Has all that coaching been wasted?


The Match Warm-up!


From the youngest to the most experienced goalkeeper the warm-up is one of the most essential requirements before the match. It should consist of physical and mental preparation that ensures all the skills you have learned are practised and ready for what you will encounter in a match. It’s too late after the whistle to find out you are not ‘on your game’ and even worse that you suffer an injury because your body cannot cope with the demands now placed on it. All that you have learnt or been coached can be wasted by lack of match preparation.


Benjamin Franklin said "Fail to prepare and prepare to fail".



Even with preparation you can still fail as it is also important what you achieve and do during the warm-up that will determine if you are properly conditioned and ready for the events within a match. Not only should you have a planned warm-up procedure but whoever is assisting you understands clearly what you need and therefore accurately feeds and distributes to your requirements. Assisting you in this activity is something that should be taught, even coached, at all levels of the game.


The example given covers the activities a full warm-up should consist of. One would not expect younger goalkeepers to perform as many tasks so give careful consideration to age and what can be handled so that it does not lead to exhaustion. The important issue is that some form of physical readiness is performed to prepare the body. Doing nothing could lead to various problems and the following practices should not be part of any clubs routine.


  • Goalkeepers, especially at junior level being subjected to a warm-up that consists of other players firing shoots all over the place in their attempt to score...WRONG!


  • I have seen countless times teams coming out to warm-up five minutes before kick-off. A quick run around the pitch and all is ready...WRONG!


  • The more classic but still naive warm-up of all the team, including the goalkeeper, performing the same stretches and exercises...WRONG!


  • I sincerely hope there are no managers similar to my youth experience who believed that the goalkeeper, being part of a team, should NOT be treated differently. He failed to teach the other players that I was!


testimage 7The goalkeeper needs different preparation to other players. They need a set of exercises and drills that prepare them for the type of actions they will have to perform. Their muscles will be used differently in most actions and if they have not been prepared correctly it could cause un-necessary damage immediately or at a later time. They need to feel comfortable with the skills they use such as catching, diving and kicking; these are essential exercises and should not be ignored.


I accept that sometimes at the grass roots level it can be difficult for many reasons outside your control to have the time to conduct suitable warm-ups; changing rooms not open; pitch not ready, the list can be long but even
with these problems use whatever time you can to prepare properly your players and goalkeeper, not just for the benefits that will be carried into their performance but also for their protection and well being!


Managers and coaches will want to give pre-match speeches and even use various techniques such as visualisation to help motivate the team, all very well towards the mental preparation but it must go alongside the physical one!


A warm-up example is shown that I would suggest is put into practice within a training session for timings and effectiveness. It should last no longer than 30 minutes. Use your planned routine at every match or help to assist other goalkeepers in your team who might not use a planned sequence for their match preparation!


Remember that the warm-up is only one part of your total match preparation which will be a much longer process that includes how you have trained during the week; your food intake during this time and prior to the match; your liquid intake and not to forget the mental preparation. Various guides and fact sheets will be available on these subjects on theKeeper.co.uk


Warm-up routine


Minimum timings or repetitions are shown and adult players will be able to cover all aspects and more if required; youth players can reduce the timings or extent of the elements in relation to age and ability.


  • Within the goal area start with light jogging – as you build to a more dynamic pace start including high knee / heel flicks / side steps and leap exercises. (min 5 minutes)

 32 448 298 90

  • Start stretching out! We now need to get all muscles prepared with a series of stretching that covers – ankle ligaments / gastrocnemius (calf) / quadriceps / hamstrings / hip flexors / pectorals / biceps / triceps and wrist flexors. Depending on time some stretching can be started in the changing room. (experiment on your timings to cover these elements without any haste)


  • Handling begins – This is usually performed to the side of the goal as feeding to start is directly to the goalkeeper allowing them to enact all catching techniques. Initially any feeder should NOT be looking to score but offer accurate distribution for all ‘catching zones’ limiting full stretch dives till towards the end. Feeding from the hand with under arm throws to volleys and lastly from ground kicks (distance from goalkeeper alters as progressed) will ensure correct build up of pace and power. The goalkeeper should also be looking for accurate returns to the feeder either by hand or feet depending on the next distribution to them. Properly performed will start to set the positive mental attitude to be carried into the game. (min 5 - minutes)


  • Taking crosses – Again, start from a comfort level before instigating crosses from distance. Some hand feeds around the edge of the six yard area can then progress to feeds from the ground at distance. Change the angles and directions so the goalkeeper users his area. Catching will be the primary task however some punches should also take place. Introduction of a ‘passive pressurizing player’ can also take place to increase positional awareness and aids to simulate match conditions. The goalkeeper should in this session become vocal and use the standard calls. The crosses should be from both sides of the pitch. (min 5 repetitions)

 39 448 298 90

  • Kicking & Throws – Begin with volleys and drop kicks progressing to back pass. Also incorporate some throws. The goalkeeper should be looking for accuracy not just distance. Finally and for good reason, finish on goal kicks. They have the greatest strain on the muscles so by now you should be suitably prepared for that pressure. (sufficient combination of each that you are comfortable with)


  • Making saves – Within your goal begin the final phases of the warm-up with shots again to the various ‘catching zones’. Angle of approach should vary finishing up with shots from outside the goal area. Feeding can be more pressured to stretch the goalkeeper but remember at youth level it should not be beyond their capability. Within the final stages you do not want the positive mental build-up that has been achieved now being destroyed if all shoots end up in the goal. Finish on a good save! (min 5 minutes)


During the warm-up take account of conditions around you and adjust to them. In severe weather or poor pitch conditions it might be necessary to consider some changes to your routine or how they are performed that allow you to experience the possible difficulties that might arise.


At no time should the warm-up turn into a coaching session that changes the goalkeeper’s technique or adds any new dimensions to their game. If the warm up is not going well it is best to ask the goalkeeper what they think should be happening; this way you will also get their mind thinking positively.


You should now be ready and prepared for the match. Depending on circumstances you may have a period of time before the kick off. Use this period to relax and compose while maintaining focus; ensure you have the kit your need; take on more fluids; continue with all positive motivation and look forward to the whistle knowing you have prepared correctly.


testimage 1   testimage 6