Rollersoccer Goalie
 '95 SF to S Cruz

 '96 SF to S Cruz

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 Dom Violence Skate

 '97 Swap Meet

 '98 Swap Meet

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 Rollersoccer Goalie

Rollersoccer Goalie Fundamentals

This article presents some fundamental concepts about how to play the position of goalie in rollersoccer.

As goalie you are the last chance to stop a goal. You must follow the action as it develops and constantly reposition yourself for maximum defensive advantage. Sometimes this means shifting left or right, sometimes it means falling back toward the goal or charging at an opponent. Sometimes your only defense is to "take on" the opponent rather than waiting for them to take a shot on goal.

As a rollersoccer goalie you may not use your hands except to protect yourself from injury, but, only shots below your waist (3 feet) can count as a goal. So, you must learn to stop the ball with your feet, legs and hips. Of these, your feet are the most maneuverable. Imagine kicking a ball that is flying through the air toward you. You don't actually have to kick the ball very hard -- just touching the ball is often enough to deflect it enough so it will miss the goal left or right or above.

Like Hockey and Soccer, your physical position as goalie has a lot to do with how successfully you can defend the goal. If you are out of position you might not even be able to tell, but your opponent has a clear view of your position and will take advantage of it if possible.

In the diagrams below you are the green square, your opponents are red, and the goal posts are blue. Where necessary the ball is depicted as black. Potential shots on goal are lines with an arrow head, while passes have no arrow head. You have a line running through you which represents how far your feet can move side to side to block a shot.

You should begin halfway between the two goal posts, as shown in figure A. Notice that you cannot cover the entire goal in this position. An opponent can kick the ball to either side of you and score a goal.
You could shift to the right (or left) if you knew that your opponent is going to take a shot in that direction, but you'll soon realize that they will try to "fake you out", to make you think they are going to kick one direction, but then they will kick in the other direction, which is now wide open.
Moving back toward the goal is actually the worst thing you can do when there is only one opponent, because it actually makes more space available for a shot, not less.
As you can see, shifting to one side when close to the goal opens up a huge amount of space for a shot in the direction where you aren't.
Instead, you must skate towards your opponent! This effectively reduces the opportunity for your opponent to score a goal because you will be able to block shots that could score. You don't need to shift side to side at all if they are coming straight toward the middle of the goal. Sometimes this means you will come into contact with your opponent. In fact, if they do not take a shot before you are very close to them, you should kick the ball away from them. You don't need to worry about passing it or controlling it -- just kick it. Don't hurt them! But disrupt their control of the ball and "clear" the ball (get it out of your area). Then get back into position immediately because another opponent may control the ball quickly and try to take a shot while you are out of position.
In fact, coming straight at you gives a single opponent their best chance to score. But very often they will be coming from one side or the other because that is where they received the ball. When they approach from one side or the other they have a harder shot to make because from their angle the goal appears narrower. This works to your advantage because you can defend a narrower goal more easily. You still use the same strategy -- you move toward your opponent enough to cut off their chance to score a goal. But you won't have to move forward quite as much to accomplish the same thing you did when they were coming straight toward you from the middle of the field.

After you get the hang of it, you should be able to stop almost any single opponent, except maybe Kwame or Andy or Zack or Doug. A very experienced opponent will shift their position quickly, trying to catch you off guard, and if you charge them to cut off their shot they may "dribble around you" (maneuver the ball around you when you try to interfere with their shot).

But handling a single opponent is only a part of the game. A more organized rollersoccer team will send two players at a time toward you. One with the ball and the other ready to receive a pass at the discretion of the first player. If you simply try to cut off the shot of the first opponent they will pass to the second opponent who will have a clear shot.

You'll get a sense for how well the other team plays as a team. If they have a lot of team players they will pass a lot. If they have a lot of glory seekers they won't pass as much. But don't count on any one behavior because they will adapt to your responses as well.

If you have committed to charging the opponent with the ball they can easily pass it to their other player, who then will have an easy shot on goal. In this diagram the entire goal is open to the other player.

The truth is that when there are two players approaching you and you have no other defenders to help you (where is the rest of your team?) then they should be able to score a goal on you more often than not. They definitely have the advantage. That said, there are some things you can do to make it harder for them.

This diagram shows three consecutive points in time.
  1. One opponent has the ball and you move to block their shot. They may pass the ball to the other player and they have a shot on goal.
  2. You fall back to reduce the chances of the left opponent scoring somewhat and if they pass you will also be in a bit better position to reduce the other opponent's chances of scoring.
  3. You fall back even more to reduce the chances of the left opponent scoring somewhat and if they pass you will also be in a bit better position to reduce the other opponent's chances of scoring.
As you can see, all you've really been able to do by falling back is to reduce the chances of scoring -- you haven't been able to fully block the goal. So, this is a losing strategy.
This diagram also shows three consecutive points in time, but this time you don't just fall back in each case.
  1. You initially position yourself to discourage a direct shot by the first opponent. This suggests to them that they should pass the ball.
  2. Then you fall back slightly, as if you were going to follow the plan from the previous figure, but this is you faking them out because you do not fall back very far or for very long. Very soon after you begin to fall back you aggressively charge the opponent with the ball and instead of keeping your shoulders square to the goal, you face your opponent at an angle and get close to them, interfering both with their chance to shoot a goal and to pass the ball to their team mate. If they try to pass all you have to do is touch the ball and you will interfere with the pass, giving your team a chance to get the ball and giving you a chance to get back into position. to defend the goal.

    You must be aggressive and may come into contact with the other player. Don't hurt them! But do interfere with their ability to pass the ball. If they are very good they will see you do this and will try to move around you. In this diagram, the left player might attempt to move around you further to the left. You are already in position to take them on "one-on-one" and to interfere with their ability to maneuver around you. Once you are close enough to them they won't have an easy way to pass or dribble around you.

You are often forced to pick a moment to charge an opponent. If you wait too long you will have left open an chance for them to score or pass to someone who can score. If you charge too soon it will take you too long to reach them and they will have plenty of opportunity to recognize your charge and decide what to do about it. Once you decide to charge the goal is vulnerable until you reach your opponent. During that period they can pass or maneuver at will. The trick is to wait until you can reach them quickly -- no more than a second. You can lunge from your normal position and reach about 10' within a second if you are prepared. A goalie usually has plenty of time to catch their breath and use their anaerobic strength to explode forward at just the right time.

To do this on skates requires that your feet are in such a position that when you apply your leg strength your skates do not roll! Practice running on your skates from a crouching position. After a few steps you'll need to roll, but for the first few steps you should be able to sprint. Your feet will be pointing out to the sides almost 90 degrees for these first few steps.

Being able to run a few steps on your skates without rolling allows you to use all of your leg strength to charge your opponent.

You must also be able to stop very quickly. The best way to do this is with the "hockey stop" technique. This is described elsewhere.

It is very challenging to charge explosively toward your opponent and then stop right in front of them. I try to hockey stop through the ball. That is, I plan to stop about a foot past where the ball is, so the act of stopping also brings my skates in contact with the ball. You must be careful to go for the ball and not your opponent. It is a penalty and poor sportsmanship to kick someone's feet or ankles under any circumstances. But, it does sometimes happen by accident. It isn't an accident if you were planning to occupy their position no matter what. Furthermore, someone with the ball has the right of way. That means you can get in their way so they have to stop or maneuver around you, but you can't move into the position they occupy and cause a collision. You can be where they are about to go and they can run into you.

The difference here is whether you are moving into their position or whether they are moving into yours. If both players are moving toward a common position the defender is obliged to allow the offensive player enough space to stop or turn, but the defensive player is not obliged to allow the offensive player a clear line of travel toward the goal. The defensive player forces the offensive player to turn or stop without causing a major collision. It can seem subjective, but the bottom line is that you can aggressively approach another player, but you must still leave a margin of safety that allows them a way to avoid injuring themselves or you.

As you develop as a goalie you'll come to realize that the better players can kick the ball both hard and accurately. They can exploit any moment when you are out of position. Even when you are in position they may take a quick shot and you might not be quick enough to block it. You must have quick reflexes to block such a quick shot. It helps to be very light on your feet. You should not be relying 100% on both feet for balance at any time if you can avoid it. That is, you should be able to lift either foot off the ground to block a shot at any time. You should not have to shift your weight to the other foot before lifting one foot. This is easier when your feet are a bit closer together. You want them to be close enough to prevent someone from kicking the ball between your legs anyway. If an opponent kicks the ball between your legs and scores a goal it counts for two points. But keeping your feet too close together will reduce your ability to cover the goal and to move quickly. So I tend to keep my feet about one ball-width apart and to bring my knees closer together -- maybe only five or six inches. This allows me to explode left or right or forward or backward because my legs are "pre-sprung" and ready to push. I keep my arms bent but fairly wide, my hands are actually about 3 feet apart and my elbows are a bit wider. This gives me a lot more balance as I maneuver. It also makes me look a bit bigger in the goal which can have a psychological effect on your opponent, even though your hands are not a direct part of your defense.

You can be a more effective goalie when there is at least one of your team mates around to help. There will usually be at least one other member of your team chasing the person with the ball, and if your team mate is successful there won't be a shot for you to defend.

If you are playing with very experienced players then their instincts and experience will be enough to make your job easier. If you are playing with someone who knows how to skate but doesn't know much about rollersoccer you can sometimes position them in a manner which makes your job easier. I call it the "strong side defense". In this strategy one of your players takes a position on one side of the goal ahead of where you position yourself. Their whole purpose is to make that side less attractive to your opponents, encouraging them to always maneuver to the other side. Doing so forces them into a less desirable position because shots from the side are less likely to score because the goal appears to be smaller to them. If they try to maneuver to where your defender is positioned then they have to deal with your defender. If nothing else this complicates things for your opponent and reduces their chances of scoring from that side.

The strong side defense has some weaknesses:

  • The defender may not be very effective and may let the opponent through, in which case you are out of position. To handle this risk you must follow the opponent if they take on your defender -- don't stay on the "weak side". If anything, you only shift toward the weak side a few feet and you must always ready to abandon the strategy since it can break down quickly.
  • The defender may block your visibility. You can't defend against what you can't see. To handle this risk you must move your head around side to side and shift your position slightly but quickly to maintain visibility. Also, focus on the ball! You can usually see the ball even when you can't see much of the opponent.
  • The defender may deflect a shot on goal. A deflected shot is very hard to defend against because you just don't have time to adjust. There isn't much you can do about this risk, but quick reflexes and good body position helps.

Finally, sometimes (rarely, but it happens) you will actually be in the best position after someone takes a shot on goal (which you have blocked) to take the ball down the field and take a shot on your opponents goal! This happens when the entire other team has charged your goal area leaving them all out of position to defend. Chances are good that most of your team are covering the other players too, leaving the entire field open in front of you. Since you are good at exploding forward and aren't winded the way the rest of the other players are you can take the ball forward and before anyone can do anything about it you have a one-on-one with the other goalie. A one-on-one is a situation they should be able to defend against, but it is worth trying because they won't be expecting it and they also won't have much of an idea about what kind of a player you are, whether you go left or right, will or won't fake, fake once, fake twice, etc. In other words, the other goalie is starting with no idea about what kind of a shot you will be taking. You'll have a lot of speed by the time you reach the other side, because if you don't you'll allow their defenders a chance to catch up to you. So you'll be moving very fast, leaving you time to roll for the last 15 feet or so. During this time you can choose your shot, make some fancy foot fakes and look for any opportunity, such as the other goalie being out of position. Also, at that speed you can shift to the side much quicker than a skater at a slower speed. So you can approach from one side and shift to the other side quickly at the last moment to take your shot. Be careful not to run into the other goalie!

If you do make a fast break like this it is up to your team to cover the goal for you. If you miss your shot and the other goalie blocks the ball you are completely out of position and won't be able to get back in time to do any good. Usually someone from your team will already be covering the goal, but it never hurts to shout out "someone cover goal" when you make a fast break.

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