Improve Your Goalkeeping With Drills From Hope Solo

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Hope Solo has established herself as one of the premier goalies in women's soccer. But her achievements didn't come without hard work on the practice field. She is still constantly looking to make improvement in her ball-stopping ability.

U.S. goalkeeper coach Phil Wheddon has helped Solo improve her decision-making in the net. "She's already an all-around athlete. She's got exceptional jumping ability, she's quick, and she's very explosive and powerful," Wheddon says. "So we've worked with her on when she should step out of goal to make a save, when to stay in goal, when to apply pressure on the ball and when not to."

Perform the following four drills, which Solo uses to develop her goalkeeping skills in different positions and situations on the field.

Shuffle and Save

  • Starting at post, shuffle across goal
  • As partner rolls ball to middle of goal, lower hips and make save
  • Toss ball back to partner and continue shuffling to far post
  • Shuffle back across goal and make save on another shot

Reps: 4
Benefits: Warm-up, footwork and technique
Wheddon: We try to get our goalkeepers to touch the ball many different ways during warm-up. Shuffling is the main footwork pattern we use in goal; this gets them warmed up and ready to play. I want her to keep her body compact, hands in front and have equal balance on both feet. If you stand up tall, you'll be a slower goalkeeper.

Shot from Side/Shot from Center

  • Make save on shot from corner of box
  • Immediately shuffle across box and make save on shot from straight on

Reps: 3 each side
Benefits: Quick recovery
Wheddon: This helps us get back into good position when our field players let us down. When you're on one side of the goal, the ball can get switched across quickly. Don't drop back across the goal too early, like many keepers do. I encourage them to stay square to where the ball is coming from, make the first save and then get back across the goal with the appropriate foot pattern—drop step quickly—get back across and get balanced and coordinated for the second save.

Cross Corner or Hard-Driven Ball Defense

  • With partner preparing for corner kick, set up near post
  • As partner drives ball across field, decide whether to make play on ball or read shot of partner standing in front of goal

Reps: 4 each side
Benefits: Decision-making, reaction and cross defense
Wheddon: I have (my partner drive) the ball across the goal; then I either take a touch or play it the first time. Sometimes an offensive player has an opportunity to take a touch in front of the goal; other times, she has to play it the first time. I am making Hope decide ahead of time if she can step out and shut the player down, or if she has to wait and read the touch of the player. I have her set up at the near post, and if the ball is coming really fast, she has to spread her body and deny as much space as possible. If she can get across and ready to make a save in time, then it's all about getting her body in balance and dealing with the ball appropriately, whether she has to dive or remain on her feet.

1v1 Defense

  • Assume position in goal
  • As teammate approaches with ball, defend breakaway situation

Reps: 10-20
Wheddon: There are three types of breakaways a keeper must identify:

Before the shot is taken: The ball has been played in front of the forward, so the keeper has an opportunity to get to the ball first. The keeper must read the distance between the ball and the forward, and if she can get there first, she needs to win the ball outright.
During the shot: This is when the keeper makes a save on the ball at the exact same time the forward gets there. This is a very courageous save.
Forward has complete control of the ball: When the forward is dribbling at the keeper, the keeper must stay on her feet as long as possible to force the forward into make a bad touch.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock