Pregame Warm-up for Goalkeepers

Pregame Warm-up for Goalkeepers

Have you ever watch youth or amateur teams warm-up before games?

If you have, you've likely noticed that in many cases, the goalkeeper is the last position to receive any attention. This is often because the neither the coach nor the goalkeeper knows how to do it correctly. The result? A goalkeeper who not being adequately warmed up. 

What do you see most often during pregame warm-ups?

Often it is players in one or two lines waiting to receive a ball, make a pass, perform a run, hopefully receive the ball back and attempt a shot on goal. Or my favorite (sarcasm) players positioned at random outside of the penalty preparing to shoot on goal. This may help warm up the field players (albeit poorly), but it does little to help the keeper. 

Why is this not helpful for the keeper?

Because the players are not shooting at the goalkeeper's hands or within inches of him or her. They're after goals, which they can achieve in plenty. Not only does this result in a poor warm-up for a keeper, but it is also has a negative mental impact. As a goalkeeper, do you really want to prepare for a game by giving up 25 goals? Of course not! In fact, this is the perfect recipe for helping a goalkeeper lose their edge before the game even begins.

So what is the answer?

First, it's important to understand what goes into making a good goalkeeper. A goalkeeper's makeup is quite different from that of other players. A good goalkeeper not only requires strong technical skills but, more importantly a tremendous mental capacity. A goalie is often viewed as a hero or zero based on the result of the game. There are no shades of gray. It takes a person with a great deal of self-confidence to endure this level of black-and-white pressure.

As a result, goalkeepers must have a thorough warm-up before the game for them to succeed. The first and most important thing the goalkeeper must do is prepare their technical skills. This will boost their confidence as well as attention going into the game. If the goalkeeper does not get enough service during warm-up, they will be unprepared, which might lead to errors that could lead to giving up goals. One of the essential qualities for a goalie is self-assurance derived from perfectionism.

The pregame preparation begins days before, with a balanced diet and adequate rest up to the game. To prepare their minds for the next match, I also advocate goalkeepers to utilize mental imagery ahead of time, either the night before a game or the morning of a game. I'll have them recall memorable saves or difficult crosses from previous games. This helps the player get in the mindset to play by putting pleasant thoughts and "feel good" experiences into their head. I also recommend that they imagine themselves playing the game and performing flawlessly. Everything is done correctly and confidently, just as it would be during a game. This mental attitude activates their muscle memory to execute perfectly, much like they do in training.

Goalkeepers and goalkeeper coaches (and even parents of keepers) often have a variety of methods for preparing before a game. The following are actual warm-ups that I use with my amateur and college keepers before matches. I try to keep my warm-up well-rounded, incorporating game-like situations. While I spend the time focused on preparing the starting goalkeeper, I expect the other two goalkeepers to work together. Everyone is expected to warm-up exactly the same way.

Before the game begins, we go out on the field and let the goalkeepers have a few minutes to themselves to kick around or walk about before getting down to business with our scripted pregame warm-up. This is an opportunity for players to connect with the moment and visualize themselves playing in the environment. I want them to prepare for battle by envisioning their surroundings.

And now the pregame is underway.

When the actual pregame gets underway, the keepers will perform an end line to the top of the box dynamic jog. Jogging back and forth while performing a variety of dynamic stretches is what this entails. One keeper is in charge, while the other keepers follow suit to do the same dynamic warm-up.

After five minutes or so, the keepers will get approximately 6 yards apart and begin one-touch passing back and forth. The one-touch passing back and forth over a short distance causes them to focus on their technique and first touch on the ball, which begins the foot warm-up.

Next, the keepers will spread out 18 yards apart and start working on two-touch passing. We finish with one-touch passing from from the same distance. From there, we go to the cones that I have already placed off to one side of the goal to begin working on their agility and footwork.

They choose their patterns as they go through the cones (4 cones in a row for quick feet and acceleration forward) before ending with a ball delivered firmly to their hands (no diving at this time). The initial sequence through the cones is going straight ahead. The second sequence through the cones is completed laterally, with a turnaround at the end to receive a low ball service during. Between sequences, keepers take a few moments for a static stretch. At this stage in the warm-up, their feet are warm, and their hands have been engaged.

Now we step it up a bit.

The following two warm-up exercises focus on hand/eye warm-ups. I refer to them as the 10's and 5's. The first activity is the 10's. The working keeper sits on the ground facing the server, who has a ball at her feet, approximately 2 yards in front of the keeper. The ball is firmly struck to the left side of the goalkeeper, where they lay out to receive the ball into their hands. The ball is immediately rolled back to the server, and the keeper slightly sits up until the next ball is played. This activity is done at speed, emphasizing the server's accuracy and the working keeper's hand placement and technique. Ten balls will be given to the left side before ten balls are sent to the right side. 

From here, the activity continues into the 5's. Working at a fast pace, this is a sequence of five balls that are delivered to the keeper. The keeper rolls the ball toward the server (about 3-4 yards away) and one-touch passes/shots are hit back to the keeper by the server, allowing for fluidity in execution. Again, good accuracy on the part of the server contributes to success of the warm-up activity (this is why I prefer to warm up starting keepers so they can focus on accuracy leading to them getting a solid warm-up).

The service a goalkeeper receives is only as good as the technique from the server. So take pride in offering high-quality service every time you're preparing a keeper for a match. After five balls are served to the keeper's hands, the successive five balls are sent to his right flank, where he must perform a collapse dive/save. The keeper rolls the ball back to the server and gets up quickly to prepare for the second shot on that side, which takes place very quickly off of his back. It's a quick movement, a shot, a recovery, and a rollback. The final ball in this sequence is to be sent high over the goalkeeper's head for him to jump up and punch back downfield.

After 5 balls are sent to the right, the keeper stands up again, and the successive 5 balls are served on the ground to his feet for a scoop save (no forward diving). Following those five deliveries, the keeper will stand up again and catch high balls above their head with his hands. This highly dynamic pregame covers several aspects of keeper's play in just one brief exercise.

For this drill, the starting keeper takes their position in the goal and the other two keepers go out to the flanks to provide service into the goal box in the form of crosses and direct service. During this time, I will stand in front of the goalkeeper and apply some pressure while also serving as a minor barrier. Each crossed ball (which is played across alternating sides with each service) must be handled correctly by the keeper. The emphasis is on making quick decisions, followed by a positive reaction to the ball (aka; attacking the ball). During this phase of the warm-up, I will remind the keeper to focus on good footwork, covering the angles for balls called away, and working around the correct side of the obstacle for hard-driven balls. During this phase of the warm-up, each side will provide 5-7 crosses.

Next, the starting keeper will remain in the goal with a ball in their hands while I position myself on the 6. The keeper will roll the ball out, and I'll take first-time shots straight to his hands. I move a bit farther away for each shot until I'm just outside of the 18-yard box, at which point I'm striking hard shots directed toward the goalkeeper. After 7-8 strikes, the remaining members of the team are ready to begin their shooting/crossing activity on goal.

The starting goalkeeper has covered all of the fundamentals of the position at this point of the warm-up. Footwork, low and high balls, collapse dives left and right, dealing with crosses, and dealing with shots on goal are all addressed. The starting keeper will stay in goal for 6-8 shots after the rest of the team has taken their shots on goal before retreating to let the other two keepers take care of the remainder. As this point, the starting keeper will work with me on his goal kicks, long throws, and punts. If there is still time, the starting keeper will return to the goal to assist with the team's second activity of crossing and finishing. After that, our pregame warm-up is finished.

You might initially think that this amount of activity would take an eternity to finish, however this warm-up takes around 20-25 minutes to complete when done correctly. And now that the keeper has handled all aspects of the game and performed them successfully, thanks to the accuracy and speed of service, they are physically and mentally prepared to begin play.

Written by Mike Poledna

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