A Soccer Goalkeeper’s Guide to Basic Ball Handling

Goalkeepers must be ready to make a save in a matter of seconds. Learn how to handle the ball with these Pro Tips.

Goalkeepers are the only players on the soccer pitch that can touch the ball with their hands. When keeping the ball from finding the back of the net, your hands serve as the last line of defense. Making a save can help your team gain confidence and maintain possession of the ball. Ultimately, it keeps the other team off the scoreboard.

Keeping a grip on the ball is key for goalkeepers to make a save. Practicing making saves can help you prepare for when you’re called upon in a game.

Division I goalkeeper coach Erik Eisenhut talked to Pro Tips about the importance of learning a set position. He also teaches goalkeepers two types of catches: the contour and the scoop. Follow along with these soccer tips to help improve your goalkeeper technique.


Before making a save, goalkeepers must learn how to properly set themselves. The set position requires you to keep your knees bent. Eisenhut says that your weight should shift to the balls of your feet, not on the back of your heels. Remember to keep your arms out in front of you, always ready to catch the ball.

“Remember to lean forward, not backwards, and keep your eyes on the ball,” he says. “[Your] hands should be positioned in front of your body in a neutral position, with [your] palms facing each other.”


The contour catch, also known as the “W” catch, is typically used for a save from the waist up. Your hands, when catching the ball, will form a “W” shape, hence the name. To utilize this technique, bring yourself into the set position. Keep your elbows slightly widened, allowing for more of your palm to come in contact with the ball.

“Your index fingers and thumbs are close in this position,” Eisenhut says. “Your fingers will be on the top half of the ball.”


In contrast to the contour catch, the scoop save is usually reserved for a shot hit below your waist. Begin by getting into your set position. Next, you need to keep the direction of the ball in mind, according to Eisenhut.

“If the ball is hit toward your right foot, you will step with your right foot. Your elbows will go down in between your knees and you will reach out in front for the ball, positioning your hands under the ball as it approaches you,” he explains. Remember, if the ball is aimed toward the right, you will step with your right foot. If the opposing player aims for the left, step through with your left foot.

Once you scoop the ball, bring it to your chest to secure it. By doing this, you essentially create another barrier blocking the ball from opponents poking it out of your hands.

Finally, remember to step through with your back foot into an upright position. Then, once you have control of the ball, you can decide whether to roll, throw or punt the ball. Eisenhut breaks down each technique with these goalkeeper tips on distributing the ball.


When you’re warming up for a match, be sure to get in net and practice making saves. “Having field players take shots at you for a warmup is a great way to get game-like experiences under your belt,” Eisenhut says.” When making a save, be sure to keep your arms active and always ready for action.”

Remember to begin each save attempt in the set position. Eisenhut suggests leaning forward and testing your agility. You can do so by jumping up to make a save or diving and stretching your arms out for a fingertip save.

Be sure to follow these goalkeeper tips to help improve your technique before your next big match. Looking for more Pro Tips from Eisenhut? The goalkeeper coach gives his advice for coming off your line to make a play outside of the box.