What Is a Goalkeeper in Soccer: Role & How to Be a Good Goalie

By Luís Miguel
Updated on

A goalkeeper in soccer is a super specialized position whose primary role is to defend their team's goal and prevent the opposing team from scoring by stopping shots. Goalkeepers are the only players allowed to use their hands or arms to touch the ball, but only within their designated penalty area.

Key Traits of a Good Goalkeeper

A good goalkeeper possesses a set of key traits that sets them apart from the rest. Those who develop and master these key traits become an invaluable asset to their team.

Here the key traits of a good goalie:

Positioning Skills

The ability of a goalkeeper to choose the best position in the penalty box, between the goal posts, and even on the rest of the pitch itself is very, very important.

They must be able to read the game and anticipate where the ball will go, ensuring they are in the right place at the right time to make crucial saves.


Goalkeeping requires nimble footwork, as they need to move fast and change direction quickly to defend their goal area.

A goalkeeper with solid footwork can move efficiently around the penalty box, always staying in the best position to defend.

Ball Catching Technique

An effective ball-catching technique is vital for goalkeepers.

They must have strong, secure hands to grip the ball firmly and take possession. Good goalkeepers are able to catch the ball with precision, even under pressure from opposing players.

Shot Stopping

Knowing how to stop shots from reaching the goal is… well… the key element of a goalkeeper’s job.

Goalies need to have quick reflexes and excellent hand-eye coordination to react to the ball's speed and direction, making saves that keep their team in the game.

Defending Penalty Kicks

Top goalkeepers usually have an extra skill (and also confidence): the ability to defend penalty kicks.

This requires strong mental attributes, such as composure and focus, to read the shooter's body language and anticipate their shot direction.

For very important competitions or matches, some goalkeepers even do their homework beforehand. They study their opponent’s penalty kickers to understand their technique and preferred side.

A few goalies like to use mental games to unfocus or distract the penalty kicker. They jump around, move from side to side, point to the side to which they’re going to fly, tell the penalty kicker they know them or that they going to miss.

One good example of this kind of keeper is Yassine Bounou, who plays for Spanish club Sevilla FC and the Morocco national football team.

Kicking, Passing, and Ball Control

Good goalkeepers need to have excellent kicking and passing abilities to distribute the ball accurately to their teammates, initiating counterattacks.

Solid ball control to maintain possession and avoid turnovers is also a great addition to their set of skills.

Agility and Speed

Physical fitness is critical for goalkeepers. This position requires agility and speed to cover their goal area effectively.

Having quick reflexes enables goalies to instantly react and respond to the ball's movement, making split-second decisions to keep their goal secure.

Mental Attributes of a Great Goalkeeper

As stated at the end of the previous section, mental attributes play a significant role in setting the best goalkeepers in the world apart from the rest.

The truth is that the goalkeeper position in soccer demands not only physical prowess but also the right mindset.

These qualities are indispensable for achieving success on the field.

Confidence and Resilience

Confidence is everything. It really is, especially for a footballer. When it comes to goalkeepers then it is even more important.

Being confident is key to a goalkeeper's success as trusting their instincts and abilities allows them to make split-second decisions that can save their team.

This self-belief also enables them to recover quickly from mistakes, showcasing their resiliency in tough situations.

Resiliency, too, is fundamental for a keeper’s performance, as have to bounce back and maintain composure after conceding a goal or making a costly mistake.


Goalkeepers must be willing to dive into a sea of players to make a save, risking injury and physical discomfort.

This essential quality of courage that makes them fearless can often be the difference between a win and a loss in soccer matches.


A critical aspect of a goalkeeper's role on the soccer field is having leadership attributes.

This position represents the last line of defense. As such, they need command the team's backline, organizing defensive strategies and ensuring proper communication among teammates.

A goalkeeper must be a leader, be vocal and authoritative, guiding the team from the rear.

Focus, Concentration, and Keeping Composure

Keepers need to remain vigilant throughout the entire match, being prepared for any potential goal-scoring opportunity.

This is even more important for big team goalkeepers as they are usually fewer times involved in the game. They must stay alert, anticipate attacks, or surprise shots on goal.

Remaining calm under pressure is a vital asset for elite goalies, as soccer matches can be highly charged situations.

This abilty to maintain equanimity in the face of adversity allows the goalkeeper to perform at their highest level even during the most intense moments.

Physical Attributes of a Great Soccer Goalie

It should come as a no-surprise, right?

Physical attributes are crucial when it comes to being a superb soccer goalie.

It’s true that possessing all physical attributes isn’t a requirement, as some (and specific training) can compensate the lack of others.

Here are some of the key ones that contribute to a goalkeeper's success in soccer.

(Aspiring goalies should focus on developing and refining these qualities to make a significant impact on the field.)


The ability to move quickly and change direction enables a keeper to make split-second saves from various angles.

Quick reactions and strong lateral movements are invaluable when facing powerful shots from the outside or unexpected deflections within the penalty box.


A goalkeeper with fast reflexes can respond to shots in the blink of an eye, making crucial saves to keep their team in contention.

It's a combination of anticipating the shot and reacting promptly that sets the best goalies apart.


A goalkeeper must possess strength and endurance to compete in aerial duels and withstand physical challenges from oncoming attackers.

Having a strong build is important to impose their presence in the penalty box.


A taller keeper has an extended reach with their arms, legs, and head, enabling them to make saves in the top corners of the goal or to claim high crosses that shorter goalies might struggle to reach.

Being tall can be advantageous for goalkeepers as it allows them to cover more of the goal area.

Is the Goalkeeper Position Important in Soccer? Why Is That?

The goalkeeper position plays a pivotal role in soccer as it significantly contributes to the success of their team due to several factors including making crucial saves, organizing the defense, initiating counterattacks, and influencing team morale.

Their impact on team performance can literally be the difference between victory and defeat.

Let’s review some of the reasons why the goalkeeper position is so important in soccer.

Making Crucial Saves

When the opposing forward runs clear to the goal and all hope is lost, a crucial save can impact the game’s outcome and completely change things around.

A strong performance from the keeper can result in thwarting the opposing team's scoring attempts, thereby contributing directly to the team's success.

Organizing the Team's Defense

This soccer position can play a determining role in organizing the team's defense.

Goalkeepers are the only players on the field with a full view of their team's defensive formation.

This unique insight can be relayed to the defenders, helping to strengthen the defensive line and make necessary adjustments in positioning to prevent the opposition from scoring.

Initiate Counterattacks

By skillfully catching, clearing, or redirecting threatening shots, goalkeepers can quickly transform defense into offense, aiding in initiating counterattacks for their side.

This ability to transition the play can catch opposing teams off-guard, making a difference in tight games where scoring opportunities are sparse.

Boost Team Confidence

The psychological aspect of the game is very often unknown or incredibly underrated. The reality is that it plays a major role in soccer and other sports.

If a goalkeeper is performing at an outstanding level, that can boost the confidence of the entire team, while simultaneously lowering the opposing team's morale.

As field players feel secure, knowing their goalkeeper seems unbeatable, it usually leads to an overall improved performance.

Successful Goalkeeping Tips

Becoming a successful soccer goalkeeper requires a combination of physical and mental skills.

We’ve compiled some essential tips for goalkeepers looking to improve their performance below.

By incorporating them into your training routine, you can greatly enhance your abilities and contribute effectively your team’s overall success.

Always bear in mind: practice makes perfect. Continuous self-improvement is key to becoming a formidable asset on the field.

Focus and Concentration

A goalkeeper must stay alert and focused 100% of the time.

With no backup from behind, it is imperative for you to maintain concentration and be prepared for any sudden changes in gameplay.

If your team is the strongest and the opponent doesn’t manage to get many goal scoring opportunities, you should make an extra effort to stay focused.

Distractions could prove costly, as shots on goal will happen when you least expect them.

Effective Communication

Be vocal and give your teammates clear, concise instructions.

Call out patterns in the opposing team's play, use short words like "leave", "press", or "mark".

Help position teammates during corner kicks, free kicks, or throw-ins.

Positioning and Footwork

Good positioning is paramoung for making successful saves as the better positioned you are, the easier it will be to stop the shot.

Practice footwork drills, such as ladder runs and single-leg hops, to improve agility and enable you to move quickly and efficiently in and out of the goal.

Drill Type Description
Ladder Runs Using an agility ladder, practice quick footwork and movement.
Single-leg Hops Improve balance and leg strength by hopping on one leg over small hurdles.
Two-leg Hops Similar to single-leg hops, two-leg hops help build overall power and stability.

Handling and Catching

As a goalkeeper you need to possess excellent ball handling skills.

Practice catching and distributing the ball effectively to build confidence and set up teammates for counterattacks.

Diving and Saving

To help make critical saves, improve your diving high and low skills.

Learn when to dive and how to land safely to minimize injury risks and improve overall performance as a keeper.

Practice regularly and adopt a safe technique.

Guy wearing an SL Benfica jersey holding soccer ball over his head

Article by:

Luís Miguel

As a true soccer enthusiast, I’m Soccermodo’s team captain. My job is to make sure the site’s content is top-notch so that you, our reader, can focus solely on improving your game and reach new heights.