Goalkeepers aren’t only reliant on their hands. The ability to execute quick, sharp footsteps is one of the reasons that Keepers are able to get to shots and crosses to begin with. Hence why coaches always emphasise the importance of good footwork.
So how exactly does footwork fit into a Goalkeeper’s role? And how can Keepers improve their footwork?
The Need For Good Footwork
Goalkeepers must adjust their feet to find the optimal position in any match situation, so that they’re ready to be called into action at any point.
The following match scenarios require excellent footwork.
Corners & Crosses
As the ball is played into the penalty area, Keepers need to quickly shuffle their feet — without crossing them — to find the perfect position to take (or punch) the ball in the air. This process often involves weaving around other players and reacting according to the flight of the ball (i.e. if it changes direction due to the wind).
If you watch how high-level Keepers take crosses and corners you’ll appreciate how much those save rely on sharp sideways movements prior to making the catch. The following exercise from PROGKP demonstrates the anticipation and footwork needed to meet the high ball.
Even the most basic Goalkeeping saves require sound positioning — which is achieved by quick, sharp footwork.
The best Goalkeepers are able to anticipate shots or loose balls around the penalty area, and get into the right position to gather the ball rather than deflecting it out into danger. Depending on the type of ball played into the box, Keepers are often required to adjust their feet while the ball is in flight, and even afterwards — in order to bring it to safety.
The following training video from Goalkeeper Conor O’Keefe perfectly highlights how footwork is regularly called into action in order to make the tiny adjustments needed to gather balls around the body, and to be fully mobile around the box. Some of the training exercises involve agility ladders, which help Keepers to become accustomed to making short, nimble steps.
Professional Keepers don’t pull off spectacular diving saves by simply springing off from a static starting position. On the contrary, their feet are always working to give them the maximum chance of producing a stop.
The following video from the England international team shows Goalkeepers making diving saves and double blocks from hard, pacey efforts at goal. Note how the Keepers remain in the set position, on the balls of their feet, slightly leaning forward to maintain balance. While fitness and reflexes certainly play a part in producing many of these brilliant stops — it’s the quick feet that ensures the Goalkeepers are able to get up down to tricky shots drilled at goal.
A Goalkeeper’s footwork technique develops over time, and comes naturally to some people more than others.
As a GK it’s vital to incorporate footwork into training sessions so that so when the time comes you have the ability to maneuver around the goal area, and react at a moments’ notice.
The technique you should use to adjust your feet during games is as follows:
- Stay in set position, with your hands ready to make a save
- Ensure hips and shoulders remain square to the ball
- Keep on the balls of your feet, without too much downward pressure
- Bend your knees slightly (to enable spring)
- Keep your weight leaning forward slightly (for balance)
- Shift one foot at a time in short, sharp steps, one following the other
- Meet the ball while travelling forwards, not backwards.
- Never cross your feet over!
Aside from following the example exercises shown in the videos above, you can also train your footwork technique at home using agility ladders — as shown by Goalkeeper David Haynes:
Just remember: handling isn’t everything. A Goalkeeper’s footwork can be the difference between meeting the ball and saving the day, or failing to get anywhere near it in the first place.