It may not just be the ball in the back of the net

that's beaten you! has published on this site other strength and conditionings coaching articles such as ‘bring the strength onto the pitch’ and ‘what’s happening to the midfield’, so I would now look to bring all those elements of the strength, balance and co-ordination together in this edition so that we can improve our speed, agility and quickness. I am covering SAQ!

There are many specific training and exercise programmes available in this area so in this article I will just give an introduction to the types of sessions you could start to add to your goalkeeping. If you wish to continue with more detailed examples and also see many of the training products available a good source to start is SAQ International -


As the title suggests, while you may be a strong and a well-balanced goalkeeper and regarded as a good shoot stopper or consistent in your performances, consider how many of those goals scored could you reduce if your speed, agility and quickness were improved. Each element should be added to your coaching so you can increase your chances of making more saves and even reducing the chances of attempts by the opposition to force you into action. We are entering the world of sport science which is now a key part of any athlete’s development. Should you ever get the opportunity to be instructed or coached by someone with knowledge of sports science you will see the difference they can bring to your coaching programme and the innovative types of exercises that are conducted to bring out the best in you. The more we understand the brain and body function and adapt exercises to work in conjunction with what it does best, our chances of improvement will also increase.


Firstly let’s understand what Speed Agility Quickness training is all about as each element not only focuses on achieving increased performances in those areas but is also aimed, to name a few, at the development of motor abilities, spatial awareness, reaction time, balance to maintain correct body position and even the control of body movement through ‘reprogramming’ or control of the neuromuscular system so that it can work more efficiently. It is not my intention in this article to teach you about each sector as that is a very technical science, but the exercise examples will induce these interactions. Neuro refers of course to the nerves & muscular obliviously to your muscles. Nerves & muscles work together so by working on the ‘communication’ from the brain to these nerves will create improved performances.


SAQ aims to improve your ability to perform explosive multi-directional movements, its training will help remove many mental blocks you may experience and even increase your current thresholds and assist in exerting maximum force during controlled and balanced movements. The methods used will also help to reduce the risk of injury and increase motivation levels. It considers movement patterns, muscle action, the speed and range of motions performed by you as a goalkeeper and the energy systems you use. Its aim of course is to provide specific training to enable you to reach your goal.


Looking at the different sectors:





With speed for example, you might be able to run fast if you have distance available to increase your velocity, but how fast can you move from the starting point, that is quickness! The shorter the time you take to perform a task is what makes you quick. If you consider the movements of a goalkeeper, you will not have the distance or time to reach maximum velocity, so training for quickness is actually more important than just working on speed training. As a goalkeeper the ability to cover the ground fast, efficiently and economically over the first few yards becomes key rather than only training with long sprints but being slow to start. Increasing the reaction and speed of short bursts will itself save a few of those shots going into your net.






A key element to be a successful goalkeeper! If you are not agile you will most certainly fail, but it is not just about being able to reach those top corner saves but also to have the ability to quickly change direction without the loss of speed or balance while maintaining body strength and control. Agility is often taken for granted; many say you have it or you don’t and if you do have it many coaches neglect it and therefore do not consider it as a training programme for improvement. Agility can be improved with the correct coaching.







Most sports will require the need to go from a static position to motion, how fast that acceleration takes place can determine success or failure. A great deal of force also needs to be generated and transferred to the various muscles areas. The brain for one part stores images and communicates with the nerves which in turn work with the muscles (simplified version) so the more images we store the quicker the reaction. Sport training and coaching programmes have developed enormously over the last few decades, a great deal of research has been conducted not just to improve the performances but to also understand the types of exercise programmes that work best to achieve those results. A sprinter will focus on straight line speed to maximum velocity and endurance, not much good for a goalkeeper who will rarely ever be asked to perform that velocity or have the distance to do so. What needs to be taken from the information is how speed training can help with jumping, turning and changes to direction. Many SAQ programmes look at the specific requirements of a sport and I would encourage you to check out what is available to you so that you can incorporate them into your own coaching sessions.


Correct exercising is also about injury prevention, attempting any new method or skill should not be considered lightly, you could well be using muscles that are not conditioned correctly to what you are now asking. Always warm-up suitably before attempting any new exercise with particular emphasis on the muscle areas you are about to use. SAQ training incorporates low and high intensity workouts, always start at the low rate correctly prepared and increase preparation, even adding specific warm-ups, before attempting high intensity exercises. You may experience muscle soreness, in which case repeating the sessions over several weeks, with suitable rest in between, will alleviate this condition.


All successful athletes that you admire or look to as your role model have not just gone thought the ‘pain’ of exercises or the repetitions of workouts to achieve their success. They recognise that it is not just about the efforts and quantity of the work they put into their sport that gets them to the top of their game. Professionals today understand the need to focus on many other elements that will help them improve. They recognise the need to embrace new techniques and methods that will improve their overall performance. One thing for sure all now focus on, is the quality and not just the quantity they put into their efforts.


To many times I have seen sessions with goalkeepers who have put enormous effort into their work-out, gradually getting more and more fatigued ending up making more and more mistakes, balls being dropped or parried instead of caught, footwork clumsy and reactions slowing with any style or skill being forgotten as they try to keep up with the pressure, only to be told that they had a good hard workout, well done! I ask myself “what did they learn” other than to confirm they have some endurance, sadly though at the loss of everything they should be doing correctly. Whatever you do remember that the sweat and pain is no measure of quality or skill, it is purely a by-product of your efforts. Whatever you do maintain your qualities and skill sets, the balance, the posture, the strength and concentration so that you do not compromise quality for quantity.


Here are a few exercises for you to try:


Basic preparation after completion of normal warm-up routine exercises


Distribute tennis ball by racket or hand (goalkeepers ability and skill determines which and at what pace) from 10 yards into catching zones.

Then half volleyed shoots with football to catching zones from 10 yards.



The following SAQ exercises if used to continue the warm-up prior to another type of coaching set then repetitions are highlighted in BLUE and should last no longer than 20 minutes. ONLY USE TWO OF THE ROUTINES IN ANY ONE SESSION WHICH SHOULD NOT INCLUDE THE PARACHUTE EXERCISE OR ANY SHOTS TO FINISH.  

If used as a full coaching set then exercises & repetitions are increased (highlighed in RED). ONLY USE A MAXIMUM OF FOUR ROUTINES IN ANY ONE SESSION.



Set One

Using SAQ Ladder

Single steps. Double steps. Two forward steps / one back

Repetitions:   4  -  4

Using Hurdles:

Jump as high over three hurdles as possible ensuring you land softly with knees bend. Spilt step to then 'set' for a shot from ground at 12 yards.

Repetitions:   8 (no shots)  -  8/12


Set Two

Using Cones:

Shuttle SAQ drill - side step between the cones until you get to the goal were you split step, then set for a shot from 10 yards from a 1/2 volley.

Repetitions:   8 (no shots)  -  8/12

Using Hurdles:

Lateral hurdles set-up, shout of left or right, jump over the corresponding hurdle to land and come back into the middle of the goal to set for a shot from ground at 16 yards.

Repetitions:   8 (no shots)  -  8/12


Set Three 

Using Skipping Rope:

10 skips to then set and make a save from 12 yards from a half volley.

Repetitions:   5minutes (no shots)  -  10

Using Parachute:

20 yards sprints with slight pause between each. Complete with 20 yard sprint without the parachute.

Repetitions:   Not used in warm-up  -  3



As mentioned previously, the intensity of exercises should start low building to higher levels when you are capable and conditioned correctly. Hurdles can be extended in numbers / repetitions increased / sprints lengthened. When using the ladder more detailed steps like crossovers, side steps etc. can be incorporated for quickness of feet and improved agility.



The routines shown are just a small example of the many SAQ training programmes available. Take the time as a coach or player to look at what they can do to bring new dimensions to your game, even to look at what other sports use in their routines so that you can adapt them to your game. As a coach you will want to vary your coaching sessions to cover the entire skill sets needed of the goalkeeper, as a player you don’t want to be attending the same session week in week out. Many sports have a tremendous overlap in the techniques and methods used that can be easily turned into a suitable session for a goalkeeper.


There are many variations to the sets and sessions that I conduct with my goalkeepers so that they can ‘experience the difference’ of goalkeeper coaching I offer at, I hope you too will benefit from the topics covered on this site. Although I have many more to offer I am always conscious of the particular needs of any goalkeeper because what works with one does not mean it has the same effect on another, age, ability or skills can be a determining factor. Sometimes it will be necessary to adapt or approach a programme differently to allow them to benefit from the session without exerting un-necessary pressure that could lead to the wrong mental approach or worse failure.


Don’t forget that on site I have askthekeeper, so if you have a specific question or even a concern send me a message.