Former England goalkeeper David James tells a great story about when he first joined Liverpool in 1992. After leaving Watford, where he had regular specialist coaching, James asked the first-team coach Ronnie Moran where the goalkeeper coach was, and Moran replied, “Goalkeeping coach? Ray Clemence never had a goalkeeping coach!”

Fortunately, in the modern game, most professional clubs have a specialist goalkeeper coach not only for the first team but also for the development squads as well. In addition, the goalkeeper’s role is also included in a lot of the tactical work that teams will work on prior to match day. You only have to look at the roles of Allison and Ederson at the top two Premier League teams, Liverpool and Manchester City to understand the ‘keeper is more than someone to keep the ball out of the net.

The English FA’s DNA, which launched back in 2015 now includes a complete section on the role of the goalkeeper, the England Goalkeeping DNA. Below outlines the key characteristics, split into the key components, Technical, Tactical, Physical, Psychological and Social.



Big Saves

Makes unexpected, result defining saves

Effective Actions

Produces a variety of unique actions at relevant moments

Outstanding Distributor

Successfully executes a wide range of passing techniques that maximise the “In Possession” phase of the game


Repeated and successful use of effective actions



Manager of the Game

Proactively executes their own role within the team in order to control the game at any given time

Proactive Manager Out of Possession

Denies goalscoring opportunities through positioning, instruction and effective actions

Exploits Space in Possession

Proactive support and passes that eliminates opposition players




Stands apart from the rest due to an outstanding characteristic or attribute

Efficient Mover

A co-ordinated athlete who moves with ease, maximising the use of physical characteristics

Physical Presence

Uses functional power to dominate physical scenarios


Consistently handles the physical demands of the game




A relentless approach to being no.1

Nerve Strength

A robust inner belief to perform under pressure

Self Aware

Understands and uses personal characteristics to maximise their own and team’s performance


Regulates the appropriate emotional state in order to maximise performance




Guides and inspires others via action, manner or communication towards a common goal


A demeanour that projects positively onto the team and adversely affects the opposition


Actively absorbs information quickly and efficiently in order to improve performance

Connected to the Team

Establishes relationships within the team whilst retaining their unique identity

The England goalkeeper DNA then links into how the team plays In Possession (Support, Playing Around, Playing Through, Playing Into, Playing Onto, and Playing Beyond) and Out of Possession (Support, Defending the Space, Defending the Area, Defending the Goal).

With this in mind, the FA’s National Goalkeeper Coach, Tim Dittmer gave an insight into designing practices for the England goalkeepers at the FA Goalkeepers Conference. Bear in mind, this also includes details on how the opposition play which isn’t always possible at grassroots level.

  • In Possession – tactics and style of our team, how the goalkeeper can contribute to this
  • Out of Possession – threats of the opposition and how the goalkeeper can help to reduce or nullify these
  • Individual – development needs and help to reach maximum performance

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Dittmer went on to explain how he plans his sessions, admitting that earlier in his career he designed sessions to look good rather than providing a challenge to the players in terms of tactical or decision-making (somewhere I think we’ve all been!)

He plans the sessions with three factors in mind:

  • Empower – this might include getting input from the ‘keepers themselves into the design of the session, particularly if they have concerns about an upcoming opposition
  • Inspire – making the sessions game realistic, challenging and competitive. There must be an end goal in terms of success, which helps measurement in the review process.
  • Expose – take the players out of their comfort zone, provide problems to be solved, don’t worry if things get messy or go wrong.

At grassroots level, goalkeeper coaching usually takes on a couple of different forms. Often, a team may only have one coach and therefore the coach has to integrate the goalkeepers into the session. However, it’s important that the goalkeeper is not just there for shooting practice. For example, if you are working on defending as a team, how can you incorporate the ‘keeper into the session? For a session focused on passing, particularly if you have a tactical strategy in mind, how does the goalkeeper work within that?

Have a look at the downloadable session plans, as used by the England development goalkeepers and see if it gives you any ideas.

Free Download: England Development Goalkeeper Exercises

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