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There have been some questions posed in goalkeeper forums and verbally to me in regards to what many refer to as the “set” or “ready” position. Calling it a “set position” may be misleading to some since “set” implies a static position rather than being balanced, light on the balls of the feet, and ready to react to any shot, cross, or through ball.
The ready position is the action taken to load the muscles and to establish a strong, balanced, and agile base just before a shot. This is done by having your feet shoulder width apart, weight on the balls of your feet, slight bend in the knees and back, hands positioned out in front comfortably in the hip area. This stance will help a goalkeeper maintain proper balance and keep their weight forward. The shape of the keeper will appear concave.
One important aspect to remember is that this is a temporary position taken before an action from an attacker; before the shooter’s leg is swinging through the ball. If the keeper is moving into the ready position during the shot the keeper is not ready. Moving forward during the shot makes it is much more difficult to react laterally. When a keeper is leaning back or on their heels it not only exposes more of the goal but also hinders their ability to load the leg muscles to generate explosive momentum forward to the ball.
Establishing the proper ready position will take practice time. You have to develop an understanding or be able to read when an attacker is going to commit to some kind of service, shot or pass. I watch English Premiere League keepers hop to load their muscles into the ready position. And yes they get beat sometimes because their timing is off but 9.8 times out of 10 this works for them. Remember these are professionals that have developed a ready position that works for them. Professional keepers over many years of training develop an understanding of a shooters rhythm and the visual cues as well. More time should be spent training these types of techniques rather than extension saves. Every time a goalkeeper reacts in an outdoor or indoor match to a through ball, pass back, cross, or a shot it comes from this balanced ready position.
Another important fundamental is that when the ball is under control and near an attacker a service or shot can happen at any moment. Because of this a goalkeeper’s movement should be quick small steps when adjusting to the appropriate angle in relation to the ball. Some refer to it as skimming or gliding into position. Within a blink of an eye the goalkeeper should be in a balanced ready position on the balls of the feet ready to react. With every pass or touch a keeper will be required to adjust his or her position slightly. Within inches a keeper must know where they are in relation to the post and goal line.
This footwork will need to be executed quickly to ensure the keeper is ready before the attacker. The shot will more than likely find the keeper if they have taken up the appropriate angle, weight is balanced in the ready position, and they stay on their feet as long as possible.