Goalkeeper Handling Techniques — Scoop, Cup, W’s, Diving

Goalkeeper coaches teach four main handling techniques or “hand shapes”:

  1. Scoop (or “Ramp”)
  2. Cup (or “Basket”),
  3. W’s (or “V’s”)
  4. Diving (or “Hands Leading”).

Keepers should regularly practice these go-to handling techniques in training, and incorporate them into their game.

So how and when should keepers apply each of the four handling techniques?

 

1. Scoop

The ‘Scoop’ handing technique is used to save or gather low balls.


Technique

  1. Adjust the position of your body so that it’s in line with the direction of the ball.
  2. Bend your elbows slightly.
  3. Use the fingers and palms of your hands to create a smooth “ramp” for the ball to roll into, before scooping it tightly to your chest.
  4. Treat your body as a wall behind the ball, offering an extra barrier of protection (read on to learn more on this).

The following video demonstrates the basic Scoop technique.



Collapsing Forward

With most aspects of goalkeeping. it’s better to be safe than sorry. So if a low ball comes at speed (or with spin), collapse forward onto the ball — and smother it to ensure that it doesn’t spill out.

Always try to land on your (soft) forearms rather than your elbows.


Different Variations

Depending on your goalkeeping coach, you’ll be taught different variations of the scoop technique:

  • Legs wide apart. I was taught against this technique. The idea is that by spreading your legs further apart you’ll be able to lower your height in order to get down to the ball more easily. The (obvious) trade-off is that your body doesn’t act as an extra barrier — and you leave yourself open to through-the-legs goals.
  • Ball width apart. This is the most simplistic version of the scoop. It means keeping your feet less than a ball width apart, and providing a “ramp” for the ball to roll up into. The downside is that you can’t get down quite as easily, and your body shape remains narrow without any other kind of protective barrier in the event of a fumble. I still think it’s the most sensible technique, though.
  • Long barrier. This is the most complex technique. You bend one leg into the other to create a near 90 degree long barrier — which offers maximum protection. The main downside is that you have to choose to collapse either the right or left leg, and position yourself to face the direction of the ball. Shots with high speed/swerve could catch you out.

FYI: here’s why I think it’s best to keep your feet ball width apart…



When To Use

  • Use the Scoop technique whenever the ball is played along the ground and up to about knee height, around your body or in an area where it can be easily claimed.
  • Shots, through-passes, crosses, and any type of loose ball (back-passes excluded) are all valid scenarios for using the Scoop handling technique.
  • The Scoop is used to gather both slow paced balls (in space), as well as to stop fast-paced balls (hit at the body).
  • This technique is only effective when goalkeepers have time to position themselves in line with the ball.

 

2. Cup

The cup (or “basket”) handling technique is used to save shots around the mid-drift.


Technique

  1. Keep your eyes on ball at all times.
  2. Position your body square to ball, with your body weight slightly forward.
  3. Present your hands out to the ball by allowing your little fingers to touch. This creates a pathway for the ball to follow towards your body.
  4. As the shot comes in, guide it to your chest/stomach area. Allow it to hit your body first and cushion the blow. Maintain forward momentum and balance.
  5. Wrap your hands and forearms tightly around the ball, and bring your head and body over the ball to grip it safely.

The following demonstration shows the cup technique. The only alteration I would make is to keep your legs a bit closer together — that’s how I was trained.



Collapsing Forward

Exactly like the Scoop, you have the option to collapse forward onto the ball — and smother it to ensure that it doesn’t spill out.

It’s advisable that you aim to collapse forward on hard-drilled shots.


Complications
  • Shots are often struck hard. So if you don’t anticipate and cushion the blow it’s likely to deflect out when it hits your chest area.
  • Avoid back-stepping while doing the cup.
    • This creates less surface area by slightly reducing the barrier you’ve created by your body.
    • Being off-balance can lead to you falling into the goal with the ball (the last thing you want to do).
  • Secure the ball by bending your elbows and wrapping your hands/forearms around the ball.

When To Use

  • Use the Cup technique whenever the ball is played above knee height, around the chest/stomach/waist area.
  • Shots, crosses, bounces off the surface, and any type of loose ball (back-passes excluded) are all valid scenarios for using the Cup technique.
  • The Cup is usually used to catch balls in flight, or fast paced shots hit at the body.
  • This technique is only effective when goalkeepers have time to position themselves directly behind the ball to produce the barrier.

 

3. W’s

The W’s handling technique is used to catch shots struck at head height, as well as crosses in the air. It’s name comes from the ‘W’ shape formed when both hands meet at the thumbs.


Technique

  1. Keep your eyes on ball at all times.
  2. Position your body so that you meet the ball in front of you, and keep your elbows slightly bent as you raise your hands to make the catch.
  3. Spread your fingers wide and bring your two thumbs together to create a ‘W’ shape.
  4. Wrap your thumbs and fingers around the contour of the ball. Ensure that as much latex from your gloves is in contact with the ball as possible.
  5. As the ball strikes your gloves, you’ll need to be:
    • Firm in the wrists — so that the speed of the ball doesn’t blow your hands back, or allow the ball slip through.
    • Soft in the hands — in order to stop the ball dead, like a shock absorber.
  6. Bring the ball into your chest by wrapping your hands and forearms tightly around it.

The following guide comprehensively explains the W’s technique. I highly recommend watching it.



Additional Advice
  • Keep elbows close and bent to allow the ball to push your hands back towards your face slightly. This helps to absorb the power behind the shot/cross.
  • Having soft hands is different to have weak hands. You need to practice using W’s to absorb the power behind the ball to ensure that you don’t parry it away into a dangerous area.
  • Try to wrap your hands around the top half of the ball rather than the bottom. This way if the ball isn’t caught then it’ll drop down in front of you to recover, rather than going over your head (and possibly into the goal).

When To Use

  • Use the W’s technique whenever the ball is played at head height or above, in an area where it can be claimed.
  • Shots, crosses, and any type of loose ball (back-passes excluded) are all valid scenarios for using the W’s technique.
  • The W’s is used to gather both ‘lofty’ balls, as well as to stop fast-paced shots.
  • Importantly, W’s are used when the goalkeeper is able to claim the ball rather than parry it away.

 

4. Diving W’s (Hands Leading)

The Hands Leading technique is basically a “Diving W’s” save, used when the ball is too far away from the keeper to claim it while still on their feet.


Technique

  1. Keep your eyes on ball at all times.
  2. From the set (ready) position, throw the leg that is closest to the ball inwards and drop down to make the save. Spring off your grounded leg if necessary.
  3. Move both hands in sync to meet the ball, keeping them close together. Just imagine they’re handcuffed.
  4. As the ball is about to strike your gloves, maintain a slight bend in your elbows, and catch the ball as follows:

    • Place the hand closest to the ball behind, with the second hand on top. This ensures that the ball is protected in three directions — behind, top, and ground. That’s every direction apart from where the ball travelled from.
    • Catch the ball using the W’s technique, as detailed in the previous section.

Additional Advice
  • Ensure your dive is made slightly forwards so that any unintended parry spills out into an area it can be retrieved (rather than going behind you, possibly into the net).
  • Keep your eyes through the back of the ball and focus on using your hands and elbows as shock absorbers (see W’s).
  • Try to land safely on the side of your knee, hip, and the back of your shoulder. Avoid twisting your body.
  • Anticipate the movement of the ball to ensure that you get down just before it arrives to you. In other words, don’t try to spectacularly leap at the last moment!
  • To get up fast, use your second (un-grounded) leg to kick yourself back up. This is useful if you need to quickly distribute the ball after making a save.

 

When To Use

  • Use the Hands Leading technique whenever a dive is required to catch the ball.
  • Shots, crosses, and any type of loose ball (back-passes excluded) are all valid scenarios for using the Hands Leading technique.
  • Hands Leading is commonly used for “saveable” shots that aren’t quite in the corners of the goal, but cannot be saved using the Scoop, Cut or regular W’s technique.
  • The Hands Leading approach will be required for saving deflections and rebounds, and well as recovering your own spillages around the box.

The following video shows exercises aimed at improving your diving catches. Note that at around 3:36 the keepers are forced to make a decision whether to attempt the Hands Leading technique (which they’ve been working on in the session), or to parry.



For extremely hard-stretched saves you’ll need to parry the ball, or tip it round the post. But that’s an extension of the Hands Leading approach.


Practice the four handling techniques. It’s important to master them because the majority of balls will be hit around your body; and they’re saves you’re expected to make.