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Refining the goal of goal-kicks

One of the most frequently asked/requested topics by parents and players during J4k of NoVA training is improving the goal kick. My response is always, “Sure, I can help improve your technique and give you some tips to work on, but I may not make you better.” Parents and players look at me with a confused look and think I’m joking. I’m really not….let me explain.

I then ask how often do they practice taking goal kicks? The answer is  – NEVER. I then point out that if you never practice something, how can you expect to be better come game time? If a striker never practices finishing on goal when they hit the pitch should they expect to score very often? Probably not. The same is true for a goalkeeper when dealing with crosses or making any other kind of save, without consistent practice and repetition you’ll never improve. That’s why we a J4K NoVA offer weekly goalkeeper training classes year round to help keepers improve.

So, here are some tips and tricks to use. Hit 15-20 balls 2-3 times per week into a goal or to a partner, or better yet, OVER a goal to reinforce getting the ball in the air.

First – don’t use more than a four step drop. Anything more and your focusing on getting the feet in rhythm before striking. I strongly encourage 2-3 large steps back and 2-3 steps off the ball.

Next, create a process or rhythm when you set up your kick. Just like a free throw shooter in basketball or place kicker in football. They do the same thing EVERY SINGLE TIME they shoot or kick. It’s a routine and becomes habit. Set up your routine and follow it to the “T” every single kick.

Your plant foot is very important when taking these kicks. Too far back and you’ll pop it up and be reaching for it, too close and it won’t get the height it needs. Remember, a shooter has a different posture when planting to strike the ball than a goal keeper. A shooter wants to keep their heart over the ball whereas a keeper wants to be behind the ball. If you were to place a ruler from the back of the ball toward where your plant foot should be, that would be about the correct spot to plant. On a real grass field, set the ball up on top of the grass, not in a hole. When you place the ball rotate it so you can pick a specific spot, like the logo or name, and focus on that spot where you want to make contact with the ball. Lock the shooting foot and strike with your laces.

The follow through is also key. You’re taking a nice run up to the ball, so continue your momentum forward. Don’t plant your foot and swing, pulling that energy you’ve built through the run up back away from the ball. Push that energy down and through the ball with a good snap of the leg, landing forward of where the ball was set.

Always have picked a target and try and put that ball there. You don’t want to just kick away without having a target in mind. You’ll have greater success if you have a specific player in your minds’ eye to reach.

During pre-game warm ups, hit at 5 -1o balls to get your rhythm down. Don’t let the first time you strike a goal kick in a match be during the run of play. Build up your confidence and refresh your muscle memory by working through your routine before the match begins.

Finally, like anything else with goalkeeping, getting repetitions in is necessary.  Get out there on your own before practice, after practice, on non-practice days, whenever…..it won’t come immediately, but rather over time. As you develop the technique and strength in your kicking leg you should see gradual improvement. Leg strengthening exercises like box jumps and one legged hopping are good to help further develop these muscles as well.

To find out how you can get a free session with J4K NoVA, contact Coach Larry at larrydolph@just4keepers.com

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