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)!

Spartan with OBO – An evening with Beth Storry, GB and England

Come and join us with Beth Storry, GB, England and World XI for an evening of goalee indulgence with her GB Coach and Co Founder of Spartan, Steve Bayer.  Take a look at the flyer and get back to us.

Its taking place this Friday, 4 Nov 2011 at Oxford Hawks HC, England.  Its very popular and will be a great night

Play nicely!


Dominate your D!

The D is your zone; you need to learn to control it.

Controlling your D is vital to your game. Goalkeeping is not just about making the save; it’s about controlling the flow of the game. Ian Taylor write an article a while back commentating on the modern game of hockey, stating that this is controlling your D is a key part of the game, which is often overlooked by both coaches and players. By facing fewer shots, you’re less likely to let in more goals, whatever level of ability you play at: know where the goal is, where your defence is, and where the attackers are; where the space is to clear the shot, and where the space is for the shooter to move into. Not only do you need to reduce your shot count, but you also need to control the play. The D is YOUR zone; the D is the goalkeeper’s area and you need to make it that way. Sometimes you can and need to act as an extra defender, such as being faced with having to make an attacking clearance; coming out to challenge an open player or kicking away the free ball.

The D is your area, not just a zone for players, so make it your own.

Clear away rebounds

In order to control the play, you need to control your rebounds; by putting the ball away to a safe place away from danger you limit the scoring chances for the opposing team – with no rebound, there is no second chance on goal. You need to clear rebounds accurately; simply returning the ball back to the shooter gives them an easy chance to put away the rebound. Whenever you make a save, make sure that you make a concerted effort to get rid of the ball on the save, or do your best to clear the rebound after you have controlled the shot.

Shut down plays

As a goalkeeper who dominates their D, you need to be capable of shutting down scoring opportunities. On breakaways especially, you need to come out of your goal and shut down the play; the defence will not get back in time to help, so it is up to you to intercept the player at the top of the D. Attacking clearances, as well, are important, as you need to rush out and have an accurate kick to get the ball away from the area. Interceptions are another play that you need to shut down; eliminating the pass to deny a scoring chance. If you feel that you have the ability to take on players within the D (and have the backing of your defence), you can confidently do so.

Here the goalkeeper rushes off their line to intercept the ball carrier.

Organise your defence

Organising your defenders is key to success in goal. To dominate your half of the pitch, you need to dominate your defenders: shouting out instructions to them. You need to control the defence and get them to do what you want them to do. Feed them constant information; tell them if they are leaving a player unmarked and try to get them not to over commit on a challenge that would otherwise get your team penalised and end up having to face a free hit or corner.


Whenever you go out to get the ball, you need to put your name on it. Shout ‘KEEPERS’ or ‘MINE’ loud enough to be heard by your teammates. By doing this, your fellow players will know to leave it and you will be able to make a successful clearance or tackle.

Make the D your own

To control your D, you need to make it yours. This is done through your voice and through your actions; your voice controls your defenders and your actions control the play. YOU need to make the effort to be aggressive and be more active in challenging the opposition; it’s no good being passive! If a player is in your way, then you can tell them: shout at them to move out of the way, so that you can get a better view of the play, in order to make the save, or to get them out the way to get to the ball.

Dominate your D: control the zone!

Ultimately, you need to control your D; the D is your zone and you are the leader. Whenever someone steps into the D, they should expect to face the wrath of the goalie! You need to control the play and determine how things occur with your decision making; be prepared to come out and clear rebounds, or launch out to intercept a breakaway. It is up to you to do this, so you need to learn quickly.

The self-pass

The new self-pass option is also available to goalkeepers. The goalkeeper can take advantage of this at a 16, learning to further the options of their team by freeing up a defender who would normally take the free hit.

The rules have been changed again and the free hit rule has been adapted to allow a player to pass the ball to themselves and then make a pass, in comparison to smashing it straight away (this includes goalkeepers). This new self-pass therefore allows the goalkeeper to take free hits. However, you should be thoughtful about how and when you use the move, otherwise you could end up in a spot of bother with the opposition bearing down on you looking for an easy goal. Working on technique and looking to use it wisely is a good idea to helping your team; furthering their options and freeing up a player who would normally take the free hit.

Restarting play

The self-pass is a good way of quickly restarting play from a 16. By restarting the play quickly, rather than waiting around for a defender to wait and look for options, you speed up the pace; giving your team the advantage of surprise and speed, which can lead to a goal if the team takes hold of the situation and pushes up the field. By bypassing having a defender take the free hit you save time, whilst also freeing up another player to push forward on the attack (or provide extra defence; defending back if needs be).


In terms of technique, the self-pass is essentially a simple stick and ball manoeuvre; using the stick and then kicking away with the kicker. You can set up the pass with your stick, placing the ball in front of you to get a good angle on the kick. You need to pass the ball to yourself, so knock the ball back to yourself with the stick. Having passed it to yourself, you can then kick it to a nearby defender. Make sure the pass is accurate, so that it reaches the intended recipient properly.

Goalkeeper making the free hit self-pass to an open defender.

A more difficult skill is to use the self-pass option to ‘throw’ an aerial, like a soccer (football) goalkeeper would do at goal kicks. Simon Mason is the only goalkeeper I know of that can do this successfully; having seen him practising it and going beyond the half way line (to the three quarter mark). As the rules of a ‘dangerous ball’ still apply to an aerial kicked by the goalkeeper, it is a very risky move to try and pull off, unless you have the skill and accuracy to do so. Therefore I don’t recommend you try it, even if it’s fun at the training ground!

When to

The self-pass can be used properly when looking to restart the play “off the bat” without much danger of the opposition intercepting the pass. As long as there is a defender to cover a roaming opposition player and there are no opposing players (or little danger of intercepting the pass) posing a risk to you making a pass, then you should be able to make the pass. I have seen it used like this in a National Premier league game here in England; the goalkeeper quickly restarting play within the D by kicking the ball to a team mate after a shot outside the D (where a 16 is automatically given as a result).

Be careful

Ultimately, it is a great move when used correctly, but can go horribly wrong if not. You need to be careful and wise about when you use it; being aware of present threats, otherwise you could end up gifting a goal to the opposition team.

Aerials into the D

Aerial passes into the D are difficult for a goalkeeper to deal with, especially if a player gets on the end of the pass and deflects it onto goal. The goalkeeper can actively react to this danger, coming out aggressively to beat the opposition player to the ball and clear it; thus eliminating the scoring chance.

On the international scene aerials are becoming more and more popular as an offensive option; pushing up the pitch, with a deflector running onto the end of the aerial and tipping the ball to lob the goalkeeper. The winning goal of the recent Champions Trophy tournament by Australia is proof of this. As a result, the goalkeeper needs to be quicker on their feet and athletic in an aggressive response, if they want to be able to eliminate the threat.

As this clip shows, aerials are a danger to us goalkeepers if played incorrectly:

Coming out to intercept

The way to deal with the threat of the aerial into the D, actively and aggressively, is to come out and intercept it. Just like you would when facing an open pass into the D along the floor and completing an attacking clearance, you can sprint out to meet it. As the ball drops, you can then make your move; jumping up to knock away the ball.

Meeting the drop

To be able to stop the aerial and the threat of the opponent scoring, you need to match the aerial; matching its flight path and all important drop. You need to be quick and immediate in your actions; sprinting out to be the first to it. To eliminate the aerial, you need to beat the incoming opposing player to the ball, otherwise you can be whistled for obstruction as you are in their way. Timing is extremely important as to whether or not you will succeed in making the interception. In order to intercept it before it becomes dangerous, you have to be beneath the ball as it arrives, so that you can jump up and knock it away. Watch the ball and attempt to get underneath it to cut off its path, before leaping up to knock it clear.

Jumping into touch

To reach the ball, you really need to extend and reach up in your efforts to block. The ability to jump high is useful, since you need to be able to get as high as possible to cover the aerial. Extending the stick will give you extra reach if you are using the stick to block. When you block the aerial, try to power the ball away; batting it away to safety. However, don’t be too over zealous, otherwise you could get whistled on the play; push the ball to a reasonable distance (although your priority is to stop a goal being scored, so it shouldn’t matter too much if you are penalised).

Remember to look to the sides to direct the rebound, as that way you will have more time to respond and get back in goal if another opponent gets hold of the ball. If you let the ball simply drop to your feet, then the chances are that the incoming opponent player will latch onto the ball and then score around you.

Follow the rebound

As always, it is important to follow the rebound to shut down any secondary scoring chance. You need to follow up on the attempt to make sure there are no other chances to score. Work out where it’s gone, turning and sighting the ball before moving in to kick it away. If your defence has got back in time, then they may get to it before you.


  • beat the opposition to the ball; be the first to reach the aerial
  • get underneath the aerial’s path so that you can successfully block it
  • extend into the interception as you jump up
  • try to control the rebound; if it is not controlled first time, get to the rebound and clear it to safety
  • practise makes perfect; work on your technique to ensure

Rule of thumb:

– If you can’t reach the ball in time, then don’t try to: stay back and try to make the save. You have to be early in your efforts. If you leave it too late, then you won’t be able to make a successful interception.

Staying put

The other option for dealing with the aerial is not to do anything and wait for it to happen. You can passively let the play come to you. If you do not have the time to move off your goal quickly (having seen it late), or think you will misplay it, then you can wait on the opponent’s efforts to see what they do. Rather than being lobbed, stay deep in the D on your line so that you can make the save when the aerial is tipped and redirected onto goal. If the aerial is not redirected, but the player decides to knock it down to the floor to control it for an attempt on goal, then you can take a step forward to cut the angle and cover more of goal, or move out to challenge them.

Face the shot on the corner

Previously goalkeepers set up on short corners facing the injection to watch it happen, before turning and moving out to face the shot. Rather than statically watching the injection, it is now more commonplace to see the goalkeeper focusing on the shot; facing forward already to move out to stop the ball, giving them extra advantage of time and ability to track the shot. If you get a chance to watch high level games, you’ll notice how it is being used. As the game changes, so does technique. The majority of the Hoofdklasse goalies face forward on short corners, as do the goalies in the English National Premier League. It is becoming more universal, with Belgian’s number 1 using at, along with USA’s starting men’s team goalie, as a couple of examples.

There is a problematic trend, with a lot of goalkeepers focusing on the ball being injected at the short corner, rather than the shot itself. This makes things harder in the save process, for making an effectual successful stop, as you are more focused on the injection, than the shot you have to stop. By being horizontal to the injector and therefore turned away from the incoming shot, you are in fact making things harder for yourself and reducing your chances of making the all important save. Instead, you can improve your success on short corners, by simply learning to focus on the shot; giving yourself more time to prepare for the save.

Being side-on

A lot of goalkeepers in Britain, western Europe (Holland, Belgium, Germany, Poland etc.), as well as Asia and Oceania (Australia and New Zealand), like to stand side-on, facing the injector at short corners, in order to watch the injection process and check the ball is properly released (making sure the attempt is not stuffed up by the injector!), before stepping out to face the shooter. Although it is in general use in goalkeepers across different leagues, it is also being used at international level by goalkeepers like Max Weinhold, Tim Jessulat (both of Germany), for example.

The reason behind this technique is that the goalkeeper is able to see the injection, following it through to the shot, tracking the ball and maintaining focus on it, into the save (maintaining eye contact with the ball allowing them to maintain their focus). By turning sideways they also give their defenders more room to move (with the 5 defenders, to defend the corner, standing within the goal). By being able to watch the injection process, they are also able to call out their defence on the time the ball is released, so they have a better chance of setting up in time for the shot/the runners have a better chance of a quick exit. The central focus is therefore on the injection process; completely ignoring the need to stop the shot, which is the more important – the goalkeeper’s fundamental task being keeping the ball out of the net.

This process, however, affects the goalkeeper’s ability to make an eventual save on the short corner attempt; rather than simply stepping out ready to stop the ball, the goalkeeper has to go through a series of before they can get ready for a save. The method itself over complicates the process of stepping out from goal and into position, as you have to turn your body in a swift motion and then step out of goal (slowing down the process of moving out from goal). By turning in this way, you can also end up away from your start position; the centre of goal, when turning round. You are moving yourself away from the destination of the incoming shot, especially if the shot is straight down the middle and around that area.

Focusing your efforts on watching the injector is also detrimental, as you have diverted your attention away from the upcoming shot. With your focus on the person injecting and watching the ball being transferred, rather than the actual shooter, you are not aware of the intended and therefore hampering your chances; you only have a short time to react to it as it happens. You are simply ‘in the dark’, unaware of the routine the opposition are going to use. Having not paid attention to the way the opposition has set up their attack, not knowing what they intend to do, you have no idea what you are facing. By doing so, you drastically limit your chances of making an efficient save; as you change your focus to the shooter, you have little time to react to the shot and therefore have little chance of making the save.

Facing forward

In comparison, a lot of technically sound goalkeepers prefer to stand with their body facing the intended shooter; already ready to deal with the expected shot when they step out from goal. The change in technique comes as a result of goalkeeper specific coaches rethinking the way goalkeepers should behave. The current crop of Dutch super keepers in the Hoofdklasse, use this technique. It is also spreading on the international scene, with goalkeepers like America’s number 1, Tom Sheridan, using the same method.

It is an important method of prioritising for the shot; getting ready before, rather than having to react immediately, once you have stepped out of the goal. At the highest level, the speed of injection is so fast that there is little time to react, complicating things if you were to stand sideways and then have to re-adjust in an instant. When you are faced with such speeds, it is important to try to gain an advantage, even if it is small. By being set already you give yourself that extra millisecond of extra time to react and read the ball better as it comes towards you, which may not have been possible if you had to turn into the shot. With little time to react, focusing on the ball is more useful; your focus is on the shot and you can therefore make a better ‘read’ on it.

In contrast to the side-on method, the complications of turning as you step out from goal are non-existent. Since you are already facing forward and set up centrally, you are already in an optimum position before you have moved out from, or set up for the set. If were are side-on, facing the injector, then you are not going to be able to exit quickly or efficiently; by off setting your position and balance, you slow down (having to reset yourself to position for the shot). Facing forward, however, you are able to set up with increased speed, giving you the time advantage. With your body facing (rather than having your hip tilting out to the side), you can balance and provide forward thrust for when you launch forward out into the D, for extra speed.

By being set up already facing the shot (rather than parallel to the injector) to start off with, you are in a better position to stop the eventual shot. With a forward view, you can pay attention to the opposition’s set-up around the top of the D. By facing the shooter, you can easily tell whether or strike or flick is coming (by their hand positioning), whilst you can also get a good look at the shape of the opposition’s corner routine (where the ‘castle’ is i.e. where the ball is being stopped and if there are any other dangers, such as deflectors running in).

Face the shot

When you are just about to stop a shot, you are already pre-set in a balanced, stable ready stance and your focus is on the ball – as a result, you can make a successful save. When you are setting up on a short corner, you should therefore be doing the same; setting up in a stance relating to the type of shot you are focusing (well balanced, hands ready according to the anticipated height of the shot/flick), with your eyes focusing on the shooter and then their shot (as they receive the ball and shoot). If you watch the high performing Dutch goalkeepers, such as Klaas Veering, Jaap Stockman, Guus Vogels, and Pirmin Blaak, (who are all coached by Martin Drijver) you will notice that they now all focus solely on the shooter. As do Spanish goalkeepers, like Fransisco Cortes (who is also coached by Drijver). Stockman even goes so far as ignoring calling the defence to move out on the injection (so that the defenders get in the right positions in time), in order to prioritise the save.

The fundamental skill of watching the ball has been lost in the sense of watching the injection; taking it literally, coaches and goalkeepers alike have seen it as essential to focus on where the ball is, with the injector, which is not as important. However, the priority should be on the shooter and focusing on their stick, and following the focus on through; before they receive the ball, then when they take the shot, since that is the where the shot is coming from. By preparing early, rather than just before you have to make a save, your mind is already on the job at hand, whilst you are also physically ready (set in your stance) – reacting better to the flick/shot with increased focus and therefore making the save.

The goalkeeper in this video works as a good basic example of the technique, with them moving straight out from a forward from a forward facing stance, into their ready position to face the shot.

Facing forward on corner

The following video shows the technique in game use:

Vogels in action with the technique

The following is an interesting study by the University of Amsterdam, which proves the theory; with the goalkeeper reacting better when they are focusing on the shot, rather than the injection. Notice how the goalkeeper reacts better when they are watching the shooter. Although they do not make the save, they react much better, anticipating where it is going and able to make a proper ‘read’ because of their focus on the shot.

Study on facing forward, not watching injection


  • Align yourself centrally in the goal and facing forward
  • Make sure you are facing the shot; start by having your head turned towards the shooter, then make sure your hips are straight, so your whole body is set forwards, to enable an easier transition to your ready stance when you move out
  • If you aren’t comfortable standing straight up and feel unbalanced, then you can use your rear leg to support yourself
  • Focus on the ball is more important – look to work out the shooter early on
  • The quicker you exit the goal, the more time you have to prepare
  • Watch the ball from the point the shooter receives the injected ball into the save – start by focusing on the shooter
  • Focus mentally on making the save to increase your ability; mental focus helps you focus on the shot and therefore the save

Admittedly the side-on method allows you to watch the injection happen and then call your defenders to move out in time, with your head already positioned to face the injector and see the pass out, BUT it does affect your ability and chances of making the save. If you are intent on getting ready for the save, then you could have a defender (organising this before you set up the corner defence); making sure that they are aware when to call it.

Face forward!

Ultimately, to give yourself the best chance of making the initial save when facing a short corner, you need to be facing forward, so that you face the impending shot. By being pre-set and prepared in advance, you give yourself that extra time to get ready (rather than wasting essential time), as well as extra focus to concentrate on the task at hand, which is crucial to stopping the ball and eliminating the scoring chance that could level the score or put your team a goal down. This way you have more control over events; increasing and improving your chances of making the save by being better prepared.

Raising your gloves on short corners

Facing a powerful drag flick aimed high on a short corner, the goalkeeper stands little chance in making the save if they have their gloves down low. Therefore, you need to raise your gloves on such situations, if you want to have a chance of making the save.

If you watch most of the high level leagues, you will notice that the majority of goalkeepers have their gloves high up on the short corner. Just looking at the Euro Hockey League or the Hoofdklasse, for example, on short corners you will pretty much see all of the goalkeepers with their hands up high when getting set in the stance; expecting to deal with a high drag flick. The reason is simple: by having their gloves up higher, it is easier to move in for the save (even if they dive high into the save, since the gloves are already there and don’t need to be brought up). Rather than being played by the situation, they pro-actively change their stance to help their shot stopping abilities. With their hands already up, they give themselves an improved chance of making the save.

Have you ever watched a goalkeeper make a save against a well struck hit bringing their glove up , or tried yourself to stop a fast ball aimed at the top of goal with your hands low? Ball speeds and accuracy mean it is not possible. Do you think you’d be able to stop one of Taeka Taekema’s or Sohail Abbas’s awesome drag flicks powered into the roof of the net with your gloves starting from a low position?! It’s simply not logically possible, so you therefore need to change technique to increase your save capabilities; with raised gloves, you have an better chance.

When facing drag flicks on short corners, at the higher levels of the game, it is important to raise your gloves if you want to be able to make the save from a standing position. With your gloves raised, you have less of a distance to move, to get them up to block; as a result, there is a greater percentage chance of actually stopping the ball from ending up in the back of the net. If you intend to make the save from a standing position, then you will need to have the gloves to be able to reach the ball, otherwise you will need to get aerial.

Low gloves giving away shooting space

If you normally play with your gloves at a low height within your ready stance, then you are going to get ‘burned’ and made to look silly if you still play with them low, when facing high drag flicks from a standing position. Even if you jump or dive into the save, it will still take time to move them up; time you do not have when playing against highly skilled opponents. With accurate power and placement, a well placed drag flick into the top corner of the goal, or high to the sides, away from your reach, will not be stoppable. You simply cannot get to it quickly enough. If you are playing against a team with drag flickers that have a tendency to exploit such areas, then you should not expect to be able to make the save, if you a making the wrong technique selection.

The problem when you have your gloves around your hips or body, which is useful when facing shots around that area, but becomes useless when you are faced with raised flicks or shots, as you cannot reach the high shot in time, with the speed of it. Swinging the arm up in vain will not be of any use: you won’t be able to get the glove up in time, whereas having the gloves already in position means that you are already there for the save.

As these action shots show, it is near impossible to try and save a high flick with a low glove position:

The following video is a good example of failed technique with the goalkeeper trying to save a high drag flick from a position with their gloves lowered (playing time around 30 seconds in).

Drag flick

Raising your gloves

Most goalkeepers raise their gloves to shoulder height (as taught in Europe), giving them enough height to push up into a high save. In Australia, goalkeepers are encouraged to have their gloves around head height. Both arms are spread out at an equal distance, outside the body, in a symmetrical V shape. This way you cover more of the goal, as well allowing you to use the gloves independently; pushing the appropriate hand out separately to block. By raising your gloves you are making life easier for yourself. Although people think that playing a reflex style means you need to and then react immediately by moving the glove up, you can actually use your reflexes to move into the save with the speed of the ball, as they are already in position; gaining a slight advantage over the powerful drag flick coming at you with speed.

With his gloves raised, notice how this goalkeeper was now able to reach into the drag flick from a standing position as a result;quickly moving them the small distance to block. Even though it missed the goal, he had it covered.


When making an upright save maintaining balance remains important. If you do not balance properly, you will not be able to reach into the save, or balance it successfully (falling back/losing balance in the process). You need to move into the save, pushing your body from the head (to maintain balance) to drive into the motion; bringing your glove into contact by pushing from the arm to properly connect with the incoming flick. If you find that it is not possible to reach into the save from a standing ready stance, then you will need to get aerial and high dive into the save.

By taking a look when setting up for the short corner, you can then alter your stance as you get ready within the goal. Knowing that you will be facing a drag flick (by analysing the shooter’s body position) you can then raise your gloves to help in your save making. If you play against the time regularly in the season, or have played them previously, then you and your team should know their tendencies, which will help in your decision making. However, be aware of changes in routine, which will be brought in if you are successfully stopping the opposing team’s chances, and can catch you off guard if you are not aware of the change.

If you end up facing a lower flick than expected (around body/hip height), then you can bring your gloves down to block. Gravity is on your side and it is actually quicker to bring your hands down, than to try to get them up, so it should not be too difficult to make the save if you force your glove down quickly to cover.

Rule of thumb

The rule of thumb is whether or not you will be facing a drag flick. There would be no point using raised gloves when facing a straight strike, as your priority is to get down against the shot to cover the percentages. You can tell by the shooter’s hand positioning on their stick whether or not they are going to drag flick (their hands will be open, spread apart, whereas closed hands at the top of the stick mean a strike). If you know that the opposing shooter likes to shoot high, then it becomes easier to know when to use the raised glove position.

Attacking clearances

Attacking clearances are a great way of eliminating a scoring chance, running in to get rid of the ball before an attacker can get to it. Standing up and kicking away, you do not take yourself out of the play as you would with a dive; allowing you to get back into the game if things mess up!

The attacking clearance is one of the best forms of aggressive goalkeeping, without having to commit to the risky manoeuvre of athletically diving in to deny a pass; actively choosing to deny a scoring chance, but also eliminating the possibility of another by clearing it away to safety in a single move. When a breakaway opportunity presents itself, you should be the first one there to meet the incoming ball; rushing out to deny the attacker the chance to receive the intended pass, which would otherwise have resulted in a tricky 1-on-1. However, you shouldn’t just use it in this situation; at times when the ball gets loose within a D, you need to be active in claiming the ball, dominating your area to control the play to your advantage.


The technique for a solid attacking clearance is based on a well executed instep kick, so that you can gain the maximum distance for the clearance, when swinging in. Given that you are running in with speed, to make contact with the ball, you have to be precise and accurate, otherwise you could mess up the attempt, or miss the ball entirely.

  • Begin your run on the angle of contact with the ball (i.e. straight forward, if it is coming down that way, or diagonally); it is important you match up the angle, or you can end up being in the wrong place when it arrives

  • As you run in to meet the ball, swing in with the instep (using an instep kick), for maximum on the clearance – watch the ball in, to ensure you

  • Direct the kick with your instep; turning your foot to angle the redirect (face the area you want to clear it to, to help this)

  • Follow through on your kick as normal, so that the angle of direction is maintained after the kick (i.e. to keep a straight line)

  • Having made the clearance, get back in goal as soon as possible, so you are ready, just in case



  • Be ‘quick off the blocks’ to beat the attacker to the ball; sprint out with speed to reach it

  • Be aggressive – don’t back out, be committed, and go in with

  • Stick to your decision: be decisive; if you think twice and mess up, then you can get in a tricky spot, embarrassingly concede a silly goal

Breakaway passes

The most obvious scenario during a match where you can actively come out off your line to meet the ball and launch it clear, is on a breakaway. By challenging with an attacking clearance, you can eliminate such an opportunity. With the attacker racing forward trying to receive the long pass and then take you on in a 1-on-1, you have the time to come out and clear the ball (away to the sides) before they reach it; denying them a chance on goal. As the ball comes in, sprint out to meet it and then kick clear with the instep technique, focusing on where the open space is, and therefore where to place it.

With an aerial ball into the D (at higher levels) you have to be more ‘on your toes’ and ‘ready for action’ to quickly counter the threat; . Before you know it you can get ‘sprung’ on the play, quickly beaten by the attacker as they run around you, with the ball in the back of the net. At times like this, you need to react in an instant; sprinting in immediately to get to the ball first.


Loose balls

In scenarios when the ball gets loose, you can again actively come out to clear. Whenever a ball has broken free, you can make it your job to get to it and kick it away; eliminating any chance of an attacker getting to it. If the ball gets free in the D, then you can come off your line and sprint into the ball’s path; actively getting rid of it to the sidelines. By doing this, it allows your defence to regroup and ; buying you time to get back in goal and prepare for further shots on goal. By aggressively taking charge of the situation, you relieve the pressure on your defenders to deal with the problem, whilst also nullifying the danger and making it ‘safe’; preventing any further chances on goal. With your kicking ability, you can put the ball to safety with power and distance on the clearance, or pass it to a free player, to get it away from the danger area.


Free balls

Just as you may face game situations when the ball , you will also need to actively ‘make it yours’ when the ball becomes free from the main group of players; aggressively getting into space and challenging out to get rid of the ball, where it is currently a danger. After a tip-in save or deflection, you may find that the ball gets free and needs to be cleared, before an attacker can come in and put away the rebound. There are also times when a defender could get muddled and end up falling over, or mess up a pass, whereby allowing an overlap for an attacker to get through the open space. These are the times when you should look to get the ball clear by yourself.

Going one step further, you should make it your mission to latch onto any free ball; taking that extra step and getting in front of the attacker, in order to beat them to the ball and get it clear.


Rebound dangers

The only problem with an attacking clearance, is the possibility of the player ‘getting something on it’ and redirecting the ball back towards goal, which will end up with the ball hitting the backboard, as it goes in off their stick. A hard enough kick should dislodge an attacker’s stick and make sure the ball gets cleared, but it is worth being warned of the dangers, even if they are very slim. If such a thing happened, then you would need to be quick getting in front of the ball to stop it ending up being a goal. Alternatively, if this could occur, then sliding in to block, or diving in to clear (so that you are behind the ball, increasing coverage with your body in front) will help lower the chances of a goal being scored.

This is more likely to happen at national league level, where they are very skilful at reading the game and deflecting in shots, however, you may face a tricky sneaky forward intent on scoring, so it is worth remembering. Just be aware of attempts on the rebound on the kick; if the kicker carries on through, they may try to deflect it back (at goal), by getting their stick down on the floor.

If a player is coming in with their stick down, don't go out to kick it, as it will probably end up redirecting back into goal!
If a player is coming in with their stick down, don't go out to kick it, as it will probably end up redirecting back into goal!

Attack the ball!

Ultimately, it is a good skill to be able to clear the ball before the opposing players get the chance to take it; shutting down scoring chances by eliminating a shot on goal, or second shot. You need to be aggressive in your approach; actively going out with commitment, so that you can close down and deny opposition forwards their chance of glory. Self doubt and rethinking will be problematic; causing you to mess up the attempt (with disastrous consequences), so you have to be decisive and do it with conviction (solely focused on the task at hand).

If an opportunity to get rid of the ball, away to safety arises, then you really need to take charge of the situation; making the ball ‘yours’ and dominating. During the game, whenever the ball springs free, you should be the first one there; taking charge, in order to immediately get the ball out of the danger zone.

Standing when the ball is outside your half

When the ball is outside of your team’s half, you can actively step forward to be nearer the action. Ready to react as the game develops, you can play aggressively to gain the advantage; already ready to move into intercept an attacker or pass into the D, to prevent a scoring chance.


A lot of goalkeepers like to stay inside their goal when the ball is outside their half and then move out as the play gets through, allowing them to cover the posts in case of an inrushing attack. However, the more dominant goalkeepers will stand confidently at the top of the D, so they can intercept any stray balls, also giving them a better chance to immediately tackle a forward as they run through the D. 


Being aware of the need to be aggressive and acting correspondingly, will further your ability to control the play; able to shut down attacking chances by acting with confidence and awareness of the game’s development.


Standing on your line

Rather than coming off their line to prepare for any offensive breakaways into the D, you will often see a lot of goalkeepers staying back on the line, even when the ball is in the opposition’s zone. Passive goalkeepers who are not as comfortable aggressively stepping out to cut off a breakaway by actively running out to tackle, will often stay close to their line, even when the play is outside their half; ‘rooted’ to their goal line. By being so deep, they can play a shot, if a breakaway occurs; covering all options in order to block the incoming shot, rather than challenging out; allowing them to play to their strengths in angle play and reflexes, for a reactive save according to the incoming shot.


Staying nearer to the goal line means that the goalkeeper is further way from the play, often unable to react in time to a breakout play from the opposition, through their own defence (facing 2 on 1s, 3 on 2s etc.). As a result of being so deep within the D, you will have to be a lot quicker ‘off the mark’ in reacting to a lone player breaking into the zone, if you intend to tackle them successfully; immediately sprinting straight out, off your line to the top of the D, when you need to confront an open player running into the D, in order to make the interception.




Staying further back leaves you significantly more vulnerable to the incoming attacker, with speed and multiple options on their side.
Staying further back leaves you significantly more vulnerable to the incoming attacker, with speed and multiple options on their side.


Standing at the top of the D

At higher levels of the game, where the action is more fast paced and open, you will often see goalkeepers standing far off their line; readily anticipating an attack when the ball is in the opposition’s half and 25. Standing at the top of the D, you are nearer to the action. With a better view of the action, by gaining a closer view (rather than staring at a distance), you can also get a clearer look at things that are happening and are therefore able to make more accurate calls to your team; relating the dangers of free and mobile opposition players. Other than showing outward confidence to the team and opposition alike, as well as getting a better view of the pitch, from where they can shout commands to their team mates, it allows you to be ‘quick off the blocks’ in responding to defensive breakdowns and resulting scoring opportunities as they occur.


By confidently stepping so far out, you are closer to the action; able to quickly intercept a free attacker or pass into the D, without having to move into position to do so (by running in etc.). Ready and anticipating, instead of being ‘on the back foot’ and ‘slow footed’, you can see the danger developing from the outset, and respond immediately to it: showing good anticipation skills and a positive thinking aggressive mindset. This way, you increase your chances of disrupting passing plays simply by being in the right place and the right time.




By being active in positioning at the top of the D, you stand a better chance of making attacking interceptions.
By being active in positioning at the top of the D, you stand a better chance of making attacking interceptions.


Against a breakaway, an inactive goalkeeper in this situation would normally stand near, or even on the goal line, making it much more difficult to make the interception, as they have to race out in full kit to make the tackle. Being off your guard and not watching the play will leave you an easy target against skilled shooters. However, by being ready for an incoming player you stand a greater chance of successfully making the tackle.


Being aggressive

Standing at the top of the D means you are able to shut down plays more easily by being effectively “already there”; not having to sprint out off your line to meet an attacker or loose ball, but simply being on ‘the doorstep’ to the action. By being closer incoming play, you have less to travel to meet the attackers; setting up in an advanced position, ready to deal with overhead aerial passes into the D, leaving you up against an open breakaway situation, or multiple player scenario (with further attackers running in as the ball is held). An aggressive attitude in being ready and alert makes sure you are ready for the challenge; able to spring immediately into action as the player breaks through your defence and in onto goal.


As a result of being decisive and aggressive in your play, there are a number of possible actions that you can take against opposition plays breaking through the ’25. Disrupting such attacking plays allows your defence to get back in time to help out, as well as shutting down the present scoring chance, to deny the opportunity of a goal against.


Such scenarios include:


  • Making attacking clearances by clearing loose balls into the D (like aerials or strong hits in), which incoming runners are attempting to latch onto for a tip-in or breakaway chance

  • Making interceptions at the top of the D; running out on the angle of the attacker’s run, to slide tackle, to relieve the attacker of the ball and eliminate a scoring chance

  • Challenge the attacker coming into the D: meeting them early to challenge (staying on your feet and looking big, forcing them to go round you), and forcing them wide, so that you can force the shot wide, or move back with them to block a shot on goal they attempt


Being agile

Being aggressive in coming out to the top of the D to challenge coincides with agility and being mobile around the D; in order to get back in time to meet a shot if a pass is made around or into the D for a play on through to goal, you need to be quick enough and athletic enough to get back to cover the open ground. Working on overall fitness (to build up the required ) and practising roaming around the D at training, via respective drills, will help you learn when and how to come out to challenge, whilst being comfortable doing it.


Where should I stand?

Ultimately it is up to you to decide where to stand, according to your individual style of game; if you prefer to hang back and play the angles to limit a shooting chance, then you are more likely to play deep within your D and not step out to the top ready to challenge incoming plays. However, to take full control of your D, you need to be aggressive in stepping forward; ready for any attack and following the game play, influencing it as best as possible in ‘dominating the D’. By challenging with your positioning, you are able to control the play and shut down scoring chances; denying the opposition goal opportunities by acting like a spare defender.


If you are happy to act aggressively, and confident in your tackling abilities and aggressive style of play (being decisive, so as not to back away from a challenge and give the attacker the upper hand), then you should definitely be active in standing further up in the D when the ball is under control. Having a strong defence to rely on is helpful and important, but communication and awareness of where they are is crucial to success.

Keep your gloves in front of your body!

Holding your gloves allows you to be get control of more raised shots by being nearer to the incoming ball, instead of having to react to every shot; pushing into the save. This is important when facing faster and harder shots, where you have less time to react to the shot, and therefore have a harder time controlling where the rebound will end up.

An important feature of your ready stance is your glove positioning. If you keep your hands low and inactive, out of the way where they can only block low, you make them effectively useless; taking them out of action for a raised save. However, by bringing them up, where you can then be able to move with greater reaction to counter act the speed of the shot. As raised drag flicks are virtually unstoppable when roofed into the top corners, it is important to try and combat this. With your gloves in front of your body, you do not have to bring the arm up on the save; this makes it easy to get your glove on saves to control the shot and rebounds, rather than missing the shot entirely.


A raised glove stance is a technique used by soccer and ice hockey goalies to maximise shot stopping abilities by ‘being set’ before the shot, and works just as well when applied to hockey. The theory behind it is that with your gloves already ready; in position for the immediate save, you do not have to move as much on reacting to the shot. The closer you are to the ball, the less you have to react to the shot, due to forward preparation. It makes life easier shot stopping as you close down the shooter’s options, speeding up your reaction to the shot as you have more time to react by being nearer the incoming ball.


Being pro-active with your stance, you can actively challenge the shooter; covering space and limiting their shooting options. Mentally and physically ready for the shot, you are set before the play more able to deal with the impending strike.


Hands tight to the body

There is a tendency to routinely forget or ignore a proper ready stance, and be lazy in positioning your gloves, simply letting them drop to your sides. Limiting yourself in your ability to save shots by being held back against the incoming shot is not good: against a fast strike, you cannot react in time to stop it properly. The further your gloves are from the ball, the harder the save is; reacting late to the shot as it comes in and requiring you to lift your arms up high within an instant, whilst covering less space (so the shooter can see more of the goal, and you cannot close off options).


With your hands ‘back’ and close to your body, you are limiting your ability to make saves. There is also the possibility of interference, with your arms rubbing and bashing into your body, as you lock them into your stance, which can prevent full range of movement. Trying to be over reliant on reflexes is a bad idea – you simply cannot stop high shots with a low glove position. You can make the best use of your reflexes by having your hands already up for the save; increasing your reaction speeds against the shot and therefore reacting immediately, gaining the edge needed to stop the ball.




 Gloves out

With your gloves out in front of you, you can get behind the save more easily; with more power and speed. Logically, you are closer to the ball on the raised shot: the closer you are, the less you have to react (as you are already in position for the save) and can therefore reduce reaction times for a fast reflex save against screened shots or quick shots. By pushing out with strong momentum, and less distance to travel to meet the ball, you can power into the save and force the rebound away further, with the momentum.


In contrast, to a stance with your gloves placed down by your sides, you can be more flexible and active with your hands out, getting your gloves on every shot that comes your way; pro-actively reacting to shots, with greater movement and fluidity, rather than trying to push into saves outside your comfort zone (if playing a tighter stance). With your hands out in front of your body, you have less work to do, enabling you to react quicker with greater aptitude.


Against drag flicks, with great height and speed (i.e. crossbar height), it is impossible to bring your gloves up high enough from a low starting position to reach into a raised save; therefore, by having the gloves up and out in the space, you stand a better chance of reaching the ball on time.




Gravity works the same way, so it is easier to drop your gloves for a lower save, as you can quickly bring your glove down, facing the ball, to build up a blocking barrier (if needs be around the hip), when dealing with a shot around the body. If you face a lower shot than expected within this position, then you can simply bring your gloves down; reacting to the danger as it presents itself and blocking instinctively.




  • Hold your gloves out in front of you (about the third of a stick length or more) to move them away from your body

  • Try to get your gloves to shoulder or chest height to bring them up for higher shots

  • Have your elbows outside your body (bringing the arms out to the side so they are horizontal), so they do not interfere, and free up the range of available movement

  • With both hands out, you can be active with your rhp as well – don’t always try to bring your glove across, if you can make the block with your rhp


Working on strengthening your arms will help you in being able to hold your gloves out in your stance (without getting tired and then lazy) for the full length of the game, especially if you use a heavy stick – weight training (for keepers aged 16 and over) can be helpful with this. Wrist weights on the hands also be useful in building up resistance on glove positioning.


Fransisco Cortes of Club Egara (current Spanish number 1 keeper) is a great example to watch and learn from; he has a ready stance with his gloves far forward, consistently positioning all the time, in every game situation, in order to be active with his glove saves. You can watch highlights of him in action at the Euro Hockey league website , or search for “Spain hockey” or “Club Egara” on YouTube. Vogels (the well known Dutch no. 1) also uses the same glove positioning, out in front of his body (search for “Netherlands hockey”, “HGC”, or “Hoofdklasse” on YouTube to watch him in action).



Be active

The key to having your gloves out for saves, is making it become a standard thing. To make sure you are doing it, you have to programme your mind to get set in the same stance all the time. Train yourself to get into a proper hand stance every time you set for the shot, so that it becomes automatic during games. In training purposefully practise with your gloves out on all shots; this will then transfer into games where you will find yourself automatically pushing your gloves out.


Ultimately, it is up to the individual to decide how you position your gloves, but having the gloves out does improve the ability to stop shots around you, with greater capability. It is not being passive, but the opposite; you are quicker moving into the save than when trying to push out from a tight stance, with the gloves close into the body, taking advantage of reaction times on really fast shots, to give yourself the best fighting chance of a save.