Coaches in all sports are now utilising training methods used in other sporting activities to improve the techniques & skills within their own coaching programmes.  


When I first started goalkeeper coaching my main philosophy was to think ‘out of the box’ and bring in innovative ideas to the methods and sessions I would coach.


I had been with professional goalkeepers who turned coaches and yes they were good but their coaching methods or session sets rarely changed from week to week.


Progressing though my UEFA licences taught me the principles and coaching techniques as laid out in the ‘book’ – but where was the innovation, where could I bring in new ideas that would improve not just my coaching but give those I coached better skills and increased performance. I wanted to add something different and not just be recognised as someone who had obtained their qualifications. I wanted my goalkeepers to embrace new methods and to enjoy and see the difference it made to them.


So where were my ideas to come from? It was not going to be just adapting the coaching I had been taught and do it differently; there is more to it than that! My first action was to look at other sports and see if methods they used could be incorporated into goalkeeping. This was done not just by watching but actually going for their basic coaching licences to better understand their techniques and methods. Most of those sports were related to some form of ball play such as Rugby, Tennis & Basketball. Other sports (can you believe canoeing was one) were to give me the education and knowledge of areas such as strength building, nutrition and personal development.


From all these other sports I was able to see what key coaching methods were used and look for how that could then become part of my programme in goalkeeper coaching. For me two achievements, firstly the obvious knowledge I gained and secondly the fun I had doing them. That education continued into more academic studies in sports management & football studies.


It would not be possible for me in this article to tell all the different ideas or techniques I have build into my coaching schedule from learning other sports but one I will offer; not just for coaches but goalkeepers can practise this too!


I used the heading ‘WHY JUST A FOOTBALL’; well that’s what we play; that is the ball we use!


Within my coaching equipment I have hundreds of different types of balls of various sizes. These balls have different shapes, some hard some soft, various types of material etc. When used they create an entirely different response or action by the goalkeeper due to the way they move or have to be caught. They are not as predictable as a normal football. The effect of their use for the goalkeeper might be an increase of speed or decision making, movement of feet and increased agility, soft hands or more consistent catching. Whichever ball is used it has a purpose within the coaching session the key is what you see that you can do with it that is different and will improve a goalkeepers skill.


One simple ball I use regularly is a tennis ball. When I first used this idea while coaching at Football League clubs the comments from other coaches and clubs variedtennisball1 from ‘what is the point in that’ and ‘but we use footballs’, guess you now see where this articles heading comes from!


Distributed to the goalkeeper with a tennis racket I found it an excellent way to warm-up my goalkeepers before we got down to the main coaching session. For just a few minutes I will hit tennis balls at them, firstly direct to hands but then increasing the pace and width. They start without gloves during the slow distribution then it is up to them when to put these on as the tennis ball is hit harder. What it achieves is the important issue!


tennisball2Being a smaller and different ball chances are; and they know it; they will drop a few catches but it does not create any negativity or mental attitude towards the rest of the session. If they start dropping a normal football in their warm-up you might get that reaction. It becomes noticeable when we change to a football how easy they are catching because their hand eye co-ordination has already clicked into gear. If as you would expect they have positioned themselves correctly with the tennis ball then you will see that their positioning and reaction is much faster when again reverting to the normal football. If you decide to use this method you should do it at the start of each session for a few minutes and not as an occasional exercise as you will not achieve the same results or possibly confuse your goalkeeper.


To start you are looking to feed the 'catching zones' building the pace to then making diving saves. As normal, the pace is controlled by the age and ability of the goalkeeper. Feed from around 12 yards for 2/3 minutes.



This is just one of many different methods I will use in my pursuit to improve the skills and performance of those I coach and it is their willingness to adapt and learn that makes me want to seek other innovative ways and think ‘out of the box’. If it works then use it; we should not be put off if others do not understand what its purpose is for or what difference it could achieve. So to those coaches who criticized me when I did this hopefully you have changed your view as it is now a method used by many others in the professional game.


You might well see on some coaching videos the use of the tennis ball for more advanced work-outs which also create hand-eye co-ordination or deflection for speed training, for obvious reasons these should not be used in general warm-up exercises, but treated as specialised coaching sessions.


The position of goalkeeper is now more technical and specialised so we need to adapt to changes and give those we coach the best knowledge for their development. If you as a goalkeeper or coach would like to share something you do differently then send me details at askthekeeper, maybe your coaching tips can form an article.