A Guide to Diving for Soccer Goalkeepers

Ashlyn Harris covers everything you need to know about diving techniques

Diving is an essential type of save that every goalkeeper in soccer must master. But it involves a far more complex set of skills than many realize.

To make effective diving saves in soccer, a keeper has to understand the correct way to handle low, medium, and high shots on goal. They need to know how to secure the ball on the ground or safely parry it out of danger. And most importantly—a keeper must know what type of dive is appropriate for each situation.

In many cases, a poorly-executed dive will leave a soccer goalkeeper (and their team) worse off than not diving at all. 

Diving is considered a last resort, because once a keeper goes to the ground or launches into the air, the goal is wide open if they don’t secure the ball. 

It’s nearly impossible to recover from a rebound or a fumbled save after a dive. So it’s crucial for goalkeepers to train every aspect of this essential skill.

The upside is, once a soccer goalkeeper knows how to dive properly, they will have an impressive skill that helps to make game winning saves in clutch situations.

To help you learn everything you need to know about diving, we’ve teamed up with one of the greatest U.S. keepers of all time, Ashlyn Harris.

A True Professional

Ashlyn Harris has been refining her skills at the elite level of professional soccer for over two decades.

She represented the United States in the youth national teams throughout high school and her early years of college. Then, after establishing a successful club career, made her debut for the senior national team in 2013. 

Harris was a member of the championship winning teams for the 2015 & 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. In 2021, she racked up her 469th career save, setting a new National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL all-time record). Ashlyn is currently the keeper for Gotham FC.

Not many keepers can match Ashlyn’s breadth of experience. Which is why we are so excited to have her as part of our roster of soccer experts at Versus. 

In collaboration with other U.S. soccer legends, Kelley O’Hara, Ali Krieger, and renowned technical coach, David Copeland-Smith, Harris has partnered with Versus to produce a complete soccer training program.

The team has recorded exclusive video training sessions on topics like:

Plus, they have cataloged answers to over 800 questions spanning 30 topics, that you can access instantly through our advanced AI-based technology. 

Getting access to this game changing coaching and mentoring is easy. All you have to do is choose a plan, download the Versus app, and start learning.

As a sneak peek of the content that’s available through a subscription, we’ve summarized the main points from Ashlyn’s video training session on diving for soccer goalkeepers below.

Soccer Goalie Drills - Fundamentals & Collapsed Diving

Ashlyn starts the video by stating,

“When we think of diving, we always think about that one Hollywood save. But there are a lot of steps that go into it before we get there. So let’s begin with the basics.”

Harris covers the fundamentals of diving by demonstrating a collapsed dive.

To start, set your feet about shoulder width apart in a balanced position.

“It’s very hard to dive if your feet are too narrow or too wide,” states Harris. So try to maintain this stance at all times.

Other essential steps are to keep your eyes on the ball. And always move your body, head, and chin behind the ball. Working on your footwork and balance will help with this step.

Unless you are going for a big extension dive (which Harris covers later), you want to avoid ending up in a position like below, where the body and head aren’t there as a backup in case the ball slips through your hands.

Next, as you get ready to dive, “Keep your chest and shoulder in the same quadrant as the knee. Rotate your shoulders. And push your chin and face to the ball.”

“We’re not scared of the ball,” instructs Ashlyn. “We’re absorbing it.”

Finally, “We push, land, and secure,” she states.

As demonstrated below.

A final point Harris makes is to ensure that your hands and elbows aren’t too close up against the body as you land. 

“When you step into a collapsed dive,” she explains, “your hands engage and come off of your body.” Otherwise you’ll risk injury as you land.

To practice collapsed diving, grab a partner and run through one or two sets of five saves. 

Collapsed Diving Drill - Key Takeaways

As you do the drill, focus on these aspects of your technique.

  • Start from a balanced position
  • Move with your chest and shoulder in the same quadrant of the knee (this ensures the body stays behind the ball)
  • Push chin and face to the ball
  • Arms come away from the body
  • Land and secure the ball (don’t give up rebounds)

Next, Harris covers low ball diving.

Low Ball Diving

Here’s Ashlyn demonstrating the proper save position for a low ball dive.

“I’ve created a good, strong position where I can see the ball in front with my eyes,” she explains. “My hand at the back is the base and my top hand seals the ball so it doesn’t bounce out.”

“I’m not ‘t-rexing’ with my elbows and hands tucked into my body,” states Ashlyn. “It’s so easy to give up rebounds like that. And you can’t parry the ball away if you need when your hands are tight and close”

To practice low ball diving, get a partner to deliver you the ball in this ground position until you feel confident with the hand positioning. Then, try low ball diving from standing up.

To perform the dive, while keeping your shoulder over the knee, take yourself to the ground while pushing your hands to the ball.

“Then catch with your base and top hand to secure it,” instructs Harris.

Low Ball Diving Drill - Key Takeaways

Working through sets of five with your partner, focus on the following points of technique:

  • Arms out in front of the body
  • Keep the ball where you can see it
  • Top hand secures the ball, back is the base

Now that she’s covered the basics, Ashlyn moves on to,

“The big extension save we all dream of as a keeper—the top hand save.”

Top Hand Save

“The top hand save is no different in technique than where we started in the beginning [collapsed save],” explains Ashlyn. “The only thing that’s changing is your hands.”

And there is one simple key with hand positioning that Harris repeats multiple times in the video:

“Always start with two hands to gain momentum—then switch to one [the top hand].”

Here is Ashlyn starting the dive with two hands.

And moving to one, pushing the ball over the bar with her top hand.

“You don’t want to go with your low hand and start waving up high,” warns Ashlyn. “And you can’t go too early with your top hand, because it begins to rotate your chest away from the ball.” 

“Timing is important,” explains Harris. “And you must keep the same balance and body positioning as a collapsed dive.”

Finally, stay aware of footwork and balance. Because if you end up with your feet too wide, you won’t be able to jump with the elevation needed to make the save.

To practice the top hand save, stand at about a 45 degree angle from your partner, facing the opposite direction to where you will be diving, like this.

As your partner throws the ball, turn and face them in your balanced position. Then leap for the save using two hands, then one.

Top Hand Save Drill - Key Takeaways

Revisit the fundamentals from the collapsed diving section before practicing the top hand save. Then, focus on the following:

  • Don’t let feet move further than shoulder width apart (or you won’t be able to leap)
  • Use two hands at the start of your jump for additional power, switching to just the top hand to finish
  • Push the ball over the bar, not back toward your opponent

Right Dive, Right Time

The final component of mastering diving is learning when to use each of the three techniques during a game.

“That takes time. It takes understanding. And most importantly, it takes repetition,” states Harris.

But for the soccer goalkeepers who put in the reps during practice. And have the courage to test what they’ve learned in game—the payoff for mastering diving is huge.

A keeper who can execute a perfectly-timed dive will make saves in situations where other keepers would allow a goal. They will have an edge over the competition, helping them win games and stand out to recruiters and coaches. 

Finally, while it shouldn’t be the main measure of success, a keeper who has mastered the art of diving can pull off a memorable Hollywood save when the pressure is on. 

We’ve covered the main points from Ashlyn Harris’ exclusive video on diving for soccer goalkeepers in this article. But it’s no substitute for seeing her demonstrate these techniques in person.

If you want to learn more about diving for goalkeepers and what it takes to have a winning mindset, head over to Versus and check out our Game Plans. Any of our packages will get you access to our lessons, plus tons of other training sessions, interactive content, and more.

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