This article focuses on the Technical and Tactical considerations of Diving.
Not the "I got kicked on my shoelace and now I will roll on the ground screaming in agony hoping to get a foul call" diving...but Goalkeeper Diving! What I'm talking about is the "sometimes acrobatic, often last resort, keep the ball out of the net, save the game, keep a clean sheet" kind of diving.
A firm understanding of good diving technique is crucial for any high level goalkeeper and needs to be part of his/her tool kit in order to be successful in this position.
First, I will cover some basic principles of diving. Then provide more detail on two types of diving techniques: Collapse and Extension dives.
Basic Principles of Diving:
- Get into a good position for the shot using shuffle steps or crossover steps. You always want to place yourself on the Ball Line (imaginary line that runs from the ball to the center of the goal), cutting the distance between the near and far post. The goalkeeper should also consider the Angle Arc which is a semi-circle extending from post to post and stretching 3-4 yards off goal line.
- Maintain your Set Position! Keep your weight forward and on the front studs of your cleats. Keep your hands in front of your body, shoulders rounded, and knees slightly bent. A forward body shape will help keep balance and generate power when you need to step for your dive.
- When diving, take a positive (forward) angle to the ball. When stepping to your dive, the step with the near foot should be slightly diagonal in the direction of the path of the ball (think geometry, it should be a 30-45 degree angle). This helps guide deflections away from the goal and also allows the goalkeeper to make a shorter, rather than longer, dive.
As you can see from the image below, the goalkeeper who takes a forward approach to the ball will have a shorter dive to make, and will be sure to deflect any rebounds out of the goal area. This requires quick reactions and decision making.
When diving or "falling", you must keep your shoulders square (facing) the ball. If you roll on your back or your belly, you will turn your hands away from the ball and therefore have less surface to grab and hold the ball. Diving on the back or stomach can also cause injury based on the lack of control of the landing.
When catching, keep your hands in a good "W" or contour shape - trying to put as much of your hands around the ball as possible. Extending the hands to the ball will help cushion the catch and absorb the pace of the shot. Try to avoid hard, flat hands.
As you land, make sure your hands and elbows stay in front of your body and not underneath your torso. Landing on your hands or elbows can cause serious injury and lessen your ability to hold the ball as you land. When catching a ball in the air, you can use the ball as a cushion to absorb the fall.
Collapse Dive Considerations:
Collapse dives are used when the ball is coming within approximately two yards away from the GKS body. Picture yourself laying on your side - if you can reach the ball in that position, then a collapse is appropriate. This save is used when the ball is just far enough, or fast enough, that you cannot move your feet to scoop it up and you MUST get your body behind the ball by "falling".
- Maintain your set position until the ball is struck.
- As it travels to you, you will want to "sweep" or "erase" the leg nearest the ball (if the ball is struck to your Right side, the Right leg will sweep out - and vice versa).
- As you sweep your leg out from underneath your body, gravity kicks in. You will fall to your side quickly, but will need to maintain good hand and arm positioning in front of your body.
- Make sure the near hand (hand closest to the ball) gets behind the traveling ball. The far hand (hand furthest from the ball) will come on top of the traveling ball.
When the ball is struck in the air, the same basic principles apply. However, in this situation you will want to take a small step towards the ball (diagonal, away from the body) to get your body behind the ball as it travels.
Cushion the catch by extending your hands away from your body, maintaining good hand shape. When you catch the ball, collapse softly to the ground with the ball touching the ground first. Fall onto your side, landing on the hip and shoulder, and pinning the ball to the ground.
Extension Dive Considerations:
Extension dives are used when the ball is traveling outside of the goalkeeper's "collapse" range. Again, picture yourself laying on your side in a diving position - if the ball is beyond your fingertips, you will need to utilize an extension dive. This simple means that we extend our range of diving with a "power step" in order to get our body or hands behind the ball. Extension dives can be done to stop a ball traveling on the ground or in the air.
- Footwork remains the same - get to the ball line (or as close as possible) before the ball is struck. Keep good body shape, forward on the balls of the feet and hands in front of the body.
- Once you are able to read the flight of the ball, and you see that you are not able to scoop or collapse to make the save, you must use a "power step" to push yourself towards the ball.
- This "power step" is out at a 30-45 degree angle, toe turned slightly out towards the path of the ball, and loads energy into the near leg (the leg closest to the traveling ball). As the leg steps, the arms and hands must also drive towards the path of the ball so that the entire body is moving in the same direction.
- Drive the opposite knee across your body to generate power. Leaving that leg dragging will reduce the distance you can cover with your dive.
- Take a direct path to the ball with your dive. If it's a low shot, drive low to the ball - don't jump up in the air, it will waste time and the ball may go underneath you. The dive should make you almost parallel with the ball.
- Keep your eyes on the ball and watch it into your hands. If you cannot catch it, you should make every effort to "parry" or tip the ball wide of the goal and out of a dangerous area.
- As you land, try to let the ball cushion the fall (like a mid height collapse dive) but make sure you secure the ball! The impact of an aerial extension dive can sometime jostle the ball out of the hands...hold on tight!
As you continue to get more and more comfortable with basic diving and collapse diving, your muscle memory will prepare you for the demands of an aerial extension dive. Work your way up, from simple to complex, in order to gain confidence.
Remember, diving is a last resort. Good goalkeepers minimize the amount of diving they do with good footwork, starting position, and catching reflexes. Of course, the better opposition you play against the more accurate they are with their shooting - so diving will be a necessary part of being a high level goalkeeper.
In closing, here's a quick video of the England national team GKs doing some diving work. Watch their feet, legs, body, and hands as they are put through a high level diving session.