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What is a goalkeeper in soccer? Responsibilities, Skills, Strategies

goalkeeper in soccer

What is a goalie in soccer?

A goalkeeper, or goalie for short, is a player position in soccer who is positioned in the goal area and is responsible for blocking shots on the goal by the opposing team. Each team has one goalkeeper, who is the only player on the team permitted to use their hands and arms to contact the ball. Read on to learn more about the goalkeeper.

Goalkeeper Responsibilities

The goalkeeper’s jobs on the pitch will change depending on the position of the ball on the pitch. However, a goalkeeper’s core jobs are to:

  • to prevent the ball from entering the net for a goal
  • to block and catch shots on goal
  • to pass the ball to teammates
  • to perform goal kicks

On defense, goalkeepers are often the one organizing defensive strategies and communicating with the defenders.

Goalkeeper Skills

The most important skill for a goalkeeper is to have great hand-eye coordination. Since balls can come flying from pretty much any angle and at high speeds, goalkeepers must be able to determine where a ball is headed and use their hands or body to block the ball from entering the net.

Another key skill for goalkeepers is speed. The width of the goal means that a goalkeeper must be ready to cross several yards (or meters) in seconds before the ball can enter the net. The defense should stop attacking players from getting the chance to score, but goalies should stay ready to launch from one end of the goal to the next or even up into the air at great speeds.

Goalkeeper Strategies

The goalkeeper is responsible for keeping the ball out of the net, so they must put themselves in a position to make saves. A basic goalie strategy is to only come out of the goal area if absolutely necessary. Goalkeepers will need to make split second decisions, so it is important to practice game situations where they may need to come out of the net.

Another important strategy for soccer goalkeepers is keeping in constant communication with defenders. Goalkeepers will typically have the best view of the field in soccer, so communicating offensive tactics and tendencies to defenders will help keep the ball out of the net.

Goalkeeper Jersey

In professional competitions, goalkeepers wear a different jersey from the rest of the players to signify their differentiation to the officials. Most positions in soccer have a jersey number associated with them. Historically, goalies wear the number one.

Penalty Area

The penalty area is the large box around each goal where penalties are awarded for fouls against the attacking team. This is the only area on the pitch where a goalkeeper is allowed to use their hands to play the ball.

Goalkeeper Hand-Use

It’s important to note that it is illegal to use your hands in soccer to play the ball. The goalie is the only member of the team who can use their hands to pick up, pass, or prevent the ball from entering the net. However, goalkeepers are only allowed to use their hands inside the penalty area. Any hand-use outside of the penalty area will result in a direct free kick being awarded to the opposing team.

Goalie Key Statistics

There are few important statistics that define a good goalkeeper:

  • Saves (SV): when a goalkeeper successfully catches or punches away the ball
  • Saves Average (SA): the average number of saves per game
  • Goals Allowed (GA): when a goalkeeper allows a goal to be scored