Should I Hop to Get Set?
A keeper can get into their set position in two basic ways: with little chop steps or with a hop. Now, as many of you who have attended footwork sessions know, this set can occur in many different ways: laterally, backwards, diaganolly, or forward, depending on where the ball and shooter are. The purpose of this post is to focus mostly on how to set while moving forward—specifically, whether to hop or to use chop steps (although these principles could apply to setting in other directions too).
Ultimately, at the club level, this decision of whether to “hop” or not is a matter of personal preference, so you will need to determine what works well for you. But, be sure to practice both ways so you can learn what works best for you. In either case, you want to get into your BALANCED set position just as a foot is about to hit the ball. Visualizing this scenario can be helpful. And, as always, keep the shoulders forward slightly and the hands up and in front when setting. The heels should also be slightly raised (not too high that you lose balance, but high enough to get the weight on the “ball” of the foot and the calf muscle to tense up).
Most high level pro and international goalkeepers will in fact take a hop just before the foot (or head) is about to hit a shot. This is because the hop will to create the added explosiveness needed to move quickly in response to extremely fast shots. That is also why tennis players take a hop when receiving a serve—so they can react quickly to 100 mile per hour serves.
Positive aspects of the hop are:
1. Extra power generated. Remember Newton’s Law of Physics that said “An object in motion will stay in motion, an object at rest will stay at rest”? Well, the object in motion in this case, the goalkeeper, is going to create a lot of kinetic (stored) energy by taking a hop just before the shot. That will put a lot of tension in your calf muscles that will be stored as energy. The key is to time your landing so that your set is just a quick pause before you need to move—that way the stored energy will help you to spring.
2. Easier to get feet “parallel.” The hop makes it easier for some to get their feet in a “line” – that is, not having one foot further in front of the other (a problem that can lead to diving backwards).
Drawbacks to the hop:
1. It’s easy to mis-time a hop and end up setting late, which can lead to goals sneaking in before the keeper has time to react.
2. It’s easy to get too wide when hopping.
3. It’s easy to end up leaning back when hopping—or to lose control of the arms.
So, if you like to hop, be sure to minimize these risks.
Other keepers prefer to set using a sequence of “chop-steps,” normally a fast left foot-right foot sequence. Some positives of setting via chop-steps are:
1. Easier to set “on time.”
2. Easier to keep weight forward.
3. Easier to initiate first step laterally (less likely to get “stuck”).
Some drawbacks to setting with chop-steps:
May have trouble keeping feet “parallel” on set—one foot often gets too far in front of the other.
1. Not enough tension created in calf muscles, so explosiveness of first step and dives is not maximized.
2. Not enough lift created in heels, and weight ends up leaning back.
3. Weight ends up more on one foot than the other, and thus the keeper is off-balance.
If you prefer to use chop-steps, work to minimize these flaws.
Overall, those are the pros and cons of each method of getting set. Wednesday shooting clinic is a great opportunity to try different ways of getting set to see which works well for you. Or, just get your friends or teammates or parents to hit some shots at you and PRACTICE different techniques. There is no substitute for trial and error and for spending hours out at the field!