No matter where the ball is headed, the proper technique for a diving save will include some basic procedures. These tried-and-true steps for keepers offer the best chance to make the save.
The keeper should always start in the proper ready position. The weight is on the balls of the feet, the knees are slightly bent, the upper body is leaning slightly forward, and the hands and head are in place. In this position, the keeper is poised for action.
The shoulders should stay square to the field regardless of which side the ball has been hit to so that the keeper is in position to land on the side. Rotating the shoulders over will result in a “Superman” dive, which covers less of the goal and makes it nearly impossible to catch the ball. The Superman dive sets the keepers up to land on their belly, which increases the risk of rib, collarbone, and wrist injuries.
If the shot is close, the keeper can use a short, quick shuffle step (if needed) to get nearer to the shot before diving. If the shot is headed farther away, the keeper should use a crossover step to get closer to the ball before diving. The goalkeeper should point the near foot—the foot closest to the ball—diagonally at the path of the ball to start the body in a forward motion. The near foot should provide the power to begin traveling to the ball. Depending on the distance, getting to the ball may require short shuffle steps, a crossover step, or a wedge step (a short and quick step in the direction of the ball used for power and explosion). The keeper should push or drive the hips through the shot to help cover the distance and to allow for maximum body mass behind the ball. The keeper must not arch toward or dive over the ball; the upper body should be on a diagonal path straight to the ball and should be relaxed to form a cushion for the ball. The head is held still, and the eyes look through the window created by the arms and hands.
For low saves, once the keeper has traveled the necessary distance to make the save, the keeper begins the fall with a progressive collapsing at the ankle, the side of the calf, the thigh, and the hip. The arms are bent and extended off the body to create a lane for the body to fall on the side. With the palms facing the ball, both hands should move together to the side that the shot is aimed at. This will automatically lower the upper body. Whenever possible, keepers should try to make the save with two hands. If they are forced to use one hand, it should be a stiff hand to push the ball to safety. They must not flick the ball away with the wrist. Especially when balls are hit with pace, flicking the ball increases the chance that the keeper will merely deflect the ball into the goal; a stiff-handed push applies more surface area to the ball and allows greater control. The keeper can use a caught ball as a “third hand” to cushion the fall to the ground.
Getting Down: Saving Low Balls
The most common shot that a goalkeeper faces is the low ball. Keepers need to fall to save the low ball, and the save is best made when the keeper takes a straight line to save the shot. The proper technique for saving a low ball includes these steps:
1. Begin to move in the direction of the ball.
2. Point the toe of the foot nearest the ball diagonally at the path of the ball (figure 5.1a).
3. Turn the palms to the ball, and bring the hands to the shot (figure 5.1b).
4. Collapse into the fall, beginning with the feet and moving up the body (figure 5.1c).
5. Get behind the ball.
6. Make the save off the body and quickly wrap both arms around the ball (figure 5.1d).