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This article was written by sonningfc at the TeamSport90 Community Forum.

It is 1.15 on a Saturday afternoon and it’s cold and damp. There is 45 minutes before kick off. The manager has called out the names of the starting eleven and named the subs.

Then I hear those dreaded words: “Can the subs go and warm up the goalkeeper…” My heart sinks. Now- I’m not a brilliant goalkeeper; if I was I would have been the subject of a multi-million pound transfer to Manchester City. I’m not bad, but the words “.. warm up the goalkeeper” makes me wish I was an outfield player.

In some clubs, “warming up the goalkeeper” will often consist of the subs, placing the ball on the penalty spot, and blasting it goal bound. Occasionally, the ball will nestle in the back of the net, whereby the sub wheels off in triumph, shirt over his head, celebrating as if he has won the FA Cup with the last kick of the game. More often than not, the ball will go flying by the upright, before rolling to a stop, some 50 metres or so behind the goal, with the goalkeeper scurrying after it.

However- luckily for me for Sonning FC and for many other Saturday and Sunday clubs, the above is now a distant memory. After all- goalkeeping has to be one of the most specialist positions in football and as such, clubs and players have begun to realize the importance of ensuring that the goalkeeper has a warm-up suited to this unique role.

During the course of a match the goalkeeper will:
•  Kick a ball, both from hands and the floor
•  Throw/roll the ball out
•  Catch the ball at various heights; above head, chest and waist
•  Dive- at the feet of opposition players and in the course of preventing a goal
•  Shout
•  Run/ jog- forwards, backwards and sideways
•  Jump
•  And many more besides!

The question is: How do you prepare a goalkeeper for game, both physically AND mentally. I’ll let you know what I do, and let me know if you agree/ disagree, or have some ideas of your own! I picked some of these exercises and drills based on a coaching course I did a few years back.

Dynamic stretching/ jogging – 8/10 minutes

I am usually the first player out on the pitch, as this gives me time to do my stretching exercises, without fear of an over eager centre forward placing a ball in the back of my head!

•  Start with jogging a couple of widths of the pitch, usually just shaking the arms and hands out, rolling the shoulders and “windmilling” the arms.
•  After the first 2 widths stop and do some stretching WITH the ball. Doing it with the ball feels natural and it also helps me with my grip and finger work. Below is a couple examples of some stretching exercises.

Upper Body
stand legs shoulder width apart and:
-hold ball in hands, arms straight and
extended back over head, hold 20 secs
- hold straight out 20 secs
- hold straight back through the legs, 20 secs
- repeat two more times

sit with legs apart,holding ball. Extend hands over right foot and hold for 20 secs.

Alternate three times on each side

•  Return to jogging with some sidesteps and “opening/ closing the gate” groin exercises.
•  I then like to do a width or two of the penalty box, dribbling a ball and moving the ball out from under my feet.

I never spend more than 10 minutes with my stretching exercises- by now the rest of the team are out, and this is when I will do my “match” preparation.

Handling Practice

Usually this practice is done with 2 subs if they are available. Also- I never warm up in front of goal- always to the side a) it doesn’t encourage the subs to aim for goal and b) it doesn’t cut up the goal area!

The subs take a position either side of the penalty spot and take it in turns in striking the ball, varying the height of the ball between them, ranging from head height, to “grass cutters” The ball is struck firmly to enable me to get good contact on the ball and maintain the “W” position where possible with my hands. After 2 shots or so each, the subs then move take a couple of steps towards the edge of the penalty box, so that the balls are coming to me from different angles, and whilst I stay in the centre of my 6 yard box, makes me dive left and right, as they shoot the across me into the opposite corner of the goal.

This usually takes about 6 or 7 minutes and gives me a good work out and incorporates stretching and movement in my 6 yard box.

The last exercise has me standing at one of the posts. The subs are now on either side of the penalty box, and I ask them to throw or cross a high ball into the centre of my 6 yard box; this enables me to make good footwork and I aim to catch the ball above my head. In catching the ball above my head I am now stretching my arms and torso and getting those as warmed up as I can. I would expect to take 5 or 6 well placed crosses from each side. If there is time, the subs will take a couple of corners.

Kicking/ distribution

Ok… this is where it all falls apart for me! Kicking! I can do a pretty mean drop-kick. So mean in fact that I scored last season with it and have set up many more. I can even take a rolling back pass. I can’t, however hard I try, take a goal kick! Some weeks they are fine; more often than not they are abysmal!

So at the end of the practice, just whilst the referee is talking to the captains, I practice my kicking, from ground and from hand. I start with little chip kicks that gets the ball to the centre circle, before working my way to clearing the circle. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t!

Drop kicks are ok, so I usually like to vary the distance and the height of my kicks; the kicking gets my hips, groin and legs working and warmed up.

Finally, as most of the footballs are by now in the back of my net from the rest of the team, I pick the balls up, and bowl them towards the bye line- getting my shoulders and arms working!

By now, I am pretty warmed up; above all I always feel that the better my warm up is, the more confident I am going to be in the game; the worse I am, then I know I have to work that extra bit in the game.

Please feel free to let me know your thoughts and comments- feed back from other people is a great way of learning and improving!

Sonning FC

PS. I contradicted myself a little bit;

"Also- I never warm up in front of goal- always to the side a) it doesn’t encourage the subs to aim for goal and b) it doesn’t cut up the goal area!"

Should read "Where possible I ...." - sometimes its easier to do it in front of goal, but more often than not I use the area between the edge of the 6 yard box and the edge of the penalty box as my goal posts.

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