Everyone at one stage in their hockey career has to prepare for a big game, whether it be
- Club Final,
- Olympic Final,
- Team Selection Trial
… or just a game that is important to you and your team.
Before you can even start to think of a big game, the pre-preparation that you need to do includes all of the training – including both physical and skills specific.
In the last couple of sessions leading up to the big game I try to slightly adjust my training so that I do more close in work so that my reflexes are sharp. This helps me to make those saves that are made purely with reflexes.
Let's imagine that you have done all of the preparation that is needed. There are steps that you can follow for your game preparation.
The day before the big game it is a good idea for you to try to imagine some of the saves, if not all of the saves, that you need to make during the game. To do this effectively you need to break the skill down so you almost feel what save you are making. I think that it is never too late to do this as it can always help.
I have also done this in the warm up stage after the run during my stretching time, however, you can do this at any time. I have mentally prepared before a penalty stroke by imagining myself making up to 6 different saves before I actually save the stroke.
Physical warm up:
To warm up properly before a game I do at least 3 laps of the field. This is followed by stretching and some active warm up exercises. These include swinging the legs to get good movement, rotation of the hips followed by run throughs. The run throughs are from 10-25 m. At this stage I put my gear on.
Skills warm up:
Generally, I try to have around 20 minutes on the turf to warm up. I start with balls in close and gradually move them out to the top of the circle. At the beginning of the first stage I kick the ball back at the person who is warming me up, this helps to get good accuracy. As the warm up progresses I tend to get the ball wider to practice wide clearances.
The next stage of the preparation is to sharpen my reflexes. I have the balls lined up around the penalty spot. The person who is warming me up then flicks and chips the balls at me one after the other, not giving me enough time to set for the next save.
After this we tend to practice corners as a team. This is followed by two team drills of rapid fire to sharpen my reflexes.
If I follow all of the steps, my warm up should be complete and I should be ready to play the big game.
It is important to remember that this is an example of my warm up and that everyone has different needs. You may want to take some or all of these ideas for your own warm up.
Good luck with the keeping!
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