What significance does the speed ladder have in training goalkeepers? Quite frankly, it has everything to do with goalkeeping. The only way a goalkeeper can make a save using his or her hands depends solely oh the ability to get there with their feet. If your weakest link is your ability to move your feet quickly, then you most likely aren't ever going to improve on your ability to make quick reaction saves. Quick footwork is key in goalkeeping due to the simple fact that a goalkeeper must be able to cover a good amount of distance in a short amount of time. Examples of this would be taking a quick prep step before making a simple collapse dive in reaction to a shot on goal, all the way to making a quick 10 yard dash in reaction to a break away at the top of the goal box.
I first discovered the usefulness of using the speed ladder for developing my footwork speed and proficiency as a freshman in high school. My goalkeeper trainer at the time introduced me to various different drills to do using the speed ladder. I began by performing simple linear drills, before advancing to more lateral movement drills. The speed ladder has the capability of training an individual in all three major planes of movement, including the sagittal, frontal, and transverse planes. By improving your ability to move quickly and efficiently in these planes, will result in developing one's ability to master certain patterns that can be directly applicable towards the various movements used in performing specific goalkeeper techniques. An example of a goalkeeper-specific pattern using the speed ladder would be performing the "Icky shuffle" which is a lateral shuffling motion performed at a 45 degree angle. This is the exact same movement pattern used when changing direction and stepping before making a dive, whether its a collapse dive, a forward dive, or even a power dive. Thus, the movement pattern of the feet in this particular drill will directly affect the goalkeeper's ability to dive quickly in reaction to a shot in order to make the save.
In all honesty, I used the speed ladder every week of training, and usually multiple times per week, starting when I was in high school all the way through college. The speed ladder enabled me to develop my footwork way beyond any other form of training, and greatly increased my athletic ability and my overall performance as a goalkeeper. My ability to get to the ball improved way beyond what I would have presumed, including my ability to shuffle quickly across my goal on a cross, take quick lateral shuffles into a dive on a hard shot, or even to get from my 6 yard box to the top of my box quickly to make a big save on a break away situation. There are many benefits to the speed ladder, but the greatest long term benefit is the motor learning process of developing specific movement patterns which will ultimately improve your ability to move your feet faster. The ability to move a certain way using your feet without having to concentrate on the actual movement pattern will ultimately increase your ability to make big saves. This is due to the ability to concentrate solely on getting your hands to the ball as quickly as possible, without having to focus on the your footwork.
For any questions regarding proper technique using the speed ladder, or tips of common training movement patterns, please feel free to comment below.
Thanks for reading. Keep training hard!
by, Steven Waite, NSCA-CPT