Best Soccer Goalie Positioning Drills And Tips

What makes a good goalkeeper? Well, it’s not all about hand-eye coordination, reflexes, and footwork. Those are fundamentals –and for a good reason– but without proper positioning, even the quickest goalkeepers will have a hard time saving a well-placed shot if they’re standing in the wrong spot.

The importance of positioning cannot be overstated, and just like any of the other fundamentals, it takes practice. Those 18 yards in front of your goalie can get pretty chaotic in the blink of an eye, so to help yours become the wall your team needs, I want to share some of the drills and tips on positioning that have seen my goalkeepers through many tight spots in up-close skirmishes.

Without further ado, here are the 5 best drills that will help your goalie stand where they’re supposed to when they’re supposed to.

Warm-up!

Right out the gate, we’ll start with some warm-up exercises that, while not necessarily focused on positioning, will certainly help your goalie snap into place faster. These are meant to improve their agility and reflexes as they shuffle along the goal line.

Drill #1 - Footwork With Hurdle

This exercise is all about footwork, stance, and agility.

Setup

Place up to 6 training hurdles about 1 yard apart in a straight line. Coach, you will be standing a good 5 yards away from the last hurdle with a few soccer balls at your disposal.

How it works

  • Tell your goalie how you want them to work their way through the hurdle. They may: 
  • Take single-leg steps over the hurdles
  • Do single-leg hops 
  • Do two-leg hops
  • Shuffle in and out of the hurdles

As soon as they’ve cleared the obstacle course, the goalie gets in the ready position. 

Drop-kick a ball to the goalie. The goalkeeper has to catch it, return it to you, and get back in the ready position. 

Roll the ball to the keeper’s right side. The goalie has to dive, catch it, and return it to you, then get back in the ready position. 

Same as Step 3, only this time roll the ball to the goalie’s left side for them to dive in, catch it and return it to you. Then, have your keeper go back to the starting line to do it all over.

Points to keep an eye on!

While performing this exercise, you’ll want to make sure that your goalkeeper: 

  • Stays on the balls of their feet. Making this a habit will make it easier for them to pivot and jump from the ready position to make the save. 
  • Keeps their hips fixed on the ball. The goalkeeper should always have their hips facing the ball, so they can throw their weight in the ball’s direction with ease.
  • Does not cross their feet. They may trip over their feet, so no criss-cross. Pay close attention to their footwork.

Drill Variation

Add some variety with mid-body and flighted balls. Instead of rolling,  goal-kick it to them.

Drill #2 - Side to Side

As the name implies, the objective of this drill is to exercise the keeper’s shuffling and recovery from dives. 

Setup

  • Have your keeper step up in a full-size goal.
  • Coach, you stand up to 8 yards from the goal line with enough soccer balls.

How it works

  1. Have the keeper shuffle between both goalposts along the goal line. 
  2. On your signal, the keeper must get into a push-up position and back up into the ready position. 
  3. As soon as the keeper gets up, throw a ball at them. They must catch it, return it to you and go back to shuffling.
     

Points to keep an eye on!

  • The keeper should not cross their legs as they shuffle. We don’t want them to trip over themselves.
  • The goalie should lean forward on their toes. This is in anticipation of the next shot.
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Positioning Drills

Drill #3 - Shooting Angle

Quintessential drill for keepers improving positioning and angles.

Setup

  • Have the keeper stand in the goal and line up 8 servers along the top of the penalty area. 
  • Make sure each server has a soccer ball.
     

How it works

  1. Remind the keeper always to position themselves between the ball and the goal. 
  2. One by one, the servers will set up the shot by pushing the ball in front of them in whatever direction they prefer, then shoot.
  3. As soon as the goalie makes the save, they’re to return to the ready position for the next shot.

     

Points keep an eye on

  • Keepers should not cross their feet as they shuffle. 
  • Hips should always face the ball.
  • Clean catches with their hands.
  • Quick reflexes. 

Drill #4 - Chasing The Ball

This well-rounded drill will make your keeper practice shuffling and diving. Also, at work: reflexes and clean catches.

Setup

  • The keeper gets in the ready position in front of the full-sized goal.
  • Have another 5 servers scatter around the 18-yards box.
  • Give each of the servers a good supply of soccer balls.

How it works

  1. The servers will start making passes to one another with a single ball in the field. 
  2. The keeper is to shuffle along the goal line to always stay between the ball and the goal. 
  3. After 4-5 passes, the server who has the ball may take a shot at the goal. The keeper should make as many saves as possible. 
  4. Save or not, the servers start passing another ball to one another to repeat the process. 
  5. Repeat for 5-6 rounds before taking a break. If you have a few goalies, have each of them make at least 2 rounds before switching to the next one.

Drill variation

To make it more interesting, instruct the servers to receive the ball and immediately shoot for the goal after every pass. 

Points to keep an eye on

  • Proper shuffling. Make sure the keeper is not crossing their feet. I can’t stress this enough. 
  • Proper stance. The keeper must reset their feet after every save.
  • Challenge the keeper. Tell the servers to pass the ball quickly and shoot in different angles to keep the keeper guessing.

Drill #5 - Arc Drills

This drill focuses on agility and reflexes, but it does wonders for your keeper’s movement from one side of the goal to the other.

Setup 

  • Draw an arc in front of the goal. The curve should be up to 6 yards away from the goal. You can use disc cones or anything eye-catching enough for the keeper to see. 
  • Have your keeper stand in front of the goal but behind the arc. 
  • Place up to 10 soccer balls in the penalty area.

How it works 

  1. Have another player attack the goal with the soccer balls you placed in the penalty area. 
  2. Your goalie is to move along the arc from one side to the other as the server shoots for the goal. 
  3. The keeper must save the shot, get back in the ready position for the next shot.

     

Points to keep an eye on!

  • The keeper should always stay between the ball and the goal.
  • The goalie has to shuffle along the arc, not the goal line. Footwork is key here. Make sure the keeper is not crossing their feet. 
  • The keeper has to move quickly. Yes, we want proper technique, but also fast reflexes and even faster reactions.

     

Drill variation

Amp it up, including another server, to make the keeper move faster from one shot to the next. Server A shoots for the goal, runs behind Server B to the next ball, and waits to shoot again. Server B shoots for the goal, runs behind Server A to the next ball, and waits to shoot again. They’re taking turns to shoot at the goal.

Alternatively, have some servers wait in line in either corner of the penalty area to dribble along the top of the 18-yard box and then shoot for the goal. The keeper should make the saves as they shuffle along the arc. As soon as the servers take the shot, they’re to go back in line and wait for their turn to do it again.

Bonus Round! A Few More Tips On Positioning

Before we wrap it up, I just wanted to share a couple of tips to keep in mind during practice and matches:

Keep the ball line in the center of your body. That’s the line between the ball and the center of the goal.

Stay off the No Man’s Land. Too far off the goal to catch an arcing ball – not close enough to mess an attacker’s shot.

Stay within 3 yards from the goal line. Flighted balls at any height will be easier to save, and you will still be close enough to have a good chance to catch the ball in a dive.

Positioning takes time to master. It’s a combination of all the goalkeeper’s skills, which is why the goalie must commit the fundamentals to memory – muscle memory, that is. Run these goalkeeper positioning drills regularly, and it will become second nature for your goalkeeper to maintain the ball line consistently and have their angles covered at all times.

James Cunningham
James Cunningham
James lives in Chicago with his wife and three daughters. Originally from the UK, soccer has allowed him to travel the world. Now a youth coach, he fully enjoys teaching others about the game that he loves so much. His favorite team is Manchester United.