As the last line of defence, the soccer goalie is the final obstacle standing in the way of the opposition team scoring a goal.
As such, it’s a high pressure position where any mistake can mean disaster for the team.
To keep a clean sheet and give their team the best chance of victory, the soccer goalie needs to work well with the other defenders on the team. Communicating constantly and alerting defenders to any possible danger that arises.
As the ball will spend large parts of the game at the opposite end of the pitch or in the midfield, the goalkeeper needs to remain focused for when the ball arrives in a threatening position.
Once called into action, keepers must use their reflexes and shot-stopping skills to dive and push the ball to a safe position.
Other times, they’ll be asked to rise above the mass of players and calmly pluck the ball out of the air or punch it clear.
It’s one of the post challenging soccer positions to play and demands a unique skill set.
Below, I’ll discuss some of the traits of the best soccer goalies and also explain what’s expected of them throughout a game.
This is the only guide you need to learn how to dominate as a soccer goalie.
7 Key Traits of a Great Soccer Goalie
With their ice-cool persona and calm attitude, the goalkeeper patiently waits and waits…
Standing firm and forcing the striker to make a decision before pouncing at the perfect time to smother the ball at their feet and prevent a goal from being scored.
The best soccer goalies will do anything to stop the ball from entering the back of the net.
To dominate this position, a goalkeeper should...
1. Be Agile and Have Great Reflexes
Match winning saves are what goalkeepers live for…
And to make it to the top, a great goalie needs to have great shot-stopping abilities.
They need to be agile and have great reflexes to react instantly when a shot comes their way.
Whether it’s from close range or a long bomb into the corner of the goal, goalies need to be able to get down quickly to make the save.
2. Be Brave and Courageous
To make important saves, keepers need to be brave.
With little regard for their own safety, a great keeper is willing to throw themselves at the opposition’s feet and put their body on the line to prevent them from scoring.
Whether they’re diving at full stretch and risking slamming into the post or rising above other players to punch the ball away, courage in the face of potential harm is needed.
3. Have the Physical Tools for Success
With all the knocks that come their way and the wide range of situations which face them each game, keepers need to have the physique to make the saves expected of them.
They need to have the speed to race out of the box to clear the ball away as well as the athleticism to launch themselves to the corners of the goal.
Most goalkeepers are tall which allows them to cover a larger area of the goal.
4. Instill Confidence in the Other Defenders
One of the worst experiences for a defender is playing in front of a nervous goalkeeper.
The goalie must remain calm, composed, and confident throughout the match to give the players in front of them a feeling of security.
This allows the defenders to feel at ease knowing the keeper has their back which gives them the confidence to attack the ball and make plays.
5. Stay Focussed Throughout the Match
Due to the way many soccer matches unfold, the keeper will often not be involved in the play for long stretches of the game.
This can be tough for some keepers to deal with.
When the goal is finally called into action, they need to be alert and ready to deal with any situation that comes their way.
6. Have Decent Technical Skills
In the modern game, keepers are required to be competent with the ball at their feet.
While keeping a clean sheet is unquestionably their main goal, most teams now need a keeper who has good technical abilities to contribute to their style of play.
Goalies need to be able to accurately pass the ball around at the back to help the team retain possession and, in a perfect world, they’re also able to accurately bomb long balls around the pitch.
The Roles and Responsibilities of a Soccer Goalie
As the only player on the pitch allowed to use their hands, it’s the soccer goalie who is primarily responsible for keeping the ball out of the net.
While the outfield players all play their role in limiting the opposition’s goal scoring opportunities…
Only the keeper can heroically soar through the air to tip away the ball with their fingertips.
In this crucial position, what exactly are their specific responsibilities?
1. Keep the Ball Out of the Net
Let’s start with the most obvious…
Making saves is obviously the number one responsibility of a keeper.
When facing a shot on target, the keeper should either look to get hold of the ball or parry it to the sides of the goal away from danger.
This requires strong hands and for them to make sure their body is behind the ball to prevent it from sneaking through their legs.
Having dived down to make the save, the soccer goalie must immediately get back to their feet as quickly as possible to get prepared for the next shot to come.
2. Command the Box and Organise the Defence
The responsibility of keeping a clean sheet doesn’t fall solely on the shoulders of the keeper…
The other defenders on the team are also expected to do everything possible to prevent the opposition from scoring.
With the whole pitch in front of them, the goalie is required to organise the defenders in front of them. Alerting them to danger and telling them which positions to fill.
Communication is key.
3. Cover Their Defenders and Come to the Ball
If an opposition striker does make it through the defence, the keeper should come rushing off their line to either clear the ball away or to narrow the angle.
Facing a one-on-one, the goalie must stand tall and only go to ground when it’s absolutely necessary or when they believe they can win the ball cleanly.
If they get it wrong, the result could be a red card and a penalty.
4. Help Keep Possession Within the Team
In the modern game, many teams play possession-based soccer which has resulted in the role of the keeper evolving.
They now need to be skilled with the ball at their feet and have good distribution.
This means they must be able to accurately pass the ball around at the back and be able to launch it up field when necessary either with their feet or a long throw.
5 Tips for a Soccer Goalie
There are a number of ways a soccer goalie can improve in their position.
Of course, committing to training and hard work is key, but goalkeepers also need to know what they should be working on and how to do it.
Here are a number of ways to improve your on-pitch performance…
1. Never Stop Communicating With Your Defence
Staying focused is key because any lapse in concentration can result in a conceded goal.
A great way to ensure you’re always focused is to constantly communicate with the defenders in front of you throughout the game.
This requires you to continually evaluate the positions of the players on the pitch and to always be thinking a step or two ahead of everyone else.
2. Improve Your Distribution
Because keeping the ball within the team is so important to how most teams play, working on your distribution will help you to be confident when moving the ball around at the back.
Knowing that you’re able to pass accurately will remove the pressure you put yourself under when you know your skills aren’t up to par.
And with time, you’ll be able to instigate attacks with accurate long passes.
3. Practice Your Shot-Stopping Over and Over Again
As you know, saving shots is what a goalkeeper’s position is all about.
Therefore, constantly working on this skill is crucial.
In training you need to practice facing shots from a variety of angles and distances so that during live games you’ll feel confident in any scenario.
Whether it’s a one-on-one or penalty, you’ll know you have the ability to stop the ball.
4. Work On Coming to Claim the Ball
Pushing your way through a crowd of bodies to reach a high ball can be tough…
Which is why it’s best to work on it during training before you have to do it in a match.
Focus on being confident and aggressive while keeping your eye on the flight of the ball as you maneuver through everyone to claim it.
Also, make sure to let your defenders know whether you’re coming or staying on the line.
5. Improve Your Athleticism
As a keeper, you need to be able to use all parts of your body during the game and you’ll be required to dart quickly around the box.
For sprinting off your line to clear balls away, work on your acceleration.
For coming to claim crosses, work on your jumping ability.
By working on your physical abilities you can improve your game immensely in just a short period of time.
From diving bravely at the feet of strikers to tipping long shots over the bar and claiming crosses, a great keeper can make their job look effortless.
It’s a difficult position, make no mistake…
But if a soccer goalie understands what they need to improve and they’re willing to work hard on their game, they can stand out as a great player.
To really be successful, they’ll need mental toughness to continually improve their performance and excel as the last line of defense.
At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth the effort!