Bianca Russell: Notes Post Olympics

Hi Goalies, here’s a few comments on my personal experience of the Olympics. I hope it inspires you young keepers to train hard and aim for the top so one day you can have an Olympic experience of your own.

London was my first Olympics and given that I’m 34 now, it’s likely to be my only one – but it was definitely worth the wait. We’ve all been in the situation where there’s an incumbent goalie holding top position in a team that means we have to do the ‘bench time’ and wait until they stuff up or retire before you get a chance to play. I think persistence is the key, don’t ever give up, keep pushing them and training hard because one day your time will come.

In preparation for this tournament I took advice handed down from other Olympians both successful and not so much, that had gone before us. We knew what to expect in theory with the hype, the pressure, the public attention that hockey in NZ just doesn’t usually get and the general idea was to separate the hockey tournament from the Olympic ‘event’ as much as possible. I thought I’d just treat the hockey like ‘business as usual’ and then just enjoy the colour and atmosphere of the village and games in general. Good plan but there was a flaw in that I hadn’t factored the hockey side of things to be as intense as it turned out. Every team there had spent the last 4 years building to this campaign. Every team had no doubt trained as hard as we had. Olympic games is every sports pinnacle event and I can honestly say that I just played the most incredible, high quality, full on intensity, enormous pressure games of my life. There’s no more playing with different combinations, trying out structures or patterns, resting players or building for the bigger picture – this is it, this IS the bigger picture. When the first whistle of each game went, I got a tingling – goose bumps sensation because I was so excited to be there. I was distinctly aware that a soft goal or a great save could make or break our whole campaign and that created more pressure on myself to make sure I got it right. I found that focussing on the present moment and endeavouring to keep things simple and go with gut instincts rather than overthink situations was the key to playing well. Communication was key to our defence and something I personally had worked on prior to the games. Because the stadium was so loud I had to scream at full volume to be heard by my own players and I lost my voice almost every game. It’s taken a full 10 (quiet) days to be talking normally and not croaking like a frog.

All the keepers were playing exceptionally high standard and mistakes were rare throughout the competition. Everyone looked sharp in customised kit, great helmet spray designs and all were brimming with energy in the electric stadium atmosphere filled for every match with 16,000 fans. For Olympics, everything is turned up; stadium set up is bigger, brighter, louder, players emotions are clearly visible in their expressions with pure elation for a win and utter heartbreak for a loss. Our team had a ‘have a go’ attitude and it seemed to do well for us. We held nothing back and won the hearts of the people back home. It’s still early days but I have mixed emotions about the whole thing. It’s been the best hockey and most incredible life experience I could have imagined but our 4th placing is hard to swallow and I suspect will haunt me for a long time to come. Overall was it worth all the hard training, early mornings, late nights, injuries, stress and financial hardship that comes with the elite hockey lifestyle? You bet it was! Real life is boring guys. If you fancy international travel, stadium hockey and carrying the pride of your nation as you go – best you get training!

Conditioning robo hi rebound kickers


Just bought new Robo HI REBOUND kickers from Cranbarry, your USA distributor. No info was included on how to condition them. Called Cranbarry and they couldn’t help. Can you reply with instructions? Thanks, Mark and Libby.


Hi Mark and Libby,

Conditioning the Robo HI REBOUND Kickers is fairly straightforward. The first part is shaping the kickers (if they were received flat). To shape the kickers, you’ll basically fold them to the shape that you want them as they’ll sit on your foot. I like to bend them ten or fifteen times and then wrap them with an elastic bandage and let them sit overnight. Take some time and make sure the straps are properly adjusted for the shoes you’ll be training. The first couple of times you wear the kickers be aware of hot spots on your legs from the kicker’s rubbing as you can blister. I sometimes wear two pair of socks for those first sessions in new kickers. Make sure the kickers are properly fastened. Make sure the rear buckle and straps are pulled all the way back so that your foot is sitting all the way back in the kicker. The Robo HI REBOUND kickers break in quickly. Hopefully that helps, give me a shout if you’re looking for more,

all the best,


Here’s a video that might help…

Quantity versus quality?

When analysing performance, quality of saves versus quantity of shots is a point of interest.

Having played on teams where I got regularly shelled with shots, I often wondered whether being able to save the vast majority of them meant I was a better goalkeeper than those opposing ’keepers who had less work to do. However, as I moved up the leagues and changed teams, my opinion changed as I realised the importance of being able to make key saves at important times. Making that all important save can be a game changer, influencing the outcome of the game if the current score is close or the game is tied. By being able to make crucial saves when it counts, you are going to give your team a better chance of winning the game.


Quantity of shots

The strength of your defence and the way you organise it (as I wrote about recently) will have a big influence over the number of shots and scoring chances you will face in a game. Whilst you don’t always want to be facing a lot of shots, it can actually have a positive knock-on effect depending on how you play the ‘mental game’. I personally found myself to be a ‘rhythm’ goalkeeper (a term used for ice hockey goalies which refers to playing in a rhythm) as I would find it easier to concentrate better and play better when facing a lot of shots. If you consistently face a lot of shots, don’t take it personally and think of it more as a training session so you don’t get disheartened. I found it a quick way to learn the position being thrown in the deep end!


Quality matters

If you have strong technique and are a good shot stopper, then you are obviously going to be able to stop shots that are otherwise going to beat you. Whilst having more shots to stop looks better on paper, since your shots saved versus shots will obviously be a good representation of your ability, it is important to remember that the quality of shots is a better way of seeing how good you are. If the shots are easy (i.e. ‘soft’ goals if you fail to make the save), then a lot of easy saves aren’t going to test your core foot work and save technique, for example.


Quality over quantity

When playing competitively at good levels of hockey, you will notice that when playing behind a strong defence you will obviously face less scoring opportunities, which in essence makes your life harder! Any scoring chance therefore becomes more important because when the opposition does break through they are more likely to produce a shot that really tests you because they cannot waste opportunities. This in turn means that you are going to have to be prepared to stop it! With less shots coming your way, you also have to be much more alert because losing your attention and ‘dropping off’ will mean you make yourself beatable.


The following clip demonstrates this, with a close game and few shots:


Strong mindset

In contrast, facing few but hard to save shots is going to test your ability. Every shot is essentially an opportunity to prove yourself and focusing on a closed mindset of ‘one save at a time’ will help you direct your efforts and continue playing to a high level. Playing like it’s ‘0-0’ will also direct your attention away from worrying about the score line and help you focus on stopping those shots.


Quality not quantity

Ultimately, however many shots you face, you need to be able to stop shots no matter the quality. It could be argued that no matter the number of shots you face, when it comes down to the crunch, you need to save them! I think it’s harder to be a goalkeeper on a strong defensive team because if you only face one goal and you fail to stop it, you are going to under more scrutiny. Whilst it’s not really that fun to face a ridiculous amount of shots (as it can be disheartening over a long period of time), as you improve and get the chance to play on better teams, you’ll recognise the need to perform at key times in the match when it matters the most.

TK or OBO?

Hi keepers! I want to put to rest the on going battle between these to brands and discover which is better/worse for whatever playing style people prefer. I will be going into my second season as a keeper having made the jump from the lowest team to the first team and have decided to buy my own kit as the clubs is falling apart! Having looked through pretty much all brands of kit I still can’t decide which kit is best. I prefer to be aggresive and slide a lot against opposition and having tried only two types of kit (the cloud 9 obo range and a slazanger kit), I find I cannot slide with square leg guards (maybe im doing it wrong?). I’m speculating whether to get a kit like the HC OBO kit or a kit like the HR OBO kit or the TK1 kit. Any comments will be much appreciated! Many thanks!

Playing with a meniscal tear

I’m currently playing with a minor meniscal tear in my left knee. I’ve been told by a lot of people that I shouldn’t be playing, but I’m going to be waiting a year or two for surgery and I’ve worked so hard to be where I am and I don’t want to give it up and lose everything. If anyone else has been in my position or has even had the same injury I’d like to hear your opinion on what I should do and/or how to improve with out doing more damage.

Thanks 🙂

Setting up deep at penalty corners

At top level hockey you can often see goalkeepers setting up deeper in the D against corners, giving them more time to react to the flick.

Watching top level domestic and international hockey, you will notice goalkeepers setting up deep within their D against penalty corners. Most of the Hoofdklasse goalkeepers do this, as do the goalkeepers in the English national premier league, for example, as can be evidenced from footage on YouTube! As the drag flick has become more prevalent, so have goalkeepers (as amazing as they are!) adapted to the shooter’s tendencies by changing the way they face penalty corners.


Phil Carr of Oxted sets up deep within the D against this short corner.


The following clip is an example of this (around 2:38 playing time and later), with Beeston’s George Pinner, who stays deep in his D against corners, demonstrating the technique and also the dangers of setting up versus deflections and well rehearsed routines:



The reason goalkeepers play deeper against a shooter during penalty corners comes down to reaction speeds. With the speed of a fast drag flick coming at the goalkeeper, by staying deep, the goalkeeper has more time to react. The faster the flick, the quicker the goalkeeper needs to be. If they were further out, they would arguably have less time to react and so would be beaten more easily (theoretically!). Instead, by standing as close to the goal line as possible they increase the reaction time i.e. they give themselves longer to react and make their selection of technique (diving, doing the splits to stop the ball with the kicker etc.) to stop the ball.



This is fairly obvious and is almost self explanatory! As you step out from behind the goal line as the injector pushes the ball out, you take a small step forward. Rather than taking two or three larger steps as you would normally do for challenging the shooter more, simply take a small step out so you are close to the goal line. Some goalkeepers stand so they are almost literally on the goal line, but it depends on how you want to play the situation. As you move up levels of play or are starting to face drag flicks for the first time, you can adjust to your normal positioning by taking a step or two back from your normal set-up. Practise will help you work things out, but personal preference will probably define how you set up.


Watch how Whitchurch’s goalkeeper (the one in orange!) sets up on penalty corners, demonstrate how this technique works:


Reacting quickly

Watching the flight of the ball as it comes in, the goalkeeper has to react athletically to reach and extend to the top or bottom corners of the goal which are more visible for the flick taker due to the goalkeeper’s deep positioning. Due to the goalkeeper’s deep positioning in the D, there is more shooting space visible to the shooter as a result of not challenging the angles. Whilst the deep positioning is helpful for reaction times, the goalkeeper consequently has to react more athletically, exploding into the save and stretching out to reach the space that has been left exposed. When watching goalkeepers stop shots like this when facing penalty corners, you will notice how they will often dive into the save in order to reach the ball.


The following clip at around 1:52 shows the goalkeeper react well athletically to stop the ball deep in the D:


A goalkeeper positioned more deeply has more time to react but shows more shooting space.


Using the technique

Goalkeeping can often come down to knowing what to do when. In the case of the technique, if you’re going to be facing a lot of drag flicks, then you are likely to be setting up close to the line as standard if you prefer to react rather than challenge. However, if you do not trust your ability to athletically stop a flick, and prefer to aggressively challenge with your positioning, then this might not be for you. Trying things out and keeping your options open however will give you more ways to keep the ball out of your goal at the end of the day!