Goalie ‘swagger’

‘Swagger’ is not exactly what you expect to think of when referring to hockey. But when it comes to goalkeeping (which is a part of the sport!), then you might be open minded in reconsidering!

‘Swagger’ is not exactly what you expect to think of when referring to hockey. But when it comes to goalkeeping (which is a part of the sport!), then you might be open minded in reconsidering! I’m not sure how it will translate internationally with the translate feature though! ‘Swag’, without sounding trite (I’m not exactly the definition of ‘street’ and it’s not exactly something you expect in the hockey community!) is a phrase often used when it comes to ice hockey, with goalies talking about how they look, and how they can experiment with pad colours and set-ups to look better and stylish! Who said goalkeepers didn’t have style?!

Well, in ice hockey, they can specialise their kit (we still can; Obo obviously offer the chance for two tone pads but not many do, although Monarch are introducing it!) and ‘dress up’ to ‘look the part’ and ‘cool’. I did play it for a bit (bit of a goalie connoisseur trying my hand at most sports, although do play outfield occasionally!!) and still pay attention to forums and blogs etc. for thoughts and ways of ‘thinking outside the box’; Justin Goldman s a great goalie writer and inspiration and whilst ice hockey is obviously a totally different technique and way of playing in goal, has a great level of insight for the mental game and psychological aspects of sport.

But regardless, it’s just a way in to contemplating body language and how you appear to your opposition. Easy to beat or hard to beat? You may not have played them yet and you don’t want to give them the wrong impression! I wanted to write about the conceptualisation of ‘swagger’ as a chance to discuss self belief, and thought this would be a good way in to introduce exploring the mode of self belief that has to be learnt through experience effectively and that potentially cannot be taught. You have to play like it and have the personality to match!


It’s a great way of looking at how confident you are on the pitch. You NEED to be confident, because it’s arguably the most pressured position on the pitch and if you’re not confident, you want play to your best or ‘do yourself proud’ with your performance. Self belief is either natural and deeply inherent for the person, or is buffed up by things that make you feel confident. You have to really trust in this positive self perception, or things can go belly up as you doubt your abilities and back away from tackles etc. or plays where you need to be aggressive with your play. Thinking about ‘swagger’ is just a vehicle for contemplating how your confidence comes across, a way of establishing this in the ‘mental game’ of the goalkeeping world.

Looking good

Look good, feel good, play good. It’s something that Obo discuss and makes a lot of sense and may be useful for you. But it also affects how your opponents see you. Look like you are unbeatable and they may feel you are going to be hard to beat! And conversely, look like you are a bad, and you may just well let in a few too many (bad days at the office aren’t fun!). Plus if you feel like a nervous wreck and things don’t go to plan, you may end up probably playing bad as doubt creeps in, so better to look hard to beat and not let things get to you! Psychologically you want to endorse this self belief so that you can play like it. Mind games and that malarkey may well also come into play as you get the opposition to believe you really are that unbeatable and going to stop them every time!

‘Swagger’ in the way you present yourself

‘Swagger’ as previously discussed, can easily be considered in the way your kit looks. That are lots of goalkeepers in the elite leagues that have pretty nice looking set-ups, even if the look is pretty standard (all red for TK right now etc. but Obo allows for the customisation for ‘swag’!). David Kettle (Welsh international) had a particularly swish blue and black colour look whilst at East Grinstead (the blue tk rhp helping complete the look!) and is now back with a more blue look (orange inners) at Surbiton after playing with a more mismatching look so far this season. Whilst Richard Potton at EG has a more orange look throughout, with blue on the inners of his pads. Aside from having kit that is shiny and well looked after, I’m not really sure how else you can look the part! Goalkeepers who will always look to experiment with kit, so even then, if they decide to use different types of kit for playing style and technical reasons, then it isn’t going to be a complete picture or universal set-up!

But ‘swagger’, like the way the ‘kids on the block’ talk about, is a lot about how you hold and present yourself. Fashion wise and also looking rough and tough. In a game if you look comfortable and seem like you’re going to stop every shot that comes at you, then your opposition is going to treat you so with more respect. But in goalkeeping, along with the loud verbal commanding of your defence, you want to cut a composed and yet imposing figure, an impression of cutthroat last man back to shut down their attacks.

One example is when I went along to see England in some international games a few years back. And watching from the stands and observing the goalkeepers in the game, was surprised to see Brothers look a little poserish (not a word and don’t mean to sound condescending, just how I saw things at the time!). It was a weekender against India. ‘Fairy’ (James Fair) played the first game and it was Nick Brothers’ turn ‘in between the posts’. The way he held himself and the air and presence about him as if he thought he was the best in the world (or something like that, I don’t know how to phrase it; I’ll never be that good and I do rate him highly as a ’keeper anyway!).

I thought it a little odd and different. But it makes a lot of sense now looking back in retrospect. If playing in front of a large crowd (probably not as big as the crowd at the England game, unfortunately!) and the added pressure, you can let the nerves get to you a little and affect your performance or you can overcome it by ignoring it and come across confident. Oriol Fabregas at RC Barcelona also comes across pretty emboldened. In this way, you’re doing the opposite of letting things and the opposition get to you; you’re showing that you are not nervous (even if you might be, by a tad!) and actually raring to go and stop everything that comes your way. ‘Gigi’ Buffon for Juventus and Italy and all time legend is a great footballing example of this; the way he stands high at corners and just carries himself looking confident the whole game. And he’s one of, if not often, the world’s best, so who can argue against that!

To extend and twist the metaphor, you can also consider how you express your confidence in the way you look (when not in your ready stance etc.). ‘Standing tall’ as a phrase (generally applied to life!) when applied to goalkeeping relates to bringing your ‘A game’ and giving your all no matter how good your team is (i.e. if you’re being shelled, you still do your best to stop every shot!), but can also in a sense relate to how you appear and how confident you are. Outside of goalkeeper, it’s been well researched that if you are hunched up, you feel worse mentally. Physiologically and psychologically impacting how you act. If you look hunched and crunching inwards, yousay a last corner of a game when the whistle has blown!

So in this sense, with body language, you are coming across to the opposition as not particularly confident in your own abilities. Personally, I just think I know too much random stuff, but I really do think it has a lot of impact for psychology and thus worth considering when thinking about the ‘mental game’ as a goalie in hockey. I’m not sure how this is understood in sports science, but theoretically makes a lot of sense. A straight back is needed in your ready stance anyway, but if you hold yourself upright as discussed in the following, you appear more content (you should be happy to be there, you’re in goal after all and you’re supposed to love it!) with the pressures and confident.

For example, look at the way Tom Millington (blue/orange tone Obo pads) looks and comes across in this clip; and when the play is not in his half, he still looks pretty composed and (versus shaky about a breakaway!):

robe demoiselle d’honneur? Peut-être vous devez penser à une rouge élégante et romantique. Notre boutique bellerobemariage.fr vous fournit des robes demoiselle d’honneur qui varient en termes de tissu, conception, longueur, etc. Une robe en mousseline à A-ligne décolletée en V longue au sol ou aux genoux sera votre choix idéal.

Sweat (wrist) bands

Just a quick equipment tip about using sweat bands to help with sweat (and keeping it away from your gloves so they don’t slip off!).

A little innocuous but a quick equipment tip if looking to avoid sweaty hands nonetheless, which is potentially useful when playing in hot climates, with the band essentially soaking up excess sweat building up on your arm, to prevent your hands getting clammy and your glove slipping (basically loosing grip as the sweat builds up). Hopefully wicking away the sweat as a baselayer would. I’m sure you can get some on Ebay or a sports store! You’re more likely to see them worn in tennis (I know Nadal does at least!), but they can be a quick trick for helping with sweat as has been said. Tom Sheridan, American international uses them for this and I think Juan Manuel Vivaldi also is often seen wearing them (not for certain!). Ben Cowling at Canterbury in the EHL (as opposed to NZ!) also does.


And for proof, here’s a link to a photo of Sheridan wearing one!




And you can notice the sweat band on Cowling’s right wrist here:




Alternative use: alternative tubigrip!

Other than using them for wicking away sweat, some goalkeepers also use them as a cover for the elbow, sliding them up the arm as a fast and furious way of trying to deal with turf burns when going without arm protection. The band is placed over or around the elbow to help prevent contact with the surface and friction when going down to slide. Andrey Rocke, Trinidad and Tobago’s goalkeeper is an international that definitely does! There are national league goalkeepers like Ben Cowling that do this (at least, I think he does!), as do others, such as HC Bra’s goalkeeper (seen footage of HC Bra’s goalkeeper in the Italian league and Eurohockey Club Champions Trophy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QHn4-bY9ug&list=PLBD60D5597445717F) pictured below and Rocke:





And an Aussie ‘keeper showing their use in a warmer climate!




Coquette, pimpante, sexy, vous aurez besoin de notre sélection de robes de cocktail sexy pour la soirée de rendez-vous avec lui. Parfois sans bretelle, parfois encolure en cœur, Robe De Cocktail Sexy

Low gloves at short corners

Just like I wrote about a couple of years back about using high gloves to help make standing saves against drag flicks at corners, the opposite (low gloves) can be argued as well, for those menacing and difficult low placed flicks you cannot reach from your standing position. Thoughts and analysis on how gravity and holding them low equates to reaching such flicks, as well as a new trend that seems to be becoming popular at short corners.

Whilst I have written about a raised glove positioning at corners, to allow you to make high saves from a standing position and also to make bringing the gloves into position during a high dive easier, there is also a good reason to have your gloves down low at a corner. It all depends on the level you play at and the style of drag flicks or shots you face. Standing up with gloves high, it is easier to move in to save a high flick, but if you are facing a difficultly placed flick that you cannot reach with your legs down low, where you may have to dive low and with low gloves, is obviously easier to get closer to the ball more quickly from that position.




Lowering your gloves

Having low positioned hands equates to being able to bring your gloves into play to stop a low ball, where you are extending out wide against a difficult-to-stop drag flick that is not quite on the floor and not particularly off it. Whilst a lot flick takers do go to flick high, there is a lot of sense in having a low glove positioning in your stance to allow you to get nearer a low ball with your gloves when facing a low placed and very difficult to stop, tricky, drag flick wide, low and down, or into the corners, where you need to really extend and push out into making the save. Just like where you have your gloves high to move up or out, from a standing position. With your gloves low you can quickly bring them in to block the ball as you make the dive; already low, allowing you to drop them even quicker to stop the ball.


It’s something Nick Brothers did a lot when playing club hockey for national premier league side Reading and when representing England or GB internationally (he has hung up the pads, sadly). Nick Brothers had his gloves low in a general stance (which you don’t seem much of these days) to help getting low for a save more quickly (seen at 9:01 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2SeiavimsE) and Simon Mason seems to still uses a stance like this (well, his gloves are low at least!). But, he also kept this low glove stance when dealing with short corners.




As can be seen at 1:29; although he gets his rhp on it, it bounces up and away, done to wrist rotation but a very difficult save to make regardless:

Saving low

As suggested, it should be easier theoretically for your gloves to be used from a low position when going up against low and wide flicks that you cannot stop from a standing position. With gravity coming into play and an incredibly fast drag flick being faced, the lower your gloves, the quicker it should theoretically be to bring them in to save the flick as you go down. Here’s the legendary Simon Mason making such a save at 2:01, getting the right glove and stick low to stop:

With your gloves already low, it should theoretically assist pushing out wide in extension in a low/mid-dive against flicks outside your reach when standing, as Brothers demonstrates:

New trending?

Unlike Brother’s stance where his gloves were outside the body than tucked beside, there seems to be a new trend in goalkeeping, which I wanted to comment on after the realisation! This alteration can be noticed if you watch Stubbings and Belgian goalkeeper van Rysselberghe (who’ll be mentioned later!). Diccon Stubbings (goalkeeper for Canterbury in the England Hockey League) has made an interesting change to the way he sets up at penalty corners, with a ready stance, that almost looks lackadaisical (edit: yes, I get to use an awesomely elongated word when discussing goalkeeping!) and kind of displaying an nonchalant  within the ‘mental game’ regards  to outside , unaware of goalkeeping technique and perspective! His gloves are just still by his side then pushed out into anything resembling a ready stance.


Here you can see his previous stance on corners whilst at Holcombe, where it has the gloves higher and around the body, in front:




Here is the new stance I’ve seen of him using at Canterbury, essentially just a very relaxed stance, with the gloves dropped to his side, ready to push out low.




In the following video, noticing how he gets low quickly to stop (he’s in the red TK pads and black shirt and black helmet) and generally reverts to a low glove positioning in his ready stance when shots are in close. At about 9:24 you can see this in practise. Richard Mantell likes to flick low and Stubbings has obviously gone with expecting him to and it looks like the ball goes wide, or he does manage to make a cracking save getting low with the stick.

On the consecutive corner, you can see how having a low glove stance makes it easier to block standing up against a flick near to the hips and around the body, or to dive into, if necessary.


Stuart Hendy, Old Loughtonians goalkeeper (again, another retiree, at least I think; not on the EHL web page team sheet anyway!) also used this set-up against short corners as of late, to help him deal with lower placed flicks. Here’s a photo of him making such a save a season ago against Oxted:




The photo below illustrates the stance where he would set up with his gloves low.




But seemly unlike the other goalkeepers (mentioned and to be mentioned, see below!), he changes his glove positioning as and when at suits, which can be seen demonstrated here at 1:42:


And here at 9:50:




This is also something Belgian international goalkeeper (Vanasch has beaten him out of the starting spot, with Gucasoff now second choice and Leroy having been part of the training squad), David van Rysselberghe, does a lot of. Rather than keeping his gloves up at shoulder or chest height in his stance on the corner (the rest of the time for game, he retains a ‘normal’ ready stance with gloves up around chest/shoulders, a lot like Stubbings), he keeps his gloves very low, in case of the danger of a save that is down towards the backboard.


Ignore the goal but notice how low he keeps his gloves, and like Stubbings, basically stands there looking like he’s not really bothered, gloves dropped to the sides of his body!

High or low?

It all depends on the flicks you expect to face. Most of the time, I would expect flicks to be higher; around head height, wide of you, or wide of you outside the body (hip height say, where you have to extend out into a dive to reach). But some flick takers like the difficult positioning just above the floor and at the post or between you and the defender, which is tricky to defend and can cause confusion. Assumptions can be made depending on the places the flick takers look to go for. Scouting your opposition always helps and is essential for this approach. It’s still possible to get your gloves low from a raised position in your stance when you dive, but it depends on where you expect the ball to end up and if you need to extend as far out as possible to reach the corners etc. It’s something I’m going to write about in more detail in another article.

Aerial ‘punts’

Another article trying to ‘think outside the box’ and consider the goalkeeper’s options for punting away high balls or punting a high ball as an outlet pass.

Edit: managed to get some action shots after heading to Guildford to watch a game, where Mason thankfully did so!!

Punt kicks are what are common in football, but whilst a rarity in hockey are seemingly being introduced by some goalkeepers experimenting with the limits of the position. Kind of like the kick to restart play from the goalkeeper’s box in football, but without the ball being on the ground! Essentially kicking to punt away a raised ball, whether from a self pass, or from a high ball. And as I want to point, it has become something that even goalkeepers in our sport of hockey are experimenting with, pushing the limits on what a goalkeeper can or supposedly, can’t do. Andrew Isaacs at Havant is the main goalkeeper using the technique in the EHL, but you will sometimes see goalkeepers clearing with the top of the kicker, to aid in getting distance against a raised pass, anyway. It is obviously quite an advanced trick as it only has a rare usage and is pretty difficult (to do well!)!



The technique of kicking away with the top of the kicker is essentially just like a drop punt kick in football. But with a trickier technicality, obviously, as you are wearing foam pads! And except that you can’t use your hands to drop the ball for the kick! Which makes things harder as you have to flip the ball up with your stick before you punt away (often from the self pass set-up with a defender passing the ball). And it also helps to have a variant and learn to kick as a ball comes at you on the drop of an aerial etc.


  • Get behind the aerial or ball dropping towards you (so you don’t miss it!)
  • Swing with the leg into the kick as the ball comes at you
  • As you do, turn your foot at the angle you want the ball to be directed at; don’t turn the kicker ‘face’ away, it is the angling of the foot that directs the kick away and clearance (visualise or be aware of the sideline, 25 to help etc.)
  • Have the ‘face’ of the top of the kicker connecting with the ball (making the most of the surface area) and getting as much on it as possibly, preferably from the middle
  • Continue to drive through the ball as you would when kicking normally, so that you get as much power on the kick as possible
  • Finally, bring the foot back and reset, to rebalance and get back to a standing position or your ready stance


As this picture of Max Weinhold illustrates:




If you want to start from a free hit, then you will need to flip the ball up with your stick to get the ball high enough for a good drop to get distance on the kick. You can see the technique that is similar to what Isaacs uses, with Stockmann attempting a kick to a player to keep the play going, in the following clip. The process involves flipping the ball up with good stick control to punt away, as has been said. This can be seen at 3:41 playing time (Jaap stops the ball with his glove first):




Although pretty blurry (sorry!!), the following pictures show the process. Mason kicks with his right unlike Isaacs:





Football goalkeepers obviously do this more regularly, as they drop a caught ball to punt away. Following advice and ‘cross training’ gives more in-depth analysis on technique. The JB Goalkeeping blog is great for this and the link gives useful information:




Starting play with the free hit

There was a lot of talk when the free hit rule changed and the self pass option became introduced into the hockey world. And some goalkeepers considered making use of it to allow further options to get the ball up the pitch quickly and confuse the opposition team at the same time. Obviously with aerials being allowed at free hits in hockey, it doesn’t seem quite so unique or needed as the player can release an aerial! It is something that ‘Mace’ (Simon Mason, ex-GB, current first choice at Guildford) when it became something of interest. He was accurate with it and could get it quite far (heard he did a couple of times but seen it done in training; happy to be corrected if wrong!).


But this is something that Andrew Isaacs at Havant has started pioneering and test. Doing essentially what Stockmann can be seen doing, but at the restart and with more regularity and trying for greater distance and accuracy. He did it last season, but may not be doing it quite so much this season! And haven’t been able to get to any of their games to check!


You can see the process at 0:10 (it, the first, looks to be an assist on a goal scoring opportunity) and then 0:20 and 0:58 and 1:10 (basically all the way throughout the video but pernickety in timing for skipping through!). He seems to kick with the left from the free hit restart, but know he is comfortable with kicking with both feet, seeing him ‘punt’ a flick into the D with his right before. Not sure if 0:58 is an example of him kicking away a loose high ball as he does, as a little out of focus.




It’s a big ask in hockey where it’s unexpected and will take a lot to pull it off accurately, making it seem less likely to be used so regularly! Kicking over distance, where you have to predict the drop, is a little different to kicking on the floor. Football goalkeepers at the elite level are judged on their pinpoint accuracy with their kicking and to get an aerial kick to a player without ‘making it dangerous’ requires this even more so, if done in hockey. The following is a great example. Timing, direct and power for distance all come into play. Gazzaniga at Southampton may have only got a few Premier league starts this season, but I was surprised by his ability with distribution. His accuracy is pretty amazing and has gotten a lot of assists for starting scoring opportunities. See at 0:35, for a short but precise pass. Watch for 0:46 and 1:00 for great examples and evidence of this! And the rest are good enough to watch and see.




Sidetracking as I often do, but in football, goalkeepers are seen as the extra defender and distributor, which hockey goalkeepers can learn from, if open minded and ‘thinking outside the box’! Joe Hart will often take free kicks outside his area and command distribution, as another example. In football they love it if you set up goals for them and outside the stereotype of goalkeepers accept you more as a team mate, but I can’t see it catching on in football!


A clearance method

Other than restarting play, a punt kick also gives further options when dealing with high balls into the D. Of course, if it’s an aerial pass into the D, it’s a pretty difficult to judge and get right. But, with an elite skilled goalkeeper, because reading the game for them is at a high level and more opportunities like this are faced, then it may be of use. If the timing is such that the attacker isn’t going to get their first, but you need to clear because otherwise the ball could run on for them to latch onto, then it is something to consider. Possibly!


The following link takes you to a picture of Chris Bristow (in his time at Surbiton), clearing with a punt on a ball inside the D:




Clearing with greater force

If dealing with an aerial flicked into the D, swatting at it with the glove won’t actually do much. At least, that’s what I’ve found. Even if you’ve got good rebound properties with your glove, putting it just outside the D requires help from defenders (who may not be there) and such. Having witnessed Isaacs do it in person in a friendly against Holcombe, I’ve observed its uses. With a kick away, he managed to get it to distance and well controlled with accuracy, to the sidelines; much further than a clearance with the glove. You can’t really do that with a glove and a kick if done with power, provides another option. Unorthodox, yes and very difficult to teach but it is also very handy. A skill used appropriately in the right situation, which effectively is what the science of goalkeeping technique and tactics is about really. Having ‘tools in your toolbox’ as Mitch Korn teaches in ice hockey and something to be learnt from.


In the video of Isaacs, you can see Millington (playing for Exeter) just about (the camera angle blocking him out of shot!) at about 1:15 playing time.


‘Face’ of the kicker

Interestingly, Isaacs uses Mercian kickers, which do not have buckles on the ‘face’ which could potentially affect the ability to punt the ball. Gryphon, Mazon and Grays also use this strapping system. I’m not sure exactly, to what depth, or how much protruding buckles can affect the punt itself, but having seen Obo users pull it off in training, don’t think it presents much of an issue.



Ultimately, it is an extra option, to confuse the opposition, or to help with a difficult ball that needs clearing. It has a very specific use and takes a lot of working on to be comfortable with, although I do like the idea of goalkeepers in hockey being more comfortable with the ball ‘at their feet’ as in football. You may want to prioritise on more important skills, but if you’ve got everything else sorted, may want to add it to your repertoire (especially if you are at a level where aerials into the D are more common). And basically if anything else, it’s a lot of fun to experiment and muck about in training (if you get the chance!) or you can just go down a park or ‘rec’ with a football and have a go, outside of your hockey training schedule.


Even if you don’t ever use it in a game, it is practising important skills of goalkeeping. At the fundamentals, it’s working on eye contact, so hand-eye (foot-eye in this case!), tracking the ball with vision, footwork and working with kicking and feeling comfortable with the ball at your feet. And stick work as well as you flip the ball up to punt clear.


You will see elite goalkeepers using it and you may even consider it yourself (maybe, perhaps!). But it’s a skill in itself and has a lot of finesse and panache I guess as it’s pretty precarious and requires a lot of self confidence and comfortable approach with the skill being pulled off, because otherwise you end up looking like a total Wally, as the ball skips past! It would take a lot of practise and confidence to pull it off in games, but can still be utilised as an option for a strong clearance against a high pass.


Food for thought?!

Or maybe not! But I think it’s good to be seeing goalkeepers push the boundaries and experiment with the goalkeeper as an option as distributor and for clearing. But, it’s not like I’m recommending you go out and teach yourself it to use in games! The article was written as a means to explore and engage with the idea of what a goalkeeper can and should do, as an extra defender perhaps. It’s just a chance to get you to think! Thinking about the position of goalkeeper and the goalkeeper’s role within the team.


Personally, I would really like to see hockey becoming a lot more like football (hearing the cries of dismay!) in relation to goalkeeping (not anything else!), where the goalkeeper is an outlet pass option, accurate and comfortable with the ball at their feet, and ‘the fifth defender’. Ice hockey is no different, where the goaltender is taught to ‘dump the puck’ with a long pass and can even assist on goals, so in terms of this, I think hockey (goalkeeping) is a little behind the times on boundary pushing and someone like Isaacs could have an impact on the way we think about playing in goal and revolutionise the approach to the position and thoughts about it. Just my take on things! Not as if they’re groundbreaking or anything (my opinion that is)!