A child playing in goal

When you ask most under-7s which position they’d like to play if they were to become a professional footballer, nine out of ten would probably say centre forward. Indeed, most youngsters enter the game vying for this position – but most don’t make it. 

A huge number of professional midfielders and defenders once played as a striker or centre forward – only to be encouraged to look for opportunities elsewhere on the pitch. 

Amazingly, quite a few goalkeepers have undergone similar experiences. Joe Hart of Man City fame didn’t take up goalkeeping on a full-time basis until he turned 14. Thibaut Courtois started out as a left-back, and Liverpool keeper Adrian played as a centre-forward until the age of 10. 

Put simply, most kids don’t start out with a dream of being a goalkeeper. But, just perhaps, that’s because of the lack of guidance and insight they receive. If kids were introduced to the skills, equipment and traits required at an earlier age, maybe goalkeeper would become a more popular first-choice option.

If you want to give a child a headstart in their prospective career as a goalkeeper, introduce them to the position as early as possible and follow these eight simple steps. 

1. Introduce the Position

Start by explaining the primary roles of a goalkeeper:

  • Catching and blocking shots on goal
  • Dealing with crosses and high balls into the penalty area
  • Organising the defence and providing vocal direction
  • Distributing the ball accurately to start attacks

Once you’ve outlined these responsibilities, watch some videos of famous goalkeepers in action, and reinforce your initial points with real-world examples. You can then move onto the basic skills involved.

Basic Skills

Focus on simple skills like catching, throwing and basic footwork.


Teach proper catching techniques using both hands.


Practice throwing techniques for quick distribution.


Emphasise basic footwork drills to improve agility and positioning.

2. Make It Fun

Football has to be fun for youngsters, or they simply won’t stick to it. In fact, if football becomes a chore, children can turn away from the game forever. Fortunately, keeping this light and enjoyable is relatively easy. 

Choose Engaging Drills

Implement drills that are enjoyable and focus on enhancing hand-eye coordination and agility. These could include fast-paced catching exercises with varying speeds and directions of throws.

Use Games and Challenges

Introduce interactive games that simulate goalkeeping actions, such as catching soft balls thrown at different heights or blocking balloons aimed towards the goal. These activities not only develop fundamental skills but also keep young goalkeepers motivated and engaged.

3. Use Age Appropriate Football Equipment

There’s absolutely nothing to be gained from introducing a youngster to goalkeeping using full-size goalposts, footballs and training equipment. 

Use Smaller Goalposts

Use goalposts that are smaller and more suitable for young children. The recommended goal size is 12 feet wide by 6 feet high for under-8s, for example. If you’re playing in the garden, choose a small, lightweight goal you can put up and take down in a few seconds. 

Appropriate Ball Size

Opt for a size two or size three football, which is lighter and easier for young players to handle and control.

4. Practice in a Safe Environment

Practice on grass or padded areas to prevent injuries. This helps absorb impact and reduces the risk of strains or sprains, especially during falls or collisions.

Also, ensure the child wears gloves and shin pads. Gloves protect hands from cuts and abrasions during contact with equipment or surfaces, while shin guards reduce the risk of injury from impacts and collisions with other players.

5. Introduce Basic Goalkeeping Drills

Don’t get overly technical at first. Stick to the fundamentals of goalkeeping by focusing on two key areas:

Catch and Throw

Begin with basic drills focusing on catching and throwing to develop foundational skills in hand-eye coordination and motor skills.

Footwork Patterns

Incorporate simple ladder drills to enhance footwork, agility and coordination. These drills help players develop quick feet and improve their ability to move efficiently during matches.

6. Encourage Watching and Learning

Children learn through imitation – it’s a natural mechanism we’ve all used. That’s why watching as much football as possible without it becoming a chore is important. 

Watch Matches in Person and on TV

Regularly watch amateur and professional goalkeepers in action during matches to observe their techniques, positioning and decision-making skills. Analysing their play can provide valuable insights into improving as a goalkeeper.

Goalkeeping Videos

Use instructional videos specifically tailored for young goalkeepers. These videos often break down techniques step-by-step and provide practical tips for improving various aspects of goalkeeping.

7. Use Positive Reinforcement

Some children can become frustrated and despondent if they struggle to master certain skills – or if they’re criticised too harshly. That’s why positive reinforcement is such an important part of developing a youngster’s skill set. 

Praise and Encouragement

Offer consistent praise and encouragement to young goalkeepers for their efforts and achievements. Positive reinforcement helps build confidence and fosters a positive attitude towards training and competition.

Set Achievable Goals

Establish small and realistic goals for goalkeepers to strive towards. These goals should be specific and achievable to ensure youngsters stay motivated and track their progress effectively.

8. Involve Friends and Family

Football should be a fun and inclusive experience that’s synonymous with teamwork and respect. One way to instil these values at an early age is by including friends and family wherever possible.

Play Together

Organise group play sessions where children can interact and learn together, fostering social skills such as collaboration and communication.

Family Support

Encourage family involvement by inviting parents or siblings to participate in practice sessions. Their presence provides encouragement and support, reinforcing the importance of learning and skill development.

A Final Thought

Following all of these common-sense steps should give your child the perfect introduction to grassroots goalkeeping while keeping things fun and enjoyable.