Tuesday, November 27, 2012
They call him the wall… …but is that a good thing????
by Mike Siler
Goal Keeper Director of Infinity Soccer Club
Throughout the soccer world I often hear comments about goalkeepers such as “they call him the wall”
and most people instantly think that is a great thing for a goalkeeper to be. If you kick a ball at a wall
the ball doesn’t go through the wall but it does rebound right back to you and you can kick it again. Asa goalkeeper trainer I see a lot of “walls” come through training and my goal is to teach that “wall” how contain the ball and stop giving up rebounds.
Here a few basic tips and pointers to improve your catching starting with the most basic catches and ending with some of the most advanced.
Low shots at the body:
Hands should be fingertips down making an “M” shape for anything below the hips.
Arms should be parallel like railroad tracks and should be close enough together that a ball cannot fit
Chest should be over top the ball and weight should be forward to keep the ball from hitting the body
and going in the goal. If you chest is over top the ball then the ball will hit the ground if it takes a bad
bounce and you fail to catch it.
Stance: you should have one leg staggered behind the other. This enables you to maintain a strong level
of balance. If you want to test your balance get in a baseball catchers stance and have someone push
you backwards. You will easily tip over. Now have someone try to push you over backwards when you
are in a staggered leg stance……….it won’t happen.
High shots at the body:
Hands should be fingertips up making a “W” shape for anything above the hips. The “W” shape keeps
your thumbs concentrated behind the ball and your thumbs are the strongest fingers that you have.
Arms should be in front of the body to enable the keeper to absorb the impact of the shot.
Elbows should be somewhat tucked into the body. If you fail to do this your elbows will push out and
your “W” shape of your hands will turn into a spade shape and you will tend to drop balls to the ground.
Your thumbs will no longer be the primary object behind the ball and your index fingers will have to
take most of the force. Your thumb is a lot stronger than your index finger so keep your elbows in and
maintain a “W” shape for shots above the waist.
I train all of my older keepers with a specialized weighted Medicine ball. If the keepers break technique
with either their hands or fail to keep the arms in front of the body with elbows near the width of their
hips the medicine ball will slip through their hands and can hit them in their face. The medicine ball will
correct sloppy technique extremely fast.
High balls and crosses:
Judgment is by far the biggest issue that goalkeepers have with catching crosses and shots above the
head but there are a few basic techniques that can be used to improve one’s ability to deal with these
types of balls.
Hands, Arms, and Elbows should be positioned the same as mentioned above. The difference in dealing
with high balls is the location of where you catch the ball. Whenever possible you should try to catch
the ball in your “line of sight”.
“Line of sight” means that the ball is in front of your body allowing you to see the ball and what is
in front of you also. Having the ball positioned in front of you also has two major benefits for high
balls. Benefit #1: The Line of Sight principal allows you to have a buffer zone to adapt to the ball if you
misjudged it or if the ball floats higher in the air. If you try to catch the ball at the absolute highest
point and you miscalculate even so slightly you will make the blooper film. That being said there are
always time where you have to catch the ball at the highest point but when possible allow yourself some
adjustment room and use the Line of Sight principle. Benefit #2: The Line of Sight principal will give
you body more leverage and balance while in the air. To illustrate this example raise a ball above your
head as high as you possibly can and have someone hit the ball with their fist. Odds are you will topple
backwards and drop the ball. Now try using the Line of Sight principle and you will notice that you have
great balance and strength.
I can’t move past catching high balls without mentioning the footwork involved. Now this is not a topic
on dealing with crosses but you will need to know how to use your legs to maintain balance and gain
height in making high ball catches. Identical to making a lay-up in basket ball you will jump off one
leg while raising the other leg. Try to do an imaginary lay-up I bet the raise the leg motion happened
without you even thinking about it. This motion essentially creates a counter weight to your body mass
and makes you jump higher and faster. In the goalkeeping world it also protects your body from impact.
Shots to the side of the body:
Hands, Arms, and Elbows will be the same as mentioned above. The difference for shots near the body
but to the side of the body is in the footwork involved to keep your body behind the ball.
Footwork: step towards the ball. Note that this is both forward and to the side. Stepping forward
reduces the shooting angle and stepping towards the ball allows you to get your body behind the ball.
3-points of contact on the ball: An added step to making these collapsed catches is in the trapping
technique done with the hands. I teach and refer to this as “pinning” the ball to the ground. After you
have the ball in your hands you need to focus on keeping the ball in your possession when you land.
Your hands will rotate overtop the ball and towards the ground. Doing this will enable you to have 3-
points of contact on the ball. You will have one hand on top of the ball, one hand behind the ball, and
you press the ball into the ground for the third point of contact. Not only does this process enable you
to pin and contain the ball, it also enables you to use the ball to absorb the impact of the ground and
make the landing soft on your body. The ball should make contact with the ground before your body
Making diving catches really only differs in the footwork and diving technique of the leg closest to the
ball and the driving motion of the leg farthest from the ball. I will cover diving technique another day.
For now let’s stay focused on the hands and the catch itself.
The Hands technique of this style of catch remains the same as those catches closer to the body. The
only difference that has to be stressed on these acrobatic catches is the positioning of the Arms and
Elbows and the extra strength needed within the wrist area. As you begin to prepare yourself for the
landing on these high dives you will want to land with the ball whenever possible as the ball will break
your fall and make the landing soft.
Arms and Elbows need to be away from the rib area. If you keep your arms extended away from the
body as mentioned earlier your elbows will naturally move away from your ribs and you will not have
to worry about landing with an elbow underneath you. Making catches like this require upper body
strength and wrist strength that come with specialized training and conditioning.
Remember that walls are used for strikers to develop repetition as the ball always bounces back to them providing another opportunity to shoot. So is being a wall a good thing?