5-A-Side Goalkeeping Guide | Tips To Improve Your Game

Are you looking for 5-a-side goalkeeping tips? You’ve come to the right place.

Goalkeeping is undoubtedly the most specialised position in 11-a-side football, and the same is true for 5-a-side. Only this time there are different rules, more close range shots to deal with, and an lot more action per minute than you’re ever likely to experience on a full-size pitch.

There’s no doubt that Goalkeepers can make or break a 5-a-side team. So let’s run through all key aspects needed for Goalkeepers to succeed at 5-a-side football, with tips for what you can do to improve your performance.

 

Positioning

One of the key components of 5-a-side Goalkeeping is good positioning. Standing in the right place at the right time means that you’ll stand a much greater chance of making saves. This is vital because 5-a-side goals, although short, are very wide. Therefore strikers have a lot to aim at.

The first thing to get to grips with in 5-a-side positioning is mirroring the movement of the ball in relation to your own goal. When it moves left, you go step left. When it goes right, you step right. And while the ball is directly in line with the middle of the pitch, you stay level with the middle of your goal. You can always glance at the penalty spot to verify your position if you need to.

To help with your positioning, visualise a straight line from the center of your goal, through the middle of your legs, all the way to the ball. This same trick goes for positioning in an any size goal.

One of the tricker aspects of 5-a-side positioning is knowing how much to push forward from your goal line given that you are restricted by the ‘D’ shaped area. Generally speaking you don’t want to be rooted to your goal line, as it shows too much of the target to the attacker; narrowing the angle is vital for making it more difficult for attackers to score.

However, there are cases — usually when a shot could be imminent — where you’d want to keep back slightly in order to allow for more reaction time. There are also some other cases, from my own experience:

  • When the ball is in one of your corners. You need to fully protect the near post by standing right up to it on your goal line.
  • When the opposition has possession and you don’t have a clear sight of the ball. You would want to stand back to ensure you aren’t caught out by an unexpected snap-shot.

So when should you step off your line to the edge of the ‘D’?

Mostly in 1v1 situations. If there’s an attacker through on goal, you must come out on the edge of the ‘D’ — making yourself look big and creating a long barrier — for when the shot is unloaded. The trick is to push out at a steady pace rather than rushing out at the last second. Knowing when to move comes with experience and anticipation. The following video from Goalkeeper David Haynes, shows some great examples of this ‘barrier’ technique.



 

Shot Stopping Technique

Because there’s no overhead height allowed in 5-a-side football, Keepers have to master the art of saving low-driven shots, and those hit around the body.

If a low ball comes at speed along the ground you’ll need to use the ‘Scoop’ technique. This involves utilising your fingers and palms to create a smooth “ramp” for the ball to roll into, before bringing it tightly into your chest. You basically treat your body as a wall behind the ball, offering yourself an extra barrier of protection. In this scenario it’s usually safest to collapse forward onto the ball, smothering it to ensure that it doesn’t spill out (because attackers are never too far away in 5-a-side…),

For slightly higher shots (around the mid drift) you’ll need to use the ‘Cup’ technique. Present your hands out to the ball, creating a pathway for it to hit your body. As the shot comes in, guide it to your chest/stomach area, absorbing the impact. Wrap your hands and forearms tightly around the ball, and bring your head and body over the ball to grip it safely.

The third main handling technique required in 5-a-side is ‘Hands Leading’ — a diving save used when the ball is too far away to claim it while still on your feet. You’ll need to anticipate the movement of the ball to ensure that you get down just before it arrives to you. The ‘W’ hand shape is applied to ensure that you maximise grip on the ball. Naturally, some ‘Hands Leading’ saves will be near impossible to catch. Just keep in mind that unlike in 11-a-side, there are barriers around the perimeter of the pitch keeping the ball live at all times. Therefore spillages and parried saves will often result in a second attack — so goalkeepers need to get up and ready immediately!

I highly recommend reading my Goalkeeper handling guide post to learn more about how to apply these basic handling techniques, and to see them all in action.

Lastly, I should mention that with such close range shots pelted at goal, it’s natural for Goalkeepers to also use their feet to make saves. The fact is, some shots will come at you so quickly that you’ll have no time to get down. The most important thing is to prevent goals — you’ll never make only ‘perfect’ saves throughout a busy 5-a-side game.

One of the best 5-a-side handling videos is, again, by David Haynes. I highly recommend watching it through. Just note that he gives different names to the same techniques I’ve outlined above.



 

Quick Reflexes

With close range shots, as well as deflections to deal with, Keepers must have quick reactions. It’s vitally important that Goalkeepers are on their toes, in the ‘set’ position, ready for action at all times. Therefore agility plays a huge part in 5-a-side Goalkeeping.

You don’t have much time to think about shots in 5-a-side. In some cases you’ll need to simply react on instinct. Your positioning and footwork ensures that you have the maximum chance of getting in the way of the ball. But you’ll also need to be competent at rebounding the ball away with the inside of your foot, stretching out a leg to deflect it, and parrying it away with a hand (or two). After a save you’ve either got to get up and gather it or, if the ball leaves the ‘D’, get up and set for the next attempt.

It’s important that you sharpen your reflexes for 5-a-side. There are a number of different exercises you could perform; some ideas are featured in my Goalkeepers Agility Guide. One example that I’d recommend is the following exercise featuring England Goalkeepers Jordan Pickford, Nick Pope and Dean Henderson. You can see how they respond — often with their feet — to powerful close-range shots. This same exercise could be adapted to 5-a-side training by asking the servers to keep the ball below head height at all times.



 

Underarm Distribution

In 5-a-side football Goalkeepers are allowed to pass the ball out from feet, but primarily roll it out underarm. This requires precision and speed. So if a teammate is unmarked and in a good position, Keepers must act immediately and accurately distribute the ball before the opportunity closes. This will help to launch an attack.

Note that It’s very important that the player receiving the ball is able to control it. The ball should be rolled along the floor, without any “bobbling”, ideally to your player’s stronger foot. The technique used to bowl the ball is similar to that of ten pin bowling.

However, distribution is not as simple as it seems. If you’ve ever played 5-a-side you’ll notice how often a poor rollout from the Goalkeeper leads to attacks and goals. This usually occurs when there’s a lack of options, and the Goalie ends up throwing it recklessly to a teammate under pressure. So what can Keepers do about that?

If there are no options, I recommend holding the ball for as long as possible and demanding players to come short — left and right at the same time. Ask for movement in the middle from the remaining two players to find a couple of yards of space. If that fails, as it sometimes does, then as a last resort you can launch the ball deep and wide towards the barriers, ensuring that it clears opposing players. This is far from ideal, but it might get you out of jail long enough that you can rectify the problem going forward. If that’s a recurring problem, don’t be scared to raise it with your manager.

You can learn more about the bowling technique from my Goalkeeper distribution guide.

 

Communication

One of the main benefits to playing on a small and compact 5-a-side pitch is that everyone can hear you. So Goalkeepers must use that to their advantage.

While Keepers should motivate their teammates to keep working hard and stay alert — it’s also important to quickly identify dangers and demand that they take action.

Here are some important ‘calls’ Goalkeepers can make to help reduce the number of goals conceded:

  • “Player name”. As a 5-a-side Goalkeeper you’ll be bowling the ball out to your players several times throughout a game. To let your player know that the ball is intended for them to receive, call their name as you roll the ball out — just to make sure they’re aware.
  • “Keeper”, “Back”, “Home”. Remember that once the ball enters your goal area — the ‘D’ — it’s safe. So when your team is under pressure and the pass-back is on, it’s absolutely vital to offer yourself as an option. Some Keepers prefer to use their own name (e.g. “Toby”, “Toby wants” or “to Toby”) if that makes it clearer. Use whatever word or phrase your teammates understand.
  • “Back left”, “Back right”, Center”. 5-a-side games are notoriously frantic and your team will inevitably drift out of their positions, losing an opposing player, leaving him/her unmarked in a dangerous area of the pitch. This is where Keepers need to spot the danger and alert the team — or individual — to rectify the problem. For example, if an attacker is wide open in space on the right hand side of the pitch and only needs a through ball for a 1v1, the Keeper needs to shout “Back right!” or even “Back right – Dave” – if Dave is the nearest player to mark the threat.
  • “Hold” or “Push”. Many 5-a-side goals start by winning duels in the middle of the pitch. However, committing to the ball too eagerly can leave huge gaps for the opposition to play into. And failing to press altogether invites pressure, shots and forward passes — so sitting back is not a good way to go, either. The goalkeeper is in the best position to read the game and determine when teammates should “push” to meet the ball and enter duels, or “hold” to stay conservative. Commands can be given to individual players.

To learn more about what Keepers should shout to their teammates, check out my Goalkeeper Communication Guide.

 

Focus

Unlike other variations of the game, 5-a-side football (pretty much) guarantees that Goalkeepers will see a lot of action. There’s rarely a quiet period — which makes the format exciting but highly unforgiving.

Nobody can switch off in 5-a-side — especially Keepers. If you’re not focused at all times, then you’ll be caught off-guard. Shots can be fired from anywhere on the pitch. Counter attacks and waves of pressure can start at any moment. Therefore you’ve always got to be on your toes and ready, watching the game intently, and adjusting your position accordingly.

It’s not easy to train yourself to “be focused” in games. However, you can ensure that you’re always part of the game by constantly communicating with your team mates. That’s the easiest way to stay emersed and to maintain alertness.

 

Mentality

With so much action in five-a-side games, mistakes are inevitable. Conceding several goals per game is normal — but that doesn’t make it any easier for goalkeepers to take. I struggled with it as a youngster, and felt as though I wore the blame when my team lost in tournaments. Certainly more so than anyone else in the team.

Firstly, Keepers should always bare in mind that the pitch size encourages a high frequency of shots, which leads to goals. Secondly the goal posts are proportionally very wide considering that efforts come from such close range. So It’s unreasonable to expect clean sheets from yourself.

Try not to dwell on errors. The only way forward is to focus on the next phase of play, and use that as a way to improve your overall performance for the game. Think of it this way: if you made one bad mistake that lead to a goal, but pulled off five brilliant saves afterwards, then you’ve still had a positive impact on the game. One of the great things about 5-a-side football is that one single goal is far less valuable than it would be on a bigger pitch. That means every moment is a chance to launch a comeback — and that begins with you, the Goalkeeper. So set a positive example for the rest of your team.

Always remember that 5-a-side success rides on everyone in the team pulling their weight — not just you. So if you’re being bombarded with unchallenged shots and 1v1’s then you can be sure that your outfield players are being exploited. You need to show strength of character by working hard to keep the score down no matter what. Don’t be the one to throw in the towel. For more advice, read my article on the Mental Strength of Successful Goalkeepers.


Hopefully this 5-a-side Goalkeeping guide has been helpful. If you have any of your own words of advice, don’t be shy to share them in the comments section below.

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