Why Goalkeepers Need to Learn Shot Smothering
Mar 1, 2022
Goalkeepers face all sorts of scenarios that challenge their athleticism and decision-making ability. For example, we all know that edge-of-your-seat feeling that happens when a goalkeeper is in a 1-on-1 face-off with an attacking striker. One of the basic techniques goalkeepers need to learn to win a face-off is the shot smother. It comes in handy when goalkeepers face 1-on-1 scenarios with an attacker. This post will look at goalkeeper shot-smothering, how keepers can practice it and why it leads to elite performance.
Benefits of the GK Smothering Drills for Better Goalie Saves
Every goalkeeper will face a 1vs1 scenario from time to time. Of course, your defence will be strong enough to prevent an attacker from cutting through like that, but there will be moments when an attacker slips through. The only thing a keeper can do in such situations is to react.
Shot smothering drills help goalkeepers react faster in 1vs1 scenarios. They also help keepers remain poised and improve their positioning and decision-making during these tense moments. Ultimately, the smothering drill intimidates the striker, which can lower his chances of scoring while increasing the keeper's likelihood of making a killer save.
Breakdown of GK Smothering Drills
The smothering drill is relatively simple to practice. All you need is a goalkeeper and an attacker for it. You will create many 10-yard squares where the keeper and attacker will perform the drill.
Goalkeepers will start a little in front of the goal line. The starting position is to stay on the toes with their feet apart. Maintaining a slight bend in the knees in a low position, they'll charge toward the attacker.
The attacker will then dribble the ball up to the goalkeeper and attempt to pass them. They will do so several times. If the ball slips out of bounds, the attacker will begin from where the ball left the field. If the goalkeeper stops the ball, they will give it back to the attacker—the drill repeats.
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Eventually, you will extend the squares to 15x10 yards and split them into two halves using cones to delineate the halfway point.
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Your attacker and goalkeeper will start at opposing ends of the field, and then the attacker will attempt to drill through the goal. Of course, the goalkeeper has to block stop the attacker.
The smother itself is a sliding maneuver. The keeper will slide on a dominant leg in a sideways position. They will keep the arms slightly bent but extended forward to grab the ball (see image pictured above).
How to Practice Smothering
It's best to practice shot smothering in different contexts. The variation mentioned above helps goalkeepers get familiar with the 1-on-1 situations and develops them to make better goalie saves on a technical level. However, goalkeepers need to get acquainted with the skill in terms of tactical use. That's why you should also run the drill using mini-game scenarios as well.
You can also practice the smothering drill using a 5-on-5 game that includes the goalkeeper. In this mini-game, you will set up a shooting zone in front of the goalkeeper. The team that possesses the ball will attempt to free a teammate into this shooting zone.
The goal here (excuse the pun) is to score past the goalkeeper. Attackers that enter this zone have to control the ball with a touch before shooting it. Defenders are only allowed to enter the zone after an attacker has entered the zone. The team that scores the most goals wins.
How to Incorporate GK Smothering Into Routine
Get your goalkeepers to practice this drill once or twice a week - they'll make better goalie saves faster this way. Remember, repetition is the mother of learning. In terms of the actual drill itself, you should break it down into blocks, each with a particular focus and a duration of a few minutes.
GK Smothering Drill Breakdown
- Warm-Up (10 Minutes) - Begin the drill with one attacker and goalkeeper.
- Main Drill (15 Minutes) - Increase the size of the playing area, split it in two and have the attacker and keeper start from opposite sides.
- Game Scenario (10 Minutes) - Setup a 5-on-5 game scenario.
- Cool-Off (10 Minutes) - Finish off with soccer conditional drills for fitness purposes.
Making Goalie Saves Up Close By Shot Smothering
Using the shot-smothering drill will be a bit scary for keepers at first, especially for young and inexperienced ones. But they'll quickly gain comfort with up-and-close shots. As the weeks progress, you'll notice your keepers making more effective decisions, and goalie saves even when challenged by attackers.
Of course, make sure to use this drill in conjunction with other conditioning drills that improve reflexes, athleticism and decision-making. Shot smothering combined with other keeper drills will make your goalies proficient at handling the tensest, 1-on-1 situations.