound opportunity say. And when it comes to your role and play within the overall game as a goalkeeper, you have to be ‘quick off the mark’ and a ‘speed demon’ (well, maybe not, that’s more like ‘Need for Speed’ but the metaphor’s there!) in relation to sprinting out for loose balls or interceptions; same for foot work and getting across goal.


Tom Millington of Wimbledon rushes out to beat an attacker to get to the loose ball.

Excuse the blurry photo: goalies moving at the speed of light (shutter speeds wrong!)!


You might know ‘Quicksilver’ from the surf/skate/snow brand if you’re into ‘alternative’ sports, or as its synonym for mercury, but I think the terminology can be applied when reflecting on how we play as goalkeepers. Maybe it’s a poor definition as it is referred to as something that changes quickly and is difficult to contain. Goalkeepers are difficult to contain (like ‘Animal’ maybe!) but I’m not sure we’re shape shifters! Without rambling as my brain does work, I still think it is a useful way into contemplating and thinking the way a goalkeeper needs to be quick on their feet and able to quickly respond to passes into the D from aerials or breakaways and so on. A goalkeeper has to be able to rush out, whether it be off their line to slide tackle, or to get to a loose ball to ‘kick out of the park’ and get rid of that great scoring opportunity (i.e. if a player is coming in to close and latch onto it!). Fitness wise goalkeepers are expected to put up good times on beep tests and the like at the elite levels, just like the other players (don’t see why goalkeepers shouldn’t push themselves to show that goalies rule!), but sprinting is a little different; different technique and different impact on the body.. Long distance running or stamina based (need to check the sports science, my understanding isn’t so great, didn’t study it!) running is not the same as explosive sprints.

I am naturally fast (theoretically, I’m no Usain Bolt!), maybe, so perhaps this natural aspect can have an effect on us goalkeepers in the way things happen as we use our natural speed to impact the game? But that’s not to see it’s not impossible to improve or push yourself to play intensely and sprint out when required! You can work on technique and your attitude to sprinting with explosiveness itself. I was still involved with sprint teams as a youngster and ranked high when competing in school competitions for the 100 meters. So I guess this is pretty useful for a goalkeeper who needs to react instantaneously and as fast as possible when game changes occur which you need to shut down. In my opinion, the quicker you naturally are, the better you are to get there quicker than the next guy (or goalkeeper if you’re competing for a spot!). But this doesn’t mean you can’t work on sprint technique or being explosive. You can practise speed time and work on your ability to run in kit, which is no easy task!

Goalkeepers need to be able to speedily rush out to have an effect on the game when things occur that the goalkeeper in question needs to respond to. If they don’t, they can concede by not getting to a breakaway with the required speed, or not getting to a rebound or secondary or consecutive scoring chance quickly enough say! Goalkeepers need to be like a coiled spring, ready to spring out with momentum. Explosive and agile, whether that be in shot stopping and instantaneous recoveries to get back into the play and behind a consecutive scoring chance, or when rushing across to make a save on the other side of goal, goalkeepers should look like they want to make the save or play, versus not responding intensely and therefore not looking like they want to win! You could say some may be attracted to the position (at first sight and then grow into the position!) because they think it will mean they won’t have to run around as much, but that’s definitely not the case! Whereas we all know that your kit needs to be like a second skin and you have to be as fast as physically possible. You need the agility of a fast track sprinter if you want to be able to chase down loose balls and make timely interceptions and these needs, need to be incorporated into our game as goalkeepers!

Times when you need to be able to ‘get out the blocks as soon as possible include situations as follows:

  • Sprinting out off the line to challenge
  • Rushing out to cut off a breakaway
  • Racing to get to a loose ball or behind it to cover
  • Getting across to the other side of goal to block or cover
  • Running out to make a decisive interception

The following video illustrates this ‘need for speed’, with the university men’s goalkeeper (wearing the helmet/cage combo) rushing out off his line to challenge an attack, as well as sprinting across to deal with a second chance opportunity:


Whereas outfielders are constantly back and forth across the pitch, a goalkeeper has a more contained approach to running around. Potentially! Yes, they do move around a lot in their stance and have footwork to see them readjust to each post or angle as the ball is moved around the pitch, but when running out to meet opportunities, things are a little different. They are more explosive in small amounts i.e. there should be few times when you really need to rush out to attack an opportunity. Unless there’s something going wrong, you’re not facing lots of breakaways, constantly running out to challenge, during a game, one after another! If a goalkeeper is playing behind a strong defensive unit during the game, then they aren’t going to have come off their ‘line’ to challenge all that often. BUT when it happens they’re going to have to and have to quickly! So aside from moving around laterally around the D, explosive sprinting is where you’re going to have to move instantly with speed.

Quick recoveries

Whilst they may not be considered specifically related to moving quickly in kit to attack scoring chances, quick recoveries are still an important aspect of playing actively. You have to react just as quickly and intensely as you need to be when sprinting out. And anyway, the two connect together, especially when getting back onto your feet as quickly as possible in order to rush across to the other side of goal, say! With great speed and intensity in order to make the save. Don’t wait, don’t expect to be able to just make the save where you are; get back on your feet as quickly as you can and get involved in the action rather than ‘sitting out’ the play as a backseat driver or observer!


When faced with a breakaway opportunity for the opposition, as they get through the defence, the goalkeeper needs to be quick off their line to come out and stop it in its tracks. Obviously, you are going to have move with speed. Although, obviously timing comes into this as you don’t want to get there too early and not be able to tackle, but time it precisely so that you make the intercept bang on time (and get there exactly when you mean to, like Gandalf!). Either way, you still need to move quickly in your kit to get there in time.

Chasing down loose balls

This is a very important aspect of being able to move around your D and pitch (although we can only go as far as the 25, need to get in umpiring to work on remembering things!). If we are faced with a free-for-all free ball that has come loose, we need to get there before an opposition player does, as they could obviously score from it. A powerful rebound may be redirected on the save and latched onto by a player, even if we do make a controlled save with the rebound (power of shots at elite levels make this possible), and if so, the goalkeeper needs to do something to try and disrupt a second chance.

Similarly, any loose ball that has come from the result of a pass or similar needs to be dealt with. You need to rush out to close the ball done, or better yet, kick it with power clear and at distance away from another chance on goal. You may be safe enough to watch it off the pitch, but you still need to get across to cover just in case! This ability to read the game and clear, or watch it off, is decisive; you need to be able to stop another attack from occurring. And a loose ball is anyone’s so you need to claim it and stop the team scoring most importantly!


Bromley’s goalkeeper sprints to cover a loose ball, which thankfully goes over the line (after the photo was taken!).

And most importantly you really need to be fast enough to beat the attacker to the ball! Which means you’ve got to be faster than a quick attacker, whilst sprinting in kit! This also comes down to ‘attacking clearances’ when rushing out to kick and then drive through.


Again, like a breakaway is a form of interception, intercepting passes to stop a goal being scored off the pass and redirect or space opened up by exposing your far side, you need to be quick on your feet to get there and meet the ball as it’s passed across. You’re not going to be able to get on the end of the ball or reach it to intercept the pass and block it from reaching its intended recipient, unless it’s near to you! So, again, speed and awareness is needed.

Lateral plays

Some goalkeepers prefer to react to the pass as it is played across. Either to get across to stop or to move with and attack the pass. Instead of just looking to cut off the ball carrier or challenge them. In this case, either way, you are still moving across with speed and strong footwork as you move across in your stance in order to get across to attempt the save. Less sprinting and more quicksilver shuffling!

Post to post

Moving post to post other than for coverage as the play moves, you may also find yourself out of position thanks to having to go out and meet an attacker, only for the play to change! You may leave your post to challenge, sliding off to deal with a baseline attack. You may stop it; the ball gets loose, free to another opposition player and then have to go all the way across to the other side of goal to deal with this new, changed threat! If you don’t then you’re not going to have any chance of making the crucial save! This requires determination and all the attributes of agility and strong footwork to get across in time. You really need to be fast as quicksilver at a time like this!

The following clip shows an amazing save by Hampstead and Westminster and England A goalkeeper Ian Scanlon. He goes to challenge to his left as the ball carrier comes in, only for the ball holder to release the ball and pass to another attacker who has arrived, running into the D. Out of position, he has to readjust and rush across to the other side of goal to deal with the consequential shot. This is the exactly the kind of save discussed in the ‘Never say never’ article about never giving up on the play. He doesn’t give up on the play or get negative; instead, he rushes across, has great foot speed and then dives to make a save that keeps the score level. Amazing save! Without that his team aren’t in it! It shows solid fundamentals of foot work, agility, drive and passion when it comes to the save, something to learn from! Save is at about 0:25 playing time.

Working on your speed

Like I reckon, speed is something natural but that doesn’t mean you can’t improve your running. You can use leg weights and resistance training theoretically (I’m sure a sports scientist can correct me and explain it better!) to build up the speed you run at and explosively push through when sprinting. Along with footwork drills for quicker footwork! Working on basic sprint technique is going to improve sprinting speeds anyway as you’ll move faster than you did before! There’s a chance to improve even if you are not naturally the fastest around. But working on short controlled bursts of sprinting routinely over time should help you get quicker bit by bit. You can work on sprinting out of kit and then bring this into training sessions if you have time spare or before shots to get some practise in.

Like this sort of thing, sort of (should be easy to search for other examples and drills!)!

Have quick feet!

Ultimately, as a goalkeeper you need to be able to respond to the game as a defensive breakdown occurs, but you also need to be able to get involved in the play, by rushing out with your quick speed to close down attackers or loose balls and so on, as mentioned. You need to be quick and instantaneous, as fast as possible to get there as quickly as you can otherwise you’re already consigned to defeat! This is the same for recoveries to get back into the play and with saves, playing with intensity and athleticism, as written about before. Without this desire to win and stop goals by stopping opportunities with speed to close them down, you cannot really expect to win or dominant games as a goalkeeper. You need to play with an unbridled intensity that reflects your desire to win and be prepared to sprint out to stop shots occurring versus shot stopping! Food for thought! And whilst this write-up follows the more obvious implications of sprinting out, quick shuffles in your stance are just as important!!

Decision making

Decision making is an essential part of goalkeeping in the wider role of influencing the game and eliminating scoring opportunities to reduce the number of shots you face during a game. Shot stopping is obviously down to technique and fundamentals (positioning, angles), but decision making is a skill that is so fundamental and essential, yet difficult to learn and arguably something not totally taught by goalkeeper coaches, in the sense that if you are working purely and simply on technique. You may be able to do well in training focusing on shot stopping and foot work and so on, but if drills are not representative of in-game action or skills, then maybe it is possible to argue that.

Decision making is an essential part of goalkeeping in the wider role of influencing the game and eliminating scoring opportunities to reduce the number of shots you face during a game. Shot stopping is obviously down to technique and fundamentals (positioning, angles), but decision making is a skill that is so fundamental and essential, yet difficult to learn and arguably something not totally taught by goalkeeper coaches, in the sense that if you are working purely and simply on technique. You may be able to do well in training focusing on shot stopping and foot work and so on, but if drills are not representative of in-game action or skills, then maybe it is possible to argue that.

Reading the play and making decisions

You have to ‘read’ the play (something I’ll try and discussion in more depth in another article), think things through and analyse the attacking dangers and factor in various potentialities, to be able to make the right choice and apt decision. And getting involved in the play by coming out to block, tackle, or disrupt a pass, is how these decisions come into play. But whilst it often boils down to in-game scenarios like breakthroughs into the D and through your defence, it also relates to things like short corner defences where you decide on the routine to use and the way in which to structure your defence to make the save and shutdown consecutive corner opportunities.

Training sessions and games

For me, the main form of decision making is responding to game changes rather than shot stopping. Stopping is down to angles; being in the right position at the right time, arguably, whereas tackling is getting there at the right time. The decision to come out and tackle and eliminate a breakaway or the decision to intercept a pass is the kind of decisions that impact a game. Too late and leave yourself exposed for a goal, too early and theoretically miss the tackle. Mistiming and not reading cues properly is going to have a knock-on effect on things.

But you don’t really get to experiment and learn timing or interceptions in training, unless you’re doing practise matches on a half pitch say. A lot of club work on drills outside shooting which aid the goalkeeper, but not always. Obviously, you can work on save technique and decisions that affect making the save. And in club training, you may get the chance to work on set piece scenarios within the session, but unless you training sessions are orientated to replicating game experience we’re not getting the most out of it. But without this types of drills (you get it in other sports, why not hockey?!), you cannot really, truly, work on this important skill. Which is where game experience comes in; games are where you get the chance to find out how and when to intercept a breakaway or pass, and game experience is what you build off when you are learning the things you cannot during a training session. Which is why game experience is so crucial. You can be taught it, but in games, that is where you are learning how to apply it properly.

To some degree, the randomness or unexpected turn of events aren’t procured in a rigid, organised drill. It’s not exactly like you learn how to deal with a breakaway or intercept passes so easily in training sessions. You do; you learn the technique, but unless you’re practising something like it with proper intensity (making sure no-one gets hurt though in the process!), then you’re not replicating a true form of what is going to happen a game. Especially if you’re doing club training and all that’s being focused on is shooting practise for the outfield players! Or training without proper direction. There are going to be cases like this, however small, but it depends on the club, coach and whoever runs and organises the drills, perhaps?!

But how it affects us as goalkeepers means we may have to lean on game experience more. This imbalance in training versus games is something football goalkeeping analyst and writer Justin Bryant has written about in regards to football, where he argues that drills need to be altered to accommodate our approach to games, obviously in respect of that goalkeeping style:

Either, training has to change to accommodate situations that help us goalkeepers, or we have to accept that we need to use games as a place to learn ‘off the cuff’, especially early on as we get into the position of goalkeeper.

Decisions and saves

Whilst I would consider tackling and interceptions as the main form of decision making, there is also the obvious choice of how to make a save relative to what you are facing. Say when to leave your feet to dive high or low against a corner’s drag flick, or when to save from a standing position and remain upright. Or when to use a barrier on a short corner etc. The video below shows an interesting example. At 3:32 you can see the goalkeeper is confused whether to stay up to save or push out for a mid-height dive. Over thinking and caught in two minds, they end up not making the save because of this confusion and indecisiveness.

As the goalkeeper goes down, they end up bringing the glove down with them, turning it away from the ball as it comes in from the drag flick and missing it as a result, to end up conceding. He could have stayed up and moved the glove down and across, or gone for the dive to extend and save and push away. But by getting confused and blurring the options and trying to do two things at once, this, the goal, happened. This is national premier league level, so pedantic possibly, but also goes to show the level of acute analysis that is required for performance analysis and such.

Decisions and game involvement

For me, the main featuring of analysis and making choices for decisions is ‘going with the flow’. To analyse and read the play well enough to know how to respond and act accordingly with the decisions you make. When you are playing, you need to be able to have an impact on the game with challenges and the like. You need to be more than just a shot stopper and a ‘keeper’ of you goal (as I will write about at some point!). Something I tried to point to when discussing the ‘sweeper keeper’ because this is the pushed extreme of acting like another defender and taking charge of your D to reduce scoring chances. When playing, you need to be getting involved and doing ‘your bit’. Decision making in this regard relates to being aware of gaps in your defence, timing and a consciousness of what is going on around you and how things will pan out, enough to be able to come out and tackle and so on. You are in the game and you should be a part of it rather than a shot stopping bystander!

Making the ‘right’ decision?

Making the right decision obviously equates to working out the right choice from reading the game and then responding appropriately. A case of making the right selection of save or tackling actions. But even if a goal is scored, have we made the ‘right’ choice? Say sliding out to tackle and only to have the ball lifted over you, like Tindall’s goal against South Africa in the Bejing Olympics where Hibbert made the decision to slide out to meet the GB player, only for Tindall to get the lightest and skilful of touches to get it over his prone body shape coming his way. What more can you do? As demonstrated here:


Even if you allow a goal, for me and me personally (I can’t speak for someone else, if it’s my opinion, which may not be right admittedly!), it’s more important that you commit to the right decision, even if it doesn’t go to plan. Maybe the simplest way of thinking things through is what is the best option is: that you select the best thing to do and do it, then you cannot be at fault, or are at less fault than staying rooted and not committing! Like coming off your line to tackle when it is important you do. Say you decide to leave your post, but you come off your line too late. You get rounded and they score. Well, they were probably going to score if you stayed rooted to the spot on your goal line and didn’t come out to challenge, with the greater amount of exposed space to exploit and smash the ball into, giving them a free shot/’free pass’/goal scoring opportunity without them having to earn it.

For example, see how this sequence of a goalkeeper rushing out off their post pans out. It’s an international game, so (who better else to learn from than the best!), but also a better example and I struggle to find club footage! At 2:05, the goalkeeper decides the course of action is to come off the post and go in for the tackle. They slide in, arguably making the right choice, but still concede. Perhaps they needed to be a little quicker or go for a stick tackle, to take away the ball, as the player carrying the ball managed to lift it over them, but all the same, for what it’s worth, they left their post and didn’t stay passive:

And . This is obviously the game at the highest levels (for club standard arguably! It’s not an international game, but a match in the Hoofdklasse), so criticism is to the minute levels and . At 1:50 the goalkeeper (Cortes for Den Bosch in white) potentially could have gone for the pass and dived out to intercept it and therefore shut down the scoring chance.

As a goalkeeper you should know whether or not to do certain things, or at least, know when to from experience! If say you leave your post to make a tackle along the baseline or dive off the post to stop a pass along the face of goal. Rather than leaving it, you have committed yourself. Showing that you have made the commit to arguably what the right choice is, what you should be doing, I can’t see how staying deep and reacting was going to help, as there are multiple options for the ball carrier to pass to and then to shoot at goal from said pass! At one level, it is the ability to make right choice, and above that, is the ability to do it properly and make the save or stop a goal being scored by taking away the pass from its intended recipient.  So should coaches ‘score’ goalkeepers on making the ‘right’ choice rather than not making it at all?

Learning to make decisions

For me, it’s game situations that allow for you to learn how to make decisions and properly. You get the chance to put things into action in a game and the more you experience high level, pressure games, the more you will learn. Soon enough you’ll get to know what works and what doesn’t! Obviously, goalkeeper coaching and coaching from coaches, or advice from older goalkeepers etc. will help things, but at the end of the day, it’s you who has to do the learning. You learn from your mistakes. That’s how things tend to work. Mistakes are life lessons; you prove it, by not letting it happen again! So, hopefully, you can learn from the way you concede goals and learn from it to play in a way where you don’t!

Over thinking

Over thinking is corrosive to the psychology of decision making. Like self doubt when it comes to your shot stopping, if you start to question yourself or think too much, you won’t be able to do your ‘job’ properly. It’s a lot like when de Gea was settling into playing at Man Utd: he wasn’t letting in goals because of other affects on his ‘mental game’, he was afraid of all potential options rather than reacting to what happened in front of him. If you allow this to happen, then you aren’t helping yourself. Analysing is dreadfully important, but over analysing to the point where you can’t make a decision because there are so many potentials running through your mind, isn’t going to help either! You have to see what is happening in terms of attackers getting through your defence and take it from there. The more you over think things, the harder it becomes to make the right choice, as the clip earlier demonstrates. If things get too much, maybe tone it down a lot and just react more to what’s going on in front of you?!


Whilst making the right choice is the most important thing, you have to be decisive enough to make the choice and stick with it. Like anything in life really. You have to stick to a decision and follow it through. If things don’t go to plan, then afterwards you’re going to have to evaluate what was the right course of action. But if you doubt or question yourself too much, you’re never going to make a decision on what to do in the first place! And it’s not like anyone can do it for you!

Committing means more often than not you are taking yourself out of the play. Especially if you are going down against the run of play, for a slide tackle or dive to intercept etc. because you are taking yourself out of the game, by ‘hitting the pitch’ as you will have trouble getting up immediately after (you’re going to have to be quick with recoveries and quick like you should!), but the point is there. When you commit, that is it: you are not standing up and able to react anymore, you are potentially ‘down and out’, especially with a slide out.

To use an oft used clichéd metaphorical analogy, you come across a juncture or crossroads and you have to make a choice, but you can only take one of the paths, because you can’t go down both! So, what is it going to be?! In decision making, you have to be decisive with your gutsy attacking play and able to know what is right for the outcome. You make a decision and it leads to a goal, but if you hadn’t made that decision, would they still have scored regardless? Maybe you could go so far as weighing up percentages to compare, but it’s not always that simple. So when it comes to decision making as a goalkeeper, it’s all about making a choice and ‘sticking to your guns’. Whatever happens afterwards can be analysed and absorbed after the game, but for now, you need to focus on the present of your game and the next scoring opportunity! Go with what works and ask questions later!

Be decisive!

Make the decision! Or make sure you make the right one! I couldn’t decide on a final sub-title to go with the rest of the write-up. That’s it really: at the end of the time, you need to make the right one and do it properly not to concede, ultimately, because otherwise they’re scoring on you! Once you get the hang of analysing and reading the game and then how to react, decision making should make more sense. But of course, you need to have the confidence to do so in the first place!

The ‘No goals rules’…

With easy goals not encouraged, the ‘no goals’ rules can be a useful reminder of how not to get scored on!

When it comes to goalkeeping, there are a few basic rules when it comes to potentially allowing the goals you do. Not necessarily ones based on technique or style of play, they are focused more on how the goalkeeper allows goals; whether they give away easy goals or if they play as hard to beat. By following these simple and seemingly obvious rules of playing in goal, you can improve your play and challenge shooters to really step up their game to earn their points against you (that is if you give up any goals!).


The rules

Any goal going in against you that breaks the rules laid out, means you aren’t forcing the shooter to beat you. They don’t have to work hard for their goal, as you allow a ‘softie’! All that is happening is you are forcing the shooter to merely put the ball ‘on’ the goal rather than pick a spot that you would be difficult to beat against. A lack of time as the shooter gets a defender coming in to oppose them, is going to make their mind up for them as they simply shoot towards the goal, rather than targeting a specific spot to beat you at. Rather, a shooter ‘working’ the goalkeeper will look to exploit the corners or spots difficult to reach, trying to get around the barrier that is the body in front of them as they shoot. And this is what the goalkeeper wants, to be tested and consequently test their shot stopping abilities!


The following are the rules that cover how you should focus on not giving away easy goals, and will be explored further:


  • No goals through you
  • No goals above or underneath you
  • No poor angle goals


No goals through you

The first rule and most obvious one, is to not concede through you. Not letting a goal go through you and humiliate you is quite important to showing you can get the job down against weaker, less challenging shots. This can be straight through the legs where you struggle to close your legs in time, possibly against a corner or strike from the top of the D, or possibly gaps in your stance, like the holes under your shoulders, with space between gloves and body, against a tip-in for example. This is the same for ice hockey, where goalies are taught to close gaps as they go down to block and play the percentages. In football they really do focus on the adage of never allowing a shot to get through you, teaching the need to get your body behind a shot so that you get as much coverage as possible if you fail on the initial block (wherein they teach technique to bring the chest in to play to help out, as they go to catch a low ball for example).


I couldn’t find a suitable hockey example, so here’s Scott Carson’s mistake against Croatia and reinforces football’s teachings:


The following clip does show a hockey example, where at 4:51 playing time, Whitchurch’s Williams unfortunately concedes a squeaker that gets through his legs as it rebounds off the right pad:


Or this one where the goalkeeper again unfortunately allows a goal between the legs, against a flick straight down the middle at a short corner:


No goals over or underneath you

Again, just like there should be no goals through you, you should aim to not allow goals squeezed under or over you. Essentially, even though you should work hard not to allow them, shots into the corners are ones that if there are any, are the least embarrassing. Lobbed shots, when you are off your line and beaten by a chipped ball aren’t as regular in hockey as they are in football, but should not be given away so easily against the opposition. And balls squeaking through underneath a kicker not firmly placed on the pitch, or when ‘logging’ against a shot or sliding out to block, should be avoided at all costs. Technique and balancing saves should prevent such occurrences.


Though it’s not necessarily an accurate representation, this video illustrates getting lobbed (not sure how else it would have been stopped as the shooter is in total control of the ball and you can’t tackle on your feet!):


No poor angle goals

Just as you should not allow goals through you as a result of poor footwork or a not very efficient ready stance, you should not be giving away easy goals as a result of weak fundamental angle play. Making sure you are on the angle and covering space is essential to any save, but conceding through a poor angle is not great! Allowing a goal inside the gap between you and your near post is considered another no-no. A goal where you concede through the acute angle on year near side is not what you want; if anything, you should be conceding on the other side where you have more work to do to cover more space, rather than your near post which you should be covering properly. A goal allowed on the ‘short side’, like the other goals, is more unforgivable because it shows problems with your fundamentals. Work on your angles and making sure you have them covered, in training and then in games.


In essence, a goal allowed, like this:


It’s also possible to get caught out on the short, acute angle as you charge out to challenge the shooter, where you should be making more of an effort to carry on the line of ‘hugging’ the post. A goal like in this clip at 2:56 playing time:


Follow the rules!

Ultimately, it’s a good idea to put these rules to work in your own game. Whilst it’s fun to think about conceding in a different light and making light of goals allowed, these ‘rules’ draw attention to how you should play and what goals you should not be giving up, even if you can make those breath taking stops. Try and focus on them game in game out, so that you give your full attention to being the best shot stopper you are capable of. At the end of the day, make the shooter make the difficult shot, not the easy one!

Control your rebounds!

Rebound control is an important part of reducing the opposition’s scoring chances.

When considering shot stopping abilities, other than a pro-active style limiting chances through active interceptions, a more developed goalkeeper should think about controlling their rebounds to prevent any further chances during an opposition’s attack on goal. The less chances a goalkeeper faces, the more they are doing to reduce the rate of attacks and thus scoring rate. A goalkeeper who faces a lot of shots may do so because they lack the ability to control their rebounds, allowing the opposition more scoring opportunities by not getting rid of any further chances properly (although the shots faced could be down to a leaky defence!), so it is important to think about your rebound control and how it affects your performances.


Controlling your rebounds

Unlike other sports, a hockey goalkeeper’s kit mean they end up blocking pretty everything shot at them, making rebound control more complicated and a delicate process. Hockey is special in that rebounds cannot be ‘deadened’ or eliminated, preventing any further scoring opportunities in close because we have nothing to catch with! Whereas these goalies are predominantly more able to catch and hold on to the ball; in football they are taught to catch, in ice hockey they can catch with the glove and even in something like floor ball they can catch shots, in (field) hockey, we are unique in having to using blocking surfaces to push the rebounds away for us. As a result, you have to be more pro-active with your rebound control, thinking ahead to where you can see the space to put the ball into and striving to drive through the ball to get distance on the clearance.


Redirecting on the save

To actively control your rebounds, you should be redirecting during the save, rather than blocking a ball and letting it go back out directly in front of you, which hands the opposition a golden opportunity at goal. To actively get rid of a second chance after the save, you need to be directing it away from any close-in attackers, finding a space to put the ball to, to make the opposition’s chance to poke away or slam home a rebound, harder. This is difficult in itself, relying on you pre-scanning the space in front of you and your awareness of what is going on and who is where. Physically, you want to have active hands and legs, pushing in to the save and turning your kit as it hits you to angle it away to safety. Again, as harped on about before, driving through with an attacking motion will improve your ability to control your rebound as you work on actively pushing through the save.


A shot that hits you square will go straight back out to the shooter.
A shot that hits you square will go straight back out to the shooter.


A shot that hits an angled glove or pad or kicker, attacking the clearance, will go out with distance away from danger.
A shot that hits an angled glove or pad or kicker, attacking the clearance, will go out with distance away from danger.



In the following clip, you can see the Kamong goalie, an elite ’keeper in the Hoofdklasse level, clearing a ball through a crowd of players, which is a skill in itself!


‘Dead rebounds’ and clearing after the save

A remember that has not been sufficiently ‘killed’ and you have simply deadened the shot or not put far enough away to safety, obviously puts you in a precarious position. If this happens, then you want to react intensely with an active mindset, rushing out to reach it and kick it away. Kicking away seems the safest option; charging out to clear and attacking clearances as written about in the past will give you a better chance of getting rid of the ball. Similarly, if you do your best to make the stop but can’t get rid of the rebound, then get as close to the ball as possible and kick away with distance to stop any further scoring opportunities.


Diving as an emergency

If you don’t have time to reach the ball but it is close to you and you want to push away the ball, then diving in to clear could be used as an emergency procedure. I may be wrong to make a sweeping statement, but using the stick seems more popular in Holland and Belgium, but I have seen footage of Russ Meadows, the Australian goalie, diving away to clear a rebound off a Pakistani shot in the Azlan Shah tournament a while ago, although they did put away the rebound. It’s more of a last ditch move as you’re putting yourself out of the play by going to ground (and it will be difficult to get back to your feet quickly enough!), so should be used when you feel the chances are stacked against and unable to get your defenders help. Dive in as close as you can and then use your stick to sweep away the ball as far away as you can!


Control rebounds!

Ultimately, you want to do your best to control rebounds. It is no good simply stopping shots and blocking them, you really have to be active in getting rid of the ball! Reducing rebounds and getting them clear will reduce the chances of being scored on as you limit the shooters to a few chances, improving the way you play and increasing your chances of a clean sheet!



  • Drive through the ball to get power behind the save
  • Turn your kit as you push into the save, to redirect the ball away with force
  • Pre-scan the area to look for a place to put the rebound
  • Have active hands and legs in front of your body to push away the redirect
  • Attack clearances to get rid of another chance
  • Dive to clear only in an emergency!

Always challenging the shot

By stepping further out and narrowing angles, you can more readily challenge shots with aggressive positioning.

When possible, it is useful to challenge the shooter. Playing a higher ‘line’, not too deep within the D, the goalkeeper is able to challenge the angles and cut off visible shooting space against their attacking opponent. Whilst it takes confidence and trust in your shot stopping abilities and reaction times, being aggressive with your positioning will effectively make it harder for you to be scored on as the shooter looks to shoot around or through you in order to score.


By standing further out, the goalkeeper is able to cut down the angle and shooting space.


Playing deep

By tentatively waiting on your goal line, you are making it more difficult for yourself, so instead of ‘sitting back’ and making it easier for the shooter, work at stepping out and proactively challenging. Instead of trying to make the save behind you (which is very hard) or directly to the sides of you, you should look to attack the ball to improve your save making. There can be a tendency from nerves or fear of the ball (thanks to poor equipment or lacking in confidence in it or personal ability) not to challenge shots and to stay deep in the D, with a ‘line’ that is very close to the goal line. Against a packed D this is more of a necessity, with a smaller ‘D within the D’ making lateral movement easier, but when faced with an obvious shooting opportunity from distance, it is good to get more control of the situation through challenging the angles.


Staying on your line gives the shooter too much space to choose from on the play.



Challenging the angles is the concept of stepping off the goal line to cut space; the idea of moving up the triangle of the established angle to reduce the shooting space available to the shooter. Setting up the angles and cutting the down, by moving out to challenge, is most important when charging a penalty corner, or when the shot is coming so fast at you: you can’t just rely on reflexes, but have to read and react, diving, or moving across, putting a bigger wall in front of the shot. Angles give you the starting point of the save, cutting them down makes them easier, so you still need to move yourself across in some way to make the save, otherwise you’ll have given away an easy scoring chance. However, just because you’ve cut down the space for a shot, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to make the save (i.e. by passively blocking); you’re reacting to where the shot’s going, not where you think it’s going. You’re already on the angle, but now you have to respond, by putting a pad, kicker or glove on it, or putting your body in front of the shot. It all depends on the type of shot you face.


Obviously an exaggeration to prove the point, but the following diagram illustrates this:


By challenging off your line, you can dramatically reduce the shooting options.


The following clip demonstrates a goalkeeper challenging their angles, with the goalkeeper confidently stepping out to challenge shots, rather than relying on a deep positioning and athleticism to make the save:



Narrowing the angle

One of, if not, the most important skill of angle play by the goalkeeper is narrowing the player’s shooting angle to make it harder for them to score; bringing the goalkeeper closer to the shot, to make the save easier, whilst taking away valuable shooting space at the same time. As the attacker comes in to for the shot the goalkeeper steps out onto the angle, getting in position to cover the shooting space, thus reducing the shooter’s options. By challenging the shooter, you make it harder for them; having to take time to choose the shot, by which time you are ready and waiting.



Looking ‘big’

Playing big is used in conjunction with angle play to cut down shooting space. Looking ‘big’ is the result of playing the angles and challenging them. By stepping further up the angle and off a deeper line, you create more of an imposing figure. By ‘playing big’ you can impose yourself on the shooter, making the goal look smaller as you appear bigger; playing with a wider stance will cover more of the net, whereas standing tight and rigid will make you appear easy to score on. Playing big is making use of playing the angles; it’s reducing the space the shooter has to shoot. And it depends on the style you play (if you play a reactionary style, you’re more likely to have your hands nearer your body), but again it’s using the techniques we have to our advantage. Like goalies in soccer who come further out, with their stance wider apart and their hands far out to the side, ready for the shot, we are very similar, with our legs apart to move more easily, and hands mid-height.


When he is on his ‘game’, Quico Cortes (Spanish first choice), is a great example of this aggressive style. He is very good at playing an aggressive, challenging style, coming off a deeper line to cut down the angles and really challenge the shooter. This clip demonstrates this technique, with his counterpart Johannes Blank also making saves from an aggressive based position:


Getting centred

Before you go about challenge a shot, you need to be at the centre of the angle so you know whether to cover the near or far side of you, and to ensure you are not ‘off the angle’, but ‘on’ it instead, for your chances of making the save. Being central to the shot in your positioning, in that you are centred on the ball, so that you are not too far over to one side, is essential to challenging angles effectively. By being aware of your positioning, it makes it easier to step off your line and move forward to challenge the angles more effectively. You can’t successfully challenge the angles with aggressive positioning, if you are not centred, as you will give away too much shooting space to one side!


A good example of attacking depth and centred positioning.


Not too far forward

Obviously, there is a problem with being too far forward. By being at the top of your triangle on the angle, it is obviously very easy to pass the ball around you, or score around you, in a backdoor pass scenario. If you are challenging very high on a corner, then you don’t give yourself ample time to react, as you will see the ball but not be able to get a glove on it quickly enough (well, if playing at the highest levels!). You need to find a balance that suits; a philosophical ‘middle way’, able to challenge and react to the shot or play at the same time. Potentially, you want to be a few steps off the goal line, able to step forward when a direct shot becomes obvious, where it is suitable to challenge. Cortes is a great example of this and is a good example to learn from.


Challenging in the D

Sometimes, however, it is not possible to challenge shots so aggressively. Faced with a packed D, or where there is a need to face scrambles, then you are going to be playing deeper, making use of a deeper ‘line’ within the D. Obviously there is not much point wondering around the D past the p-spot, because of leaving a gaping space to shoot into and because lateral movement would be difficult, but when it is possible, stepping further out allows you to challenge a shot and make use of angles to make a more controlled and theoretically easier save. Instead, be aware when to challenge as such and do so well!


Penalty corners

Penalty corners are another good opportunity to make use of aggressive depth, other than facing clear scoring chances from the top of the circle. If the goalkeeper is not expecting a slip pass or deflection involved routine, then they can step out of the goal and step forward into the D, high, to challenge a flick or shot. By being closer to it, they can challenge it more suitably.


Again, Cortes is a good example of attacking the shot with positioning at the short corner, and is a good one to watch and learn from. As the following clip demonstrates:


The following save illustrates the ability to still react athletically even if challenging , increasing the chances of making the save by making it easier so you don’t have to be at full stretch!


Always challenging?

It takes a bit of confidence in your ability to stop shots and read the play, but ideally, the goalkeeper should challenge on every shot and every opportunity. This obviously depends on personal preference, style and ability to get around the goal, but when the opportunity to challenge a clear shot arises, then the goalkeeper would hopefully step out to aggressively challenge to make the save. By being more aggressive with your positioning, you make it harder for the shooters to score on you as you give them less room to shoot into, and combined with an attacking technique, increases your chances of save making!

Saving with the rhp

Making use of the rhp to make saves to the right will obviously help with shot stopping but also with rebound control.

With the ever improving production of developed right hand protectors (rhp’s) with an increased blocking surface and better rebound properties, the modern goalkeeper has a better chance of making saves to their right hand side. Without the need to bring the left hand glove across, the goalkeeper can make use of their rhp to block shots. With a larger surface to block the ball than the shaft of a stick, you should look to actively make a strong technique of saving to the right side appropriately on raised shots and flicks.

Manu Leroy saves a shot with his rhp in a warm-up.

Why use the rhp?

Making use of the rhp is done for obvious reasons. With an increased surface area than the stick to block with, you can actively turn the rhp to turn away the ball to safety, whilst making the save. Also, when trying to make a save with the glove on the right hand side, you can end up over rotating as you turn to reach the ball; effectively taking yourself out of the play as you turn too far. By learning to make saves with the rhp instead, you increase your chances of making the save, as you turn in to face the ball, as well as making it easier to control rebounds. It is possible to make saves like this with a tubular style glove, but there are more, larger surface area rhp’s out there for goalkeepers to utilise. Making independent saves like this means you are not in danger of over rotating and makes you harder to beat!

Eye contact and focus

Just like any save, you need to be focused on the specific piece of kit you will be making the stop with. As much as you concentrate on your glove for a save there, you need to be just as intensely focused on the shot going to your right. Rather than focusing on the stick, you need to focus your attention on the larger blocking area of the rhp. As the ball comes in, this sustained eye contact will make it easier to see the flight of the ball into the rhp and away to safety.

Attacking the ball

As discussed before, attacking the ball helps cut down the time the ball takes to reach you, and helps with a forceful push away on the save. Having your arms forward so your gloves are upright and facing the shot makes it easier to move into the save. By pushing into the save, from a 30 degree angle, rather than passively reacting helps with you when turning the glove to control the rebound. If the ball is high, then you will be looking to push up, whilst if it is to the side of your body, then you are obviously going to be looking to push out to the side in extension to block the ball.

The following clip (from the middle onwards), demonstrates strong application of attacking the ball when saving to the right with the rhp:

Turning the rhp

Turning the rhp allows you to push the ball away to control the rebound, like you would when stopping shots with your glove to the left. The angle would almost be about 70 degrees, but you also want to turn at the wrist, so it blocks to the side, rather than simply blocking to the front. Rather than the ball simply bounce off your glove and down, into a dangerous area for a secondary chance at goal, turning it away on the shot, to safety, effectively kills any rebound opportunities. You need to aim to push into the block, turning at the elbow and wrist, for the redirect. If it is to the side of you, you can turn the ball away wide. It is possible to redirect a high shot over the ball, although this takes practise and a second sense of where the goal and crossbar is!

As the crudely drawn diagram illustrates,
an angled rhp gives greater redirection
on an upright shot, for rebound control.

The following shows a goalkeeper practising the technique in training:

This clip demonstrates a goalkeeper making good use of turning their rhp on the save for rebound control:

Saving low

When making low saves, it is also possible to turn the ball away with the rhp as you stop the ball. When diving low (as well as high), in extension, or diving at around knee height on drag flicks off the floor, employing the same technique will help control rebounds. In this clip you can see Pirmin Blaak actively using the technique, but at 0.54 playing time, you can watch him turning the glove as he dives against a low shot to the right:

Stick inclusion

In case you miss the ball, the stick is a back-up option. Your focus should be on making the stop with the rhp, so should not over rely on the stick. Whilst you should prioritise making saves to the right of your body, the option is there to save your blushes if needs be. The technique remains the same; focusing on the ball and turning at the wrist as you move to block.

This clip shows a save made with the stick, with the wrist turning to block as an insurance policy, and the stick making the save, with good coverage since the shot has been missed with the rhp:

Decisiveness with the save

Confusion over which glove to use can obviously cause problems when aiming to stop the ball to the right, which is another reason you should practise saving solely with the rhp. By crossing gloves and being indecisive, it is obviously harder to make the save. Instead, by restricting yourself to using the appropriate glove for the appropriate side, you will be better suited to making the save.

The following goal comes from the goalkeeper committing with both gloves rather than a focused save effort:

Active with right hand saves

Ultimately, you want to be just as strong and active with your saves to the right as you are with those to your left. Improving technique and getting more proactive with blocking to the right will help you against shots high to the right, being able to make a controlled and active save with your rhp. The more you enforce this in training and in games, the better you will get at having an active rhp.


  • Actively push into the save and attack the ball
  • Focus on the ball and rhp to exercise concentration
  • Turn the rhp into the save, to help redirect the ball away to safety
  • Don’t over rotate or cross over with the glove, making sure you choose the rhp rather than glove for the save

Attack the ball!

Actively acting the shot helps challenge and will improve your save percentage.

When we think about goalkeeping, there can often be perceptions of reacting to a play or shot rather than increasing the save chance by challenging in the situation. Since we are saves and actions are a result of reading of the play, it is therefore easy to think that because the play comes to you, that your job is to simply react and therefore get caught in the trap of not taking control of the situation. However, showing aggressive qualities and confidently challenging shots with our depth in the D, will increase our chances of save making.


‘Saving’ and not attacking

It is easy to become passive with your efforts when you are learning to play in goal, especially in training (which isn’t the most effective place to improve your goalkeeping!); creating bad habits in game situations when you need to actively challenge the shooter and dominate the play. By ball watching and reacting to the game as it happens rather than involving yourself and challenging shots, you make it easier to get scored on. By merely reacting and making the save in reaction to the shot, you are actually making it harder to make the save.


Attacking the ball

By attacking the ball you challenge the angle of the shot and give away less shooting space, as well as reacting to it more quickly. The quicker you are to react against a well struck shot, the better chance you have of making the stop! With the save being made in front of you, it is easier to track the ball from their stick into the save (as discussed recently in another article). You are also cutting down the angle the ball can travel through, so you are effectively reducing the time the ball has to reach you; therefore getting into the motion of save making more quickly and with less movement. As a result of attacking the ball in front of you, you are putting you weight through the ball as you make contact, meaning you have more power of the rebound, which should effectively result in better clearances.


The following video is a great example of aggressive goalkeeping where this technique is being taught. Watch how the goalkeepers are being taught to push into the save rather than ‘sitting back’ and waiting for the shot, both with the legs and hands:


The Thirty degrees

When attacking the ball, you want to be driving into the save, that is, pushing into it. The best way of visualising and thinking about attacking the ball when saving is ‘the thirty degrees’. If someone was shooting at you from the top of the D, you should be pushing into the save at roughly thirty degrees. An easy way of checking this is to measure your finishing position against pointing towards where the 25 yard line meets the side line. When pushing into the diagonal, it doesn’t just apply to kicking, also diving and glove saves. This theory can also be applied to short corners where you want to challenge the shot and possibly against flicks (although I think I need to check what the umpiring rule is!).



The ‘thirty degrees’!



With no angle of attack it is harder to make the save and you make yourself easier to beat.



In contrast, by attacking at the thirty degrees, you are able to attack the ball and challenge proactively.


Driving from the head

As you drive forward to push into the save for the stop, you need to push forward from your head; essentially moving forward as you locate the ball with your forward vision. With the head being the centre of balance within the stance, you need to push forward against the shot. In doing so you can retain your balance, which is obviously of great importance. Keeping your head forward and your weight forward, you are not going to fall or lean back as you make the save, making it easier to move into the second save or control your rebound.


Pushing into the save

Pushing into the save requires concentration and an agile approach and strong footwork. As a result, to gain better rebound control, it is also important to angle the redirect; by which, you can get greater control and distance on the rebound. As you push into the save looking to control the rebound on the save, you will be pushing with your foot or glove angled to control the rebound. It is important that you get your weight into it, driving forward to really attack the shot.


As this goalkeeper accurately demonstrates, you need to be pushing from the head to get better control on the redirect and ability to make the strong save.


Attacking with your gloves

Just as you are focused on attacking the ball with your kickers and pads or dive (as they rightly teach in football), an obvious point of notice is that you can similarly challenge with your gloves. An active ready stance with gloves up and forward will help you to actively challenge. Try not to ‘swat’ at the ball, pushing in as the ball comes at you.


Attack the shot!

Ultimately, you need to attack the ball at every given opportunity. The more you actively attack shots, the greater chance you will have of denying scoring opportunities. Although it is a difficult skill to master, it will drastically improve your shot stopping making you harder to beat. Rather than being a passive respondent, work hard to actively attack the ball, increasing your chances of making every save!

Focus on the ball!

Focusing on the ball will increase your success rate in saving shots.

When setting for the save, you need to be watching the ball. True eye contact allows you to focus on the ball and react accordingly to make the appropriate blocking action. Obviously this is not always possible in every situation, like tips and deflections where you see the ball at the last minute, but on point shots and at short corners, you should maintain a strong focus on the ball. By being pro-active and alert, you are in a better position to make the save; so whenever you make a save, or kick clear, you should always set your focus on the ball and maintain it throughout the save process, so as to maximise your efficiency.


Focusing on the ball

When watching the shot, you should focus on the ball from the ball carrier or shot all the way into the save. The way you watch the ball goes back to the fundamental skill of reading the game; not over committing and reacting to what happens in front of you. When the potential shooter becomes obvious, you can then focus on the ball’s positioning, setting up on the angle and in your stance ready to make the save. Watch the path of their hit or flick; watching the ball from the stick all the way into your equipment; putting a strong emphasis on focusing on the ball from release to reaction. Self discipline is the order of the day, with you needing to remind yourself every time to give 100% focus on the ball and the shot.


Watch the ball ALL the way in

In order to make a strong save with good execution, you need to be focused on the ball. If you react at the last second, you can’t expect to be in a good chance of stopping the ball! When some goalkeepers will close their eyes or flinch at shots (which is a problem we can all face, not helped by poor equipment), you instead need to be confident in your kit and confident in that you will be able to make the save unharmed.


When making any save, you want to be watching the ball ALL the way into your body – the specific piece of equipment making the save. In each case the basic principal remains the same: by focusing on the ball’s complete flight, you stand a better chance of making the save than if you only caught sight of it at the last minute. It terms of concentration and focus of elite goalkeepers, you can find photos of soccer goalies facing penalties where they are clearly following the path of the shot even if they have been beaten.


Remember, it’s fairly simply; the more you focus, the more chance you have of making the save, so do your best to give it a hundred per cent.



The ‘quiet eye’

Research and sports science studies has shown that the more a goalie focuses on the object coming at them (depending on the sport played!), the more they save. In ice hockey, the concept of the ‘quiet eye’ has been developed. It has been scientifically proven, that the more focus the goalie puts on the puck, the better chance they have of saving it. This link between eye contact and reaction is important to realising the need for total focus on the ball when goalkeeping in hockey.


The following clip is a good insight into the understanding:


‘Well watched’

Watching professional soccer (football), you will often see the goalkeepers raising their hands up against a shot that goes wide. This asserts that they have been paying attention and know the ball is not going to end up in the net! When Vogels was playing (he is obviously retired now), he used to put his hands up when the ball had gone off, to show to the umpire and team that the play was dead and the ball had gone off. Similarly, you can show that you are certain the ball is wide of the goal or going over (by knowing your angles), by raising your gloves. If you feel it helps, calling “Wide!” will also help your defence know you are leaving the shot. It takes a bit of experience and practise though!




Glove saves

The glove save sounds the most obvious form of save involving eye contact, with the goalkeeper watching the raised ball from shot to finished save, moving the glove into touch to block the incoming ball. However, you still need to be focused on the saving process and the ball, maintaining it throughout the saving motion in order to execute technique properly and help focus on the redirection for rebound control.


Stick saves

Stick saves are a little trickier due to the width of the stick and the reduced stopping surface that the stick offers. Nevertheless, it is important that you read the shot off the shooter’s stick and move the stick in to contact with the ball as required.



Using your RHP to block the shot, rather than relying on the stick (if ), gives you a better chance of making saves to your right given the larger surface area the new styles of right hand protectors provide. Turning at the wrist and pushing into the save, your focus remains the same: making prolonged eye contact with the ball into contact with your rhp.


Pad saves

The pad save may not seem like an area needing a write up on, but eye contact with the incoming ball will allow you to concentrate on the initial save along with the following rebound. As the shot comes in you will obviously be lowering your view to the ground, following the shot low into your pad.


Kicker stops

In order to make a well executed stop with your kicker, you need to watch the ball into your foot; looking down to the pitch, to focus on being able to react appropriately, just like a pad save. When kicking clear, or making the save, the focus is the same: watching the connection with the foot to make sure the angle is correct and the clearance is sufficient. For the ball to be effectively cleared on the play, you need to be paying attention to the angle of the incoming ball and then set up the redirect to match.



Though it’s not always orthodox or best (though I have seen it being taught by Dutch coaches and is good for blocking against deflections and killing rebounds), body saves still need your focus (and trust in your kit!). If you are forced into blocking the ball, you need to be aware of where the rebound goes in order to respond with your repositioning or clearance, forcing you to make eye contact with the ball.


When diving, the concept remains the same, and watching the ball all the way into the save betters your chances of making the save, as well as getting a look at the incoming ball, for a well placed redirect to steer the ball to safety. Diving into the save puts the focus on the stick and rhp or glove; changing your focus to a lowered state to watch the ball into the save.


Jumping saves

When jumping, or high diving to reach the ball, your focus translates to the ball’s position, with your eyes ready watching the distance between you and its destination, so you are set to make the save with your equipment as you get closer to the ball through the jumping motion. With the ball away from you from the beginning, you need to watch with great awareness; judging the distance of the ball as you move in to block it.


Blocked view

Sometimes you will be faced with situations where your view is impinged and you may struggle to see the ball. Here, the need is to locate the ball holder and react to the situation as it develops. This obviously makes life difficult. Whilst you may not get the chance to be totally focused, you can still prioritise your focus to react on the instant you catch sight of it, making sure you made the effort to focus on the incoming shot.




  • Give a 100% in your efforts; focusing on the shot ALL the way in
  • Use training and warm ups as a chance to focus on each shot in this way to reinforce good habits for game time
  • Try not to block your view of the ball unnecessarily during the save process; using your gloves independently when bringing the glove across to the right could block your vision


On short corners

Short corners are a time when you see goalkeepers losing their focus on the ball, even at the elite level. Instead of watching the ball from the injection to the flick or shooter, they simply choose to react to the corner as the play unfolds. However, I feel that short corners are an important time for goalkeepers to be focused on the ball because of the score rate of corners. Focusing on the ball at the injection right through to the drag flick or shot will help provide you with a good focus for making the eventual save, as well as helping you to track the ball to the shooter (if there are multiple ‘castles’ or dummies) or slip pass for a routinely planned redirect.


At flicks

Penalty flicks are another time when it is important to have good focus on the ball. Players can easily wrong foot you and send you the wrong way with a dummy or using their eyes to pretend to be going one way (and go the other!) as you play against better quality opposition. Instead, make sure you focus on the ball and nothing else; going the right way as it comes at you in order to stand the best chance of making the save.


Focus, focus, focus!

Ultimately, the most important thing to remember is the need for focus when faced with making the save. The more you focus, the more likely you are to stop everything! In training and practise try and set your targets on focusing on every shot without fail; the more you force yourself to focus totally on the ball for the shot, the better goalkeeper you will be.

What makes a great goalkeeper?

With the Olympics upon us, now is a good time to reflect on what it takes to be a goalkeeper at the elite level.

It is good to pinpoint the qualities of a top class goalkeeper, so that you know what you’ve got to work towards if you want to be the best. Aside from hard work and perseverance, it takes a special athlete to make it at the top. There are number of skills, some of which are natural and gifts we are born with (like amazing reaction speeds/reflexes), but it is possible to work hard to improve them, if you want to reach the top. Coaches look for these abilities, and this is important to remember if you want to be scouted to play at the best levels.


The following is a list of qualities that all the elite crop of goalkeepers have:



To be able to make those highlight reel saves, you need to be athletic. Although field hockey goalkeepers have all that extra padding, they need to be quick on their feet and acrobatic in save making. Just like soccer goalkeepers who leave their feet a lot, field hockey goalies need to be prepared to jump, leap and dive around to make the save, especially against tricky shooters with hard, well placed shots or quick drag flicks.


Abile to read the play

Elite goalkeepers are aware of what players are going to do, which helps them make up their mind on when and how to make the save. Athleticism helps them to get into place to stop the ball, but it is their ability to read the game that makes the save. By being able to work out what will happen, they are also able to make better decisions as a result; one step ahead in the battle against the opposition.



At the top level, goalkeepers often have to make consecutive saves if the shot is uncontrollable (unable to direct the rebound given the power of the shot). To be able to do so, the goalkeeper needs to be agile; getting up immediately and recovering to stop the shot. With immediate changes in play, goalkeepers will also have to change direction. If you have to move from post to post to be attempt a save on a passed shot, then you need to be lightning fast to get there in time to block. This is what agility is all about.


Strong mental attitude

A strong mentality is so important to being an elite athlete; dealing with the pressures that come with the position. Goalkeepers are competitors and don’t ever like being beaten. If a goal is scored against them, it is immediately forgotten about and ignored, rather than being worried about and causing more goals. The goalkeeper needs to carry their team and help them win. Especially at the international stage, goalkeepers would underperform if they were nervous and showed it.


Not a quitter

A goalkeeper has to be a fighter. If the chips are down and they are up against it, the goalkeeper shows no sign of giving up. If the game is already lost and there is no chance of evening the score, the goalkeeper will still pull off the saves to keep the game alive. This is so important in close games when the score is tied, or down a single goal, because it shows the team that the goalkeeper doesn’t give up and will help the team to make a comeback.


Good decision maker

Goalkeepers have to be elite decision makers: they need to know when to do the right thing and do it properly at the right time. Things such as whether to come out and block slide on a 1-on-1, aggressively, or play the shot and make the save. The goalkeeper has to be able to read the play and make the correct decision. Working with the defence is crucial; if they have their support then it makes it easier to play passively, but if the defence cannot get back in time, then the goalkeeper needs to take charge. It is also about making the right save selection; prioritising the rebound placement so there are no second chances.


Good reflexes

Reflexes are another obvious part of elite goalkeeping. Good reflexes are an essential part of goalkeeping and are even more important at the top level of the game. It is not a skill, which you can learn (although you can improve it), so elite goalkeepers are normally naturally gifted with good reactions. To be able to stop a shot from a guy with a stinging shot like Jamie Dwyer, you need to have lightning fast reactions.


Technically good

Obviously goalkeepers need to have good technique and a good skill set, otherwise they will give away easy goals through bad posture, save choice, or simply not being on angle. A technical game is important: without it, can you cannot succeed at the highest level because the opposition will easily pick apart your game. The ability to control rebounds, make difficult saves look easy etc. is all part of this. Coaching helps this; knowing what to do in a certain situation, and putting it into practise makes your job easier. Some goalkeepers get a head start in their careers because of having coaching from a young age, but it is still possible to progress with out it and then get coaching after being recognised.



Game experience is vital. The more game experience the better; the best goalkeepers are those that are experienced, so elite goalkeepers should have bags of it (i.e. they will obviously have been playing since childhood, but will also have experience playing at high levels or junior international games!). A goalkeeper who has played lots of games can call upon these experiences when faced with an all-important, difficult matches; helping them make the right choices or stay calm when it gets tough. Experience helps the goalkeeper with the ability to read the play and know what is going to happen. Game experience is invaluable and it is better to be experienced than rely on skill.



Great goalkeepers are often aggressive; taking charge of situations and dominating their area. Goalkeepers need to be aggressive; they need to dominate their D and shut down plays if needs be. You cannot always be passive or too reliant on your defence, such as needing to intercept passes that will prevent scoring chances. Obviously being too aggressive is a danger, but the ability to challenge the attacker and make their life difficult is essential if you want to go far.



A great goalkeeper is like a choir master, in charge of the orchestra; they are the one who instructs their team on what to do. The goalkeeper has the best view on the pitch and they should use that to their team’s advantage. Providing constant communication to their defenders will help the team make the right decision in how to deal with a player. Defenders want to know what to do and elite goalkeepers will be able to tell them.



Goalkeepers have to be brave and confident. If you are to reach the best level of the game, then you need to be unafraid of the ball. When you train and play with top level shooters, shots come at you hard and fast, and there is no time to get scared or flinch. An elite goalie is not afraid of the ball; they are better than it and control it, hard shots don’t bother them. A goalkeeper shouldn’t be afraid of hard shots, instead they should believe they are like tennis balls – easy to stop!



Great goalkeepers also have strong concentration levels, able to quick ‘switch on’ when it is important to do so. Not content to ‘nod off’, they are aware of what is going on in front of them, taking part in the game and organising their defence vocally. Without this ability, they could be caught off guard and easily concede a goal.

Collecting the ball

Catching up on lost time – think I should get my act together and posting articles I’ve stored up!

Anyway, here’s a super quick tip on collecting the ball if you haven’t considered it before, although I guess the chances are slim… we don’t all have ball boys at our games!

When the ball goes off the baseline, you will often see the goalkeeper leave their goal to go after it and collect it, to return it to a teammate who will take the free hit. This process means that the defender does not have to go after the ball and gives your team more men and more time to organise for an attack from the back.


The goalkeeper goes off to collect a loose ball from the side line.



If you do not have a ball boy around to get the ball (especially if you do not play to a high level!) and your defence have been pushing up the pitch, then it is often useful for the goalkeeper to go and get the ball. The reason is simple: by the goalkeeper going instead of a defender, there are more defenders/players on the pitch (with that extra man who would otherwise collect the ball) to get organised into positions where they are free to accept a pass. By collecting the ball and returning it to the team, it means that they are in a better position to organise an attack and push forward. Although it sounds trivial, this speeds up things and makes sure your team don’t lose precious time (remember: the element of surprise only works if you are quick organising!).


Setting up the hit taker

When the ball goes off the pitch, you should chase after it (good exercise of your agility!) and use your stick to move it (lowering your stick will help you move the ball around with the head of the stick). You can then kick the ball to the open teammate with an accurate pass, so that you don’t have to pick up the ball and move it to the player. Once you have successfully passed the ball and allowed them to set up for the free hit, you should sprint off back into the goal to get ready and prepare in your ready stance, ready for action.