The big game has arrived, you’ve been waiting all week for this moment – this game could decide your team’s entire season! Suddenly standing in the goal whilst 10 of your mates smash 8 different footballs at you from 9 yards out just won’t do, but what is the best way to make the most of your warm-up time?
I think the best thing to start with is that everyone’s ‘perfect’ warm-up will be slightly different dependent on each goalkeeper’s strengths and weaknesses, the opponents strengths and weaknesses and the level you are playing at. Each warm-up should consist of some core fundamentals though which we have put together below, you can choose which ones need the most focus for you as an individual!
Warm-up your body!
Before we can even begin to think about focusing on handling a ball, the first thing we need to do is get your body warmed up! Depending on the warm-up your team do it is often useful to piggy back on to their warm-up to begin with, they will usually cover off the basics such as gentle jogging and stretching etc.
If your team mates aren’t doing a proper warm-up then separate yourself off and do at least 3 lengths across the width of the 18 yard box, mixing it up with side steps and short backwards jogs to replicate the kind of movements you are likely to be doing in a game, this should include getting your knees up high as you would when coming for a cross etc and be sure to stretch off your whole body!
There are a whole host of ways you can begin to bring some basic handling into your warm-up, the simplest way to begin with is by having a server simply begin to volley the ball towards you from around 12 yards out, explain to them that you want simple balls at waist to head height that you can catch. You don’t want to be parrying anything at this stage or having to dive, just focusing on catching the ball and building confidence in your handling. As well as warming you up this will begin to raise your confidence in handling the ball as well, a lot of goalkeeping is mental!
Once you feel a bit more confident you can ask the server to increase the tempo and begin to play the ball further away from your body, but the key is to continue to focus on handling rather than making TV saves.
One way to warm your body up for diving and focus on handling is to sit down with your legs bent in front of you and have a server toss the ball left and right so you can stretch out as you would diving but still focus on your handling.
Warm-up your reactions
I must admit that when it comes to warming up reactions I have my personal favourite technique which is used across the world by many keepers. Standing with my back to the server and having them shout turn before delivering a shot on target, this is a great way to begin to work on fast feet, simulates seeing the ball late and allows you to genuinely react to a shot rather than reading an attackers body shape.
It may take a few ‘shots’ to get the timing and difficulty of the shot right to begin with – remind the server they are supposed to be stretching the goalkeeper but every shot is supposed to be something you can save. The key here is to ensure you vary which way you turn when initially turning around and making sure you don’t tire yourself out by only doing a maximum of about 10 of these.
This one is often overlooked during a goalkeepers warm-up but is so important! There is no magic formula to this one, simply have a server fire around 5 crosses in from each side that you can come and gather in the air, ensure there is a variety of crosses, in and out swingers, drilled crosses, looping crosses to the back post etc.
If you can get a spare player / substitute to play the role of an attacker and lightly challenge for the ball whilst in the air all the better, if not then you must make sure you put the effort in to simulate a real game – make sure you are claiming the ball at the highest possible point and get your knee up to protect yourself.
In today’s game it is no secret that a goalkeeper has to be able to play football, it’s not enough nowadays to simply be a great shot stopper and be unable to kick a ball. Take a few minutes to practice a few goalkicks from both sides of the 6 yard box, focusing on accuracy and technique rather than pure power. Then repeat with kicks from your hand and some long overarm throws to a team mate.
Test the pitch
A lot of people reading this will unfortunately not be playing on carpet like professional pitches, so as part of your warm up it is always extremely useful to ensure that you understand how the area and the goalmouth play before you kick off. Make sure between you and the server you really understand how the ball rolls when hit across the ground, how does it bounce? This can often vary drastically between in and outside of the 6 yard box so really do test it out and adjust your play style accordingly if needed.
How much time should you spend on each drill?
That bit is up to you I’m afraid! I would suggest you cover off all of these items as a minimum, but each warm-up will likely be different, some days you will turn up and your reactions will be fantastic, your handling will be awesome but your distribution will be sloppy, another week it will be completely the opposite. Focus on what ever you don’t feel confident on going into the game, but please ensure you don’t get negative and don’t tire your self out.