Patrick Morrison

PATRICK MORRISON: 11 goalkeeping principles – Part 1

By Patrick Morrison

THIS week’s article will come in a two-part form. This is because I have repurposed my Eleven Goalkeeping Principles and as such will need two articles to fit them in. Below is Part One of these principles, Part Two to follow up next week. Enjoy!

All goalkeepers are different and no two are ever exactly the same. The reason being that as goalkeepers learn their trade, they all develop their own unique goalkeeping style.

Whether it be through coaching techniques, trial and error or just simply through learnt experiences during games, a goalkeeper’s personal style is because of an adaptation to various factors.

Although no two ‘keepers are the same, it is possible they seem similar in style. This is because all goalkeeping styles do have a core system of principles they are centred around.

It is these core principles that act as the framework for all goalkeepers to grow their attributes through position specific training resulting in the development of their own unique goalkeeping technique.

Having a core set of goalkeeping principles is paramount for any ‘keeper that is serious about creating their own style and looking to improve their performances during competition.

By creating a set of core principles, you give your goalkeeping a sense of purpose as well as a firm direction in how you want to play the position. You can have as many or as little as you feel you need and they can be added to, reduced or reworked at any time.

My eleven goalkeeping principles are a fantastic starting point for any young goalkeeper wanting to develop their own goalkeeping style.

They can also be used as a strong measuring system to assess your current style to determine if it may require being tweaked or updated. They incorporate all the major areas of goalkeeping and if used correctly can be used to choose how exactly you want to play as a goalkeeper.

My Eleven Goalkeeping Principles are:


The Hands lead you to the ball, and must be safe and secure at all times, catching whenever you can and punching clear when you cannot. A ‘keeper must be totally confident underneath high balls and focus wholeheartedly on nothing but the ball. A goalkeeper will always use relaxed (soft) hands to absorb shots to prevent rebounds and use strong (hard) hands to parry balls away from danger if the shot cannot be held. You need to have Fast hands when reacting to shots on goal but Patient hands before the shot has been taken. Your hands should always be held in the place you feel most comfortable, and this may change from situation to situation, but it is important to note that a goalkeeper’s hands are what always lead them to the ball.


The set position is fundamental stance for all other Principles to operate from. The main components of this are being on the ‘balls’ of the feet, knees slightly bent, bodyweight leaned forward and your hands wherever they feel most comfortable. The Stance principle also deals with where you position yourself in every goalkeeping situation that you will face. The better your positional sense the better you will deal with these situations. The optimal position is not an exact spot but an area that best allows you to deal with the situation(s) you are currently experiencing. In any situation a goalkeeper will always be ‘in the line’ of the attacker and move ‘down the line’ of their shot to close their shooting angle.


Everything a goalkeeper does begins with their feet so good footwork is essential for optimal performance. Diving, high catch, restarts, set position, closing down attackers even decision making (i.e.- thinking on your feet) all begin ‘FEET FIRST’. So, being light of foot and speedy across the ground can make your performances easier during games. If and when mistakes do happen use the phrase ‘Clear Your Feet’ to reset your focus and get you back on track. Like cleaning the dirt off your boots by tapping them against the post you can do the same with any mishaps that occur.


The goalkeeper position is played 80 per cent in the mind and 20 per cent in the body and as such you must have a strong mental capacity to succeed as a goalkeeper. Decisions are best made using logic, instinct, and past experiences as opposed to anticipation, guess work and/or impulse. Always be fully focused and play a simple game since complicated gameplay causes complications. You will need to be able to read the play in front of you as it develops, understand how this affects you and your team, and then know what action to take using that information. It will also be important for you to understand the flow of the game and adjust your play accordingly. It is critical to always be composed and decisive in your actions, using ‘Blue Head’ thinking and ‘Thinking Clearly Under Pressure’ (‘T-CUP’) to ensure you make the best possible decisions in every situation.


The importance of this area of goalkeeping has grown exponentially in Gaelic football, so much so that coaches are now prepared to place outfield players into goal for this principle alone. The Distribution principle deals with all forms of kicking the goalkeeper uses. From both dead ball situations and being in possession of the football, the importance of this area has become paramount to the ’keeper’s ability. When in possession, always move the ball as quickly as possible reducing the risk of being closed down but be comfortable when on the ball and be willing and able to carry if ad when required. On your restarts, be accurate and use the 3C’s (Calm, Controlled, Consistent) when kicking, while using the C.R.A.F.T. (Consistent, Reading, Accurate, Flight, Technique) method for calibrating your technique to help create a competent and consistent kicking routine.


As mentioned before, the goalkeeper must always be ‘in the line’ of the shot at all times and they must always ‘move down the line’ when closing down attackers. For any goalkeeper it is vital that they close down attackers through on goal as early as possible. In doing so they ‘take their space’ and aim to get as close as possible to them before a shot can be taken. Rushing the attacker hurries their decision making which gives you a more advantageous platform and increases your shot to save percentage. Any hesitation only serves to hand more of the advantage back to the attacker, therefore reducing your shot to save percentage. Once you close the attacker down, DO NOT leave them even if they turn away from goal, essentially you have now become a defender and are directly marking this attacker. Do your utmost to discourage them from going for the goal. Goalkeepers also need to be alert and off their line quickly for any balls over the top/through their defence collecting and playing the ball simply to a teammate. Hope you enjoyed the first six principles and that you’ll come back next week for Part Two of My Eleven Goalkeeping Principles.


Facebook: @MSoG11

Twitter: @MorSchGk

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