Goalie in Soccer 101: Roles and Responsibilities (2022)

Updated on 
April 7, 2022

Being a goalie in soccer is not an easy task. From the point of the player's view - it's one of the most competitive roles in soccer due to the fact, that on every team there is only one goalie on the field.

Are you wondering what is the goalie and what are the key roles of this position? Would you like to also know what qualities make a good goalie and how to improve? I got you covered!

Before you start: This guide is a part of the most comprehensive guide on the internet about soccer positions. I cover most of the positions such as fullback, center back, striker, winger or even midfielder. Feel free to check it out!

Let's dive right in!

What is a goalie in soccer? Main definition

As with every guide on soccer positions, I'll start this guide with an encyclopedia-like definition. What is a goalie in soccer?

A goalie (also known as a goalkeeper and keeper) is the last player in defense protecting the goal from the enemy team. It is the most unique and important position in soccer. A goalie has specific rules and restrictions such as catching the ball with their hands in the penalty box.

There you go. It's simple as that.

You can think of this position as the very last player protecting your goal. It's the last chance if the enemy team gets through the team's defense.

Now let's have a look at the position and heatmap of a goalie.

position and heatmap of goalie in soccer

A goalie is positioned inside of the penalty box. Within this penalty box, a specific set of rules apply to goalies such as being able to catch the ball with hands, protection against aggressive enemy plays and etc.

While there are exceptions to players such as Manuel Neuer who likes to play a lot outside of the box, most of the time you will find goalkeepers inside of this penalty box.

Now let me show what a goalie does:

Key roles of a goalie in soccer:

There are many key roles every goalie has in soccer. The ones I listed below are sorted in no particular order - all are important and essential.

1. Protecting the goal

The main role of a goalie in soccer, and probably the most important if you say, is protecting the goal. As we already talked about, the goalkeeper (or goalie) is the last player in front of the goalpost to prevent the enemy team from scoring a goal.

That's why having the ability to block the shots and goal attempts is an important role.

Every goalie has to master this skill.

3. Utilizing the aerial advantage

Goalies have a major advantage in the air - but only when the situation happens in his own penalty box. There are actually two advantages:

  1. A goalie has a better reach for the ball - it's because he can simply use his hands while opposing players can only jump as much and head the ball.
  2. A goalie is protected - even though it's true that there are some edits in FIFA rules, it's well-known that a goalie is usually protected against dangerous acts in the air.

That's why every good goalie is using this aerial advantage in favor of his team.

Of course - there are cross situations when you don't want to intervene due to a big risk, there will be also many situations when you have to.

4. Distributing the ball

Distribution of the ball is essential. You see.. as a soccer keeper you have everything happening in front of you - so you have a better sense on what is going on. That's why the goalie must distribute the ball according to that.

Is the enemy soccer team pressing? A good decision is to probably send a long ball behind the enemy lines.

If your team is exhausted, you might want to pass the ball between defenders to give a break to your striker.

Correct distribution of the balls is also important for the creation of new team plays.

4. Communicating with team players

I think we don't have to talk about the importance of communication. It's a vital part of every successful team and it all starts with the goalie.

5. Motivating the team

There is no doubt that every world class goalie is a leader - or at least has features of good leadership.

When things are going badly, and your team is losing - you want to cheer them up and motivate them.

This can be done in various ways - but the most common one is previously mentioned effective communication.

6. Organisation

Since every goalie sees the whole game happening in front of them - they have probably one of the best outlooks on what is going on in the game.

Due to that fact, the goalie needs to help to his team to organize.

This also applies to free kicks and corner kicks.

Now that we have that covered, let's talk about the most common qualities that make a good goalie.

Qualities that make a good goalie:

There are many qualities that make a good goalie. This led me to split them into two groups: character qualities and game qualities. Let's have a look at the character qualities first!

Character qualities:

1. Mentally resilient

There is no question about this one. What if do a mistake and your team starts losing? Do you crumble? Do you lose hope? For the sake of your team, you can't!

Most goalies share this trait. If you want to become a better goalie, working on this will put you ahead not only in soccer but also in life.

2. Not afraid of getting injured

The goalkeepers' job is to clean the ball when there is a cross coming into the penalty box (depending on the situation to situation).

When going into the air, there is a big risk of getting in contact with an enemy player which can result in injury. That's why a goalie is usually not afraid of getting into collisions with other players.

Another thing is not flinching when a striker is shooting from close range. That could result in a scored goal for the enemy team and embarrassment - since flinching is not common.

3. Confident

Confidence plays is a factor in whether a goalie is successful or not. In fact, confidence plays a big role in the overall performance.

Most world class goalies have unshakable confidence. No matter what happens in the game, they have confidence in their ability to perform.

Now don't get me wrong. We're not talking about ego here. We're talking about healthy confidence.

4. Natural leader

Believe it or not - the goalie is usually the leader. It doesn't matter he is not the captain. He will always make sure that his team performs well.

Goalkeepers also have the tendency to uplift teammates after making mistakes - and that's a very good trait to have.

Moving on.. same as character qualities, there are game qualities that are worth mentioning.

Game qualities:

1. Great goalkeeping skills

A goalie can have all the character traits he wants, but without proper in-game skills, he will be useless for his team. With a great amount of dedication and hard work, these can be obtained.

Sometimes it might seem like there are some goalies that just have that in them. But don't let that idea fool you.

They surely have talent - but most of the time behind that talent there are thousands of hours of training.

I mean - most of the stuff are reflexes and trained habits, but still.. To be great you cannot stagnate on fundamentals.

2. Being agile

No matter how tall the goalkeepers seem to be, they are usually very agile and flexible. It helps them to leave the ground faster and block the incoming shot effectively.

I remember watching our goalie individuals training and I noticed they were training a lot with hurdles for agility and flexibility.

3. Comfortable on the ball

Being comfortable on the ball is a big plus. Just think of Manuel Neuer, Casillas, or Ter Stegen. All of the are amazing goalies on the ball.

There is nothing better for defenders to have that "extra player" on the field to which you can comfortably pass the ball.

4. Reading the game

Let's be honest here. A goalie is having almost the best view of what is happening on the ground since everything that happens is in front of him. Over the years, keepers gain a lot of experience reading the game and certain situations.

That helps them to organize the team defense and be more effective at protecting the goal.

If you are a goalie, you definitely want to obtain this skill.

So yeah - these are the most common qualities that make a good goalie in soccer!

Small note: I didn't add the quality of being tall. Even though it definitely helps to become a more effective goalkeeper, there are exceptions to it. There are many shorter goalkeepers - and their biggest strength is agility and being comfortable on the ball.

How to become a better goalie in soccer

In case you are a goalie that wants to become better, I have very good news for you! I decide to put this section inside of this guide in case there are some goalkeepers.

Since I have many years of playing soccer under my belt, I'm sure you will find these tips very helpful.

So how can you improve and become a better goalie in soccer?

  1. Learn from the best - the best thing you can do is to watch the soccer game and closely analyze the goalkeeper. Make sure you pay attention to where he stands in certain situations, how he approaches these situations and etc.
  2. Study the game - this is closely related to the previous point. You want to be able to read the game perfectly.
  3. Play as much as you can - with experiences comes skills.
  4. Get a private coach - this only applies if your club doesn't provide you with a specialized goalkeeper coach.
  5. Ask for feedback - asking for constructive feedback is a fast way to identify your weaknesses.
  6. Work on your habits - habits make your actions, and so you want to make sure you don't have any habits that could prevent you from achieving your true potential.

As you can tell, there are many ways how to improve.

My one more piece of advice would be to find an experienced goalkeeper in your area and connect with him. If you are afraid, just do it. You will be surprised at how good people react when you reach out for help.

Small note: if you are serious about your career, and you don't have any specialized coach helping you with training, ask your club if they can help you to find someone. In case they won't - you will have to find yourself on your own but I guarantee you, that if you find someone, your skills and performance will go only up.

Soccer goalie equipment list

Now we're getting to the sweet stuff! What equipment does a soccer goalie need?

Well, here is a full equipment list every soccer goalie needs to have:

  • Goalkeeper gloves
  • Shinguards
  • Soccer cleats
  • Sliders
  • Leggings
  • Knee pads
  • Water bottle
  • Towel
  • Undershirt
  • Tape

You probably didn't expect such a long list - but let me tell you.. the most important part of this whole list are the gloves.

Why is a goalie in soccer important?

Maybe you are a coach that has to build a soccer team, and you might be wondering:

Why is a goalie in soccer important? Can't we just put there someone less experienced?

The goalie is important for the success of the team mainly because a player on this position has the biggest responsibility and best advantage to protect the goal with hands. If a goalie is not good, the enemy team will score more goals and your team will lose by a number of scored goals.

Also, a good goalie will help you to keep the morale of your team high on the soccer field and in the locker room. In my opinion, there's no doubt goalie is a very important part of the team.

Is goalie the hardest position in soccer?

It's very hard to tell if the goalie is the hardest position because every single soccer position has its upsides and downsides. With that saying..

A goalie is considered to be one of the hardest positions in soccer mainly due to the fact, that he is responsible for protecting the goal. If goalie fails, the whole team will suffer from it. There is a lot of pressure from being a goalie that the whole team depends on.

You see, we can say the same about every other position though. But when I'm thinking about it, I have to admit that goalie has that extra pressure on his shoulders.

Is goalkeeper the same as goalie in soccer?

A goalkeeper is the same thing as a goalie in soccer. There are usually multiple ways to name this soccer position and some of the most common ones are goalie, keeper, and goalkeeper. Which ways it is used depends on the country and language.

In Europe, we call it goalkeeper, in the United States it's a goalie. These terms are basically a synonyms.

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Tom Lindeman
Ball Athlete project
Hey! My name is Tom and I created this blog in order to help people wherever they are in their sport journey. Inspirational posts, guides, reviews and much more! Read about the project here.
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