How to Improve a Goalie's Reaction Time in Soccer
You probably ended up trusted with the goal because your soccer coach noticed you already have decent to very good reflexes. To attain the next level and nail the door shut on opponents’ shots, you’ll need to improve your timing so you can succeed with pure reaction saves: small miracles of blocking the ball -- including dives, point-blank stops and double saves -- without even thinking. Start your reaction drills with dynamic movements such as tossing the ball overhead repeatedly to a partner and rolling the ball in a figure-8 pattern around your feet.
You can work with your team’s goalkeeping squad, a coach or assistant, or a field player as you stand right in the goal mouth for game simulation exercises. Face away from your drill buddy, looking at the back of the net. Have your partner kick mid-paced shots that you can handle for this drill. On your partner’s call of the shot direction -- left, right or center -- jump in a quick 180-degree turn, head toward the shot and stop it. Up the challenge a level by repeating the drill with a jump to touch the top of the goal crossbar, a landing of a quarter turn, gathering your feet, and then another quarter turn and shot block. “Even if we can’t hold onto the ball, we can definitely get our body behind it, and our chest or our face will stop the ball,” advises goalkeeper and coach Alberto Ruiz of Orlando, Florida, who creates online videos in the YouTube channel Soccer Drills and Goalkeeper Training.
Over the Rope
To get used to the dizzying twists and turns that a besieged keeper must make when rebounded shots come in, Ruiz advises having an assistant hold a rope at about knee height extended out from the goalpost, in line with the side netting. Jump over this extended rope; perform a shoulder roll on the ground and stand up. Get ready to stop a shot that will come in from a second partner just after you find your feet. Punch the ball out or control it. A tip: Focus on one point of the incoming soccer ball -- the air valve, a star or a square, Ruiz suggests.
Hands and Feet Stops
Practice keeping your body engaged, hands and feet alike, with a close-in drill proposed by the Keeperstop website. Stand about 5 yards from a partner who has a clutch of balls at her feet and one in her hand. The partner will punt you balls at chest level and kick balls at your feet without alerting you as to what's coming. Catch and return the high balls, and kick the low balls into the goal to mimic a clearance. Align yourselves beside and parallel to the goalmouth so the goal does the work of collecting the “cleared” balls.
Get better at parrying the ball -- knocking it away with one hand -- with drills used by Spanish soccer teams such as Deportivo de La Coruna. Stand in the goal and have your partner face you from about 2 yards away to send soccer ball after soccer ball, fed to him rapid-fire by a second assistant, left or right of your head. Parry each away. Repeat the drill with tennis balls and then with soccer balls dropped over each shoulder by an assistant standing on a box.
An award-winning writer and editor, Rogue Parrish has worked at the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun and at newspapers from England to Alaska. This world adventurer and travel book author, who graduates summa cum laude in journalism from the University of Maryland, specializes in travel and food -- as well as sports and fitness. She's also a property manager and writes on DIY projects.