Foot-eye co-ordination

Just like hand-eye co-ordination, having good co-ordination with your feet will make you feel more comfortable reacting for kicker saves.

Co-ordination with your feet is just as important as having good hand-eye co-ordination. To be able to make quick saves with your feet and when on the move, you need to have good reactions from your feet; able to track the ball into your feet. Like hand-eye co-ordination, you need to work hard on co-ordinating your feet for those reflex saves.  In field hockey, where our feet play an important part in distributing the ball, and making the actual saves, you should be aware of the need to have sufficient skills in this area. Other than saves, our feet are also essential for kicking the ball in clearances; seeing the ball into your feet and legs is a key to goalkeeping, since that is where the majority of low shots are saved, and this seems to somewhat overlooked in our sport. It should therefore be your mission to have just as sufficient co-ordination with our feet as we do with our hands.


For making saves with the feet, like this split save stretching out, you need to be able to track the ball into your foot to stop the shot successfully.


Soccer tricks

Soccer (football) is very good for practising your foot skills. The ball skills they do are great for hockey goalkeepers; getting the feet active and moving around to connect with the ball. As your eye has to be on the ball to track the ball into your feet and make connection for the save or kick, then you will be working on your foot-eye co-ordination. Although it takes a bit of skill and practise, getting used to having the ball at your feet should be useful in feeling comfortable kicking the ball, as well as improving your reactions when saving with your kickers.


Here’s a video clip to give you an idea:


Keepy uppies’

The soccer trick that everyone knows: kicking the ball up into the air, and then keeping it up there, by continuously knocking it back up, is a great way of establishing eye connection with your feet. All you need to do is basically kick a soccer ball into the air and see how many times you can kick it up without it ending up dropping to the floor. This can easily be done at home, in your back garden, or down a park. Bending at the hip to lean forward will help with your technique.


This clip is a good example:


It is also possible to do this in your pads; kicking a hockey ball up in the air with your kickers. You can do this before a match or have a go doing it at training. The principle is the same: you need to keep the ball up in the air by continuously kicking it up. As well as working your eye contact, it also gets your feet moving.



‘Wall ball’

Kicking a soccer ball against a brick wall is a great way to practise your lower body reflexes. Kick the ball against the wall and then try to control the rebound back off the wall. The speed of the redirected ball will be harder to control, making it a good drill for practising foot reflexes.



Volleying a soccer ball is another great way of practising ball skills, and working on your foot-eye co-ordination. Volleying is when you kick the ball up in the air and then shoot as it comes back down. When you volley the ball you will have to follow through with your vision, focusing on the ball as you connect with foot. Doing this against a wall is the best idea; the rebound sent out you can volley back again.



Knocking a soccer ball around amongst friends is a simple way of practising your kicking skills; passing the ball between you and another (or multiple) players at varying speeds and distances. This will help you practise your ball skills; working on your ability to kick the ball and watch to see when a pass is coming to you.


Tennis balls

To make things harder and get more practise, you can change the type of ball you use. Soccer balls come in different sizes, so you can get a smaller sized ball to make it harder for yourself. Tennis balls are also a good idea; as they are much smaller, they are more difficult to kick.

Always looking to improve

Being analytical of your own performances and always looking to improve will help you perform better.

Whilst it sounds harsh, it’s no good going through the motions and being happy with poor performances. So you may not want to play competitive or high level hockey (that’s not to say you can’t be competitive at lower levels; a game is what you make it!) because you feel it’s not your thing, but that doesn’t stop looking to improve yourself and be the best goalkeeper you can be. If you can bothered to turn up to every training session and play through rain and snow, then why not be bothered to look to improve your technique and overall game?


Constant improvement

A goalkeeper who wants to play to their best of their ability will always be looking to improve. It is no good getting comfortable with dominating at a step level, if you really want to show how good you are, then you have to test yourself against better shooters! An easy example is the cream of the crop; the international level goalkeeper. Sure, they will be good and if playing at the top level are arguably great at what they do, but to be excellent, to be a cut above the rest and be the best in the world, they really have to push themselves to the limits to play to their best.


The key to improvement is to constantly look to improve. The stated example required a lot of improvement to even get to the stage of being their country’s number one. They will have had to go through hoops and moved up levels at important stages in their playing career, where the jump between levels may have been considerable and required a lot of work. If you are a youngster looking to follow the same path, aside from the level of commitment needed, you will need to be looking to improve all the time. Once you get good at one standard of play it won’t be long until you push yourself to have a go at the next! This constant transition will require you to be pushing yourself to consistently give your all whilst looking to improve and refine your technique as you develop your goalkeeping abilities.


Self analysis

Goalkeeper specific coaches (if you are lucky enough to have one at your club!) should obviously be able to help analyse your game from watching you train and help provide useful feedback, but even if you have access to such support, you should still be prepared to analyse your own game. By being self critical and analysing you will learn more about the game and in turn help develop as a goalkeeper. If you are without regular specific goalkeeper training to help you out, you are going to have to do a bit of independent learning (as they call it in schools these days!).


Keeping a diary of the goals you were scored on, noting what caused them, where and how they were scored will help you learn from your mistakes and hopefully not make the same mistake twice. Similarly, you can use training to work out where you’re going wrong and how you’re getting beaten and then work to improve in these areas (such as getting your balance right during a save attempt, or getting your angles spot on to make the save). In the short term you can look to do better than you did in your last game, whilst over the long term of a season and more, you can try to be able to find overall improvement in your performances.


In contrast, if you think you are good and have proven it, then think again! A good life tip I got taught by one of my lecturers when at university is to “never get comfortable”. If you’re sitting pretty admiring your good work, then the chances are you’re not going to be better than other goalkeepers who are you are going to compete for a spot for (such as county or national trials, or moving clubs and trying to take the starting spot, or stepping up a level) because you aren’t working as hard as you can. Whilst it’s essential to have self belief to play well as a goalkeeper, what I’m trying to get at is the need to do better than you’re already doing. It’s no good sitting on your laurels; you need to get out there and work on your technique so you can beat out the competition and be the unrivalled number one.


Only as good as your last game

A useful phrase that is used by ice hockey and football (soccer) goalies alike, is “you’re only as good as your last game”. This attitude makes you realise that no matter what league you play in or how good you are, your ability can only be analysed by your last performance. In essence, it will push you to improve, making sure you develop your ability to play well consistently. This way of thinking keeps you grounded and will help you analyse your performance, taking into consideration how well you played and the need to do as well or better in your next game.


Not reaching your peak

In my opinion, goalkeepers who do not look to continue their development will stagnate. In essence they will fail to reach their potential simply because they aren’t looking to do even better. Ok, so they are critically and analytically good (if taking high level goalkeepers as an example), but they can be even better. They (and you possibly!) are letting themselves down by not giving it your all and trying to do better than you are currently. Again, it’s all about the desire to play your best. If you want to be the best around, then you need to really be looking to improve at every given opportunity, even if you don’t think you need improving! Nobody’s totally perfect and there’s got to be something goalkeeping wise they can work on!


Go out and improve!

Aside from the level of technique required for stepping up a level, even if you don’t wish to play at higher levels, you can still be looking to improve. At the end of the day if you love goalkeeping that much and love making saves, you can’t deny you want to play your best (even if you are playing for the sake of enjoyment) and working on improving means you have a greater chance of doing that. So, ultimately, it’s a win win situation: the more you improve the better you’ll get and the more saves you’ll make!

Hand-eye co-ordination

As promised, have finally got round to uploading some new content. Having read the feedback on the Facebook page and the KR site, have found an article I previously wrote, which may or may not be of any use considering people seem to know what to do!

Hand-eye co-ordination is essentially related to how you watch shots into the save (how you “read” the shot and then appropriately react with the right save selection). It obviously helps you to make saves with your hands, as you watch the ball into your gloves! It is important to work on your skills to make sure that you can properly track the ball into glove saves. As it affects your ability to make the save, by being able to watch the ball and then move your glove in to stop the shot, you must regularly practise to improve.


Hand-eye co-ordination is a required part of your game: if you do not have the technique to see and stop the shot, how are you going to make saves to the sides with your hands, or block in front of your body? It is a simple fact that you need good hand-eye co-ordination to play at a high level in a game that revolves around speed and raised shots. Unlike soccer where the ball is larger and therefore easier to see, hockey obviously uses a smaller ball, so you’re going to have a tough time seeing the ball, especially through screens. By improving your hand-eye co-ordination, you can be able to stop shots more easily.


To be able to make saves like this, with your gloves, you need to have good hand-eye co-ordination.

Bouncy ball

Bouncy balls are a great and fun way of practising your hand-eye co-ordination. They are really easy to get; you can buy them in corner shops, children’s toy shops, or sports shops. You can practise by throwing the ball hard onto the floor and then try to catch it; watching the ball take its unexpected bounce and into the catch. By doing this you have to use your eyes to watch the ball from its redirection, keeping up with the change of angle: this way, you are actively using your hand-eye co-ordination to make the catch.



“Wall ball”

Throwing a ball against the wall is a great and simple way of practising hand-eye co-ordination. The ball is thrown against the wall diagonally, bouncing off the angle to be caught at the other side.

You can vary the difficulty of the drill by making things harder for yourself to work that much harder. You can close your eyes when you throw the ball and then open them to make the catch. Because you cannot see where the ball is going (or on its initial throw), you have less knowledge as to where it’s going. Also, clapping in between a catch is another way. Try to make a clap between throwing and catching the ball to speed up your movements. By doing this, you can test your abilities even further; forcing your reactions to be faster.



Juggling is a great way of learning to watch the shot into your equipment; watching the balls as you juggle. You have to maintain concentration throughout, watching the ball as it goes airborne, before catching it. You can start out with one or two, and then see how far you can progress. Juggling three balls in a row, or juggling two at the same time, are possible ways of challenging yourself to improve.



Keeping the ball up

A great drill that you can do when in pads at training or before a match is to do the equivalent of “keepy-uppies” with your glove and a spare hockey ball. You can do this by starting off kicking the ball up off your kickers (like a soccer player would do) or bouncing it off your gloves and stick. You can do this just before training or a game to help you focus on the ball. The idea is to keep the ball going and up for as long as possible. Try to keep it for as long as you can; the longer you can keep it up, the better your hand-eye co-ordination and focus on the ball will get.


This clip shows you how to do it:



Throwing and catching a ball in with someone else can help with your reading skills. You are having to watch the pass and then make the catch; working on your hand-eye co-ordination. With a partner, you can throw a tennis ball around between you, varying the speed and distance between yourselves to make it more difficult.


Other sports

Again, cross training in other sports can benefit your goalkeeping in hockey (playing other sports to work on your own skills within your chosen sport you want to focus on). Any sport that involves catching is great for working your hand-eye co-ordination. Playing in goal in soccer is a goalkeeping orientated way: in soccer, the goalie has to catch the ball to make a successful save, where you have to watch the ball into the catch. Racquet sports are good as you have to focus on the ball when serving and hitting; the ball can also take some unexpected bounces, making it harder; working on improving your hand-eye co-ordination.


Baseball (an American sport) is a good alternative: you have a glove that you need to watch the ball into to be able to make a good catch, as you throw the ball between you and a friend (this could also be done off a wall by yourself). To compare with another sport, Pekka Rinne is especially good right now in the NHL ice hockey league because of his ability to swallow up rebounds with a glove hand that acts much like a baseball catcher’s. Being the wicket keeper in cricket is a similarly good idea, as you have to watch the ball to be able to catch the batter out. Rugby or American Football could be other potential possibilities; you have to pass the ball around by throwing it and catching it; the odd shape of the ball makes it more difficult.

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!


Training with a short stick

Another quick article, this time on using a short stick to help enforce making the save with the right hand glove or your glove.

Training with a smaller stick is very useful for helping with stick skills and save making. With a short stick, you cannot rely on that extra length of your normal stick to help you make saves or stick tackles and will therefore improve technique.




Training with a short stick is good if you over rely on your stick for saves. Without the added length, you will have to be more pro-active in the way you make saves. With less coverage, you will be forced into bringing your glove across to make the save around your stick; with the extra surface area of the glove to help you block shots. It is especially good for practising making saves with the rhp (right hand glove), rather than trying to block with the stick. As shots come in to your stick side, you can push your right hand out to block with the glove instead.


Using a stick like this is also useful for training to extend the stick out. With a short stick, you will have to play with it in extension if you want to make a good tackle. Practise letting go of your grip and sliding your hand down the stick to grip the end of the stick, so that you have the full length to use. Once done, you can then slide your hand back up (at some point I will write an article about the technique of extending the stick!).



At training

At training, you can practise with your shortened stick; replacing it with your normal stick. Take it to training with you and use it the whole session. Focus on making the save without the stick and using the stick only to help you balance within your ready stance.


Where to get one?

Short sticks are fairly easy to get hold of. If you want to play with a short stick permanently, then you should be able to order a goalie stick at a short length, like 30 inches. A cheap alternative is to be a child’s stick and play with that, although I’m not sure if it would stand up to a high level of shots!


Analysing your in-game play

It is important to analyse any game you play; allowing you to evaluate key areas of weakness that can be improved, as well as working out your strengths. Whilst a bad game is best forgotten, you can look back on your performance to learn from your mistakes and not commit them in the future.

As a goalkeeper intent on making it big, you should always consider how well you played in the game. You may think you’ve done your best, but there’s always something you could have done better, or a play you could have prevented. Even if you played a ‘blinding’ game and kept a clean sheet, there are still things that you can work on! Seeing every game as an opportunity to improve, instead of being already being ‘perfect’ will help you greatly in developing your own game in order to succeed as best you can.


Remember: goalkeeping is a journey of develop, and by the time you reach your peak, you will be more of a finished product, in your overall understanding of the game and therefore ability to control the play, compared to when you first started in ‘between the sticks’.



Weaknesses are basically areas of the game that still need to be worked on.

If you are aware , then you need to work twice as hard to get rid of those bad habits. Not all of our potential weaknesses are down to skills and abilities though; a poor mental approach to the game could leave the team in disarray as the goalkeeper ‘folds’ under the pressure.


Below are some examples:


  • Ability to make great acrobatic saves, but uncontrolled; giving away easy rebounds

  • Poor angle play letting in ‘soft’ goals

  • Lack of aggression leading to easy break away opportunities

  • Poor recovery, meaning the goalkeeper is out of the play for too long

  • Gives up easily (in a tough game), therefore putting his team at a disadvantage

  • Failure to control rebounds – puts them straight back out to the player, or does not chase after the ball to kick clear

  • Does not dominate the D; fails to properly control the play, unable to read the game and over commits too easily in situations, leaving open shooting space

  • Fails to shout out instructions or call out plays, for the defence to control the play, leading to scoring opportunities



A strong goalkeeper is one who is capable of winning games, and has the confidence to back it up. It takes hard work to develop into a great shot stopper, as the examples show:


  • Good rebound control preventing secondary scoring chances

  • Confident in intercepting passes to prevent scoring opportunities

  • Organises the defence well, so that they see few shots

  • Strong reflexes and reads the play well; making good saves when called upon in penalty corners

  • Doesn’t give the opposition the upper hand by not showing emotion (keeps up the appearance of being unbeatable, rather than showing weakness)


What you need to improve on

By analysing your mistakes in the game, and what you should have done or could have done better to reduce the number of shots you faced, or improper technique, in using the wrong save for the situation, or poor technique resulting in the opposition gaining possession of the ball, like a weak clearance. Looking back at the game will help you work out what needs improving; practising a different save may be a better way of controlling the rebound. Discuss with your coach what you need to work on, and always look to improve yourself: if you want to be the best of the best, you’ll have to work for it.


Keeping notes

A great idea is to keep a record of your games, using a paper flip book or storing documents on a computer. After each game I like to evaluate my performance in order too isolate weaknesses and see what needs working order to successfully win tight games where the all-important save is decisive, so I don’t make the same mistake twice. Writing down what I did well, what goals I let in; when they occurred (i.e. if late in the game as a result of reduced concentration), how I could have actually stopped them going in, and what I did wrong, I can analyse key areas of my own game. This way I can keep track of weaknesses and trouble spot areas within the game, like set-plays (if they are a recurring problem), so I don’t commit them again in the next game, as well as staying aware of my strengths.


Although it is good to put a bad game behind you and focus on the next, it is more important to work out what needs working on and prevent it from happening again. This way, you will ultimately improve and play better, to your full potential.

Beginner to Advanced Goalie

Now that you’ve put on the pads and learnt the basics of ‘keeping, it’s time to put your ambition into action. To reach your peak and play to your best, you have to work hard to ensure your technique and game style develops properly. If you want the glory at the end of the hard journey, then you’ll happily work hard for it!

Now that you have conquered the basics of being the responsible iron man of your team, the real hard work begins. The hard slog to perfection is more difficult and apparent than it seems; remember that you’re not the only one out there who wants to make the team. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, but you have go out there and practise regularly to prove that you’re the best there is.

There’s no point turning up to a trial thinking that you can just get breeze through it. At the end of the day, when your parents have stopped watching your games, and you have unfamiliar teams and coaches, the only person you can rely on to push yourself is you. Make the most of your opportunities, and do the best you can, otherwise you’ll regret it later. There are a number of older people that you may meet in your sporting career, or workplace who’ll say “I could’ve, should’ve, would’ve but didn’t … get where I wanted to”.

If it’s your dream to make it big, and you want it that badly, don’t let that person be you: you should be prepared to do whatever it takes to get there, and have a smile on your face whilst you’re at it.

How to reach your pinnacle

In order to reach your best, (in fact most goalkeepers in whatever sport don’t reach their best years until they are in their 30s), you will have to work harder than you think is ever possible. Devoting your life to achieving your dreams is just that: you have to sacrifice every waking hour to the sport you wish to play. There are a number of areas that you will need to work on, other than the specifics of save making, to ensure that you can get to the level you deserve.

Constant training

The only way you’re going to stay at a high level is to practise, practise, and practise, and then practise some more. Training continuously week in week out, day in and day out may be extremely draining emotionally and physically, let alone the time management it involves with having to juggle school work or a job to support yourself. However, where there’s a will, there’s a way, and if your ambition is to get to the top one day, or to stay there if you’re already pushing yourself to the highest level of competitivesness, it makes it easier to progress at a quicker rate over a shorter period of time (rather than trying to play at your best by only training once a week).  Top internationals train something like 22 hours a week in their efforts to play thier best at the Olympics! Now that’s commitment!!

Improving your skill base

Now that you have a basic understanding of save types and game use, you need to be adding to your ‘bank of saves’. The more techniques you have under your belt, the greater the ability and chance you have of stopping different shots, the more capable you are to deal with specific situations, knowing how and when to make the save. The better chance you have of stopping the shot when you are forced to think on your feet, the better you will play, whilst easy-to-read game plays will give you the chance to dominate the game.

Improving your decision making

By watching other games, other keepers, whether in local or club games, online on field hockey websites (like videos on YouTube – do a search for field hockey, or more specific like the Olympics, or watch highlights on ), or videoing yourself and watching it back, you can learn how to judge and read the game. Making the right decision will make you the best goalkeeper around: correct save selection, how you react to set plays, and whether or not you play aggressively. Obviously you cannot define how the game will go, but making the right decisions will get you the win. Reading the game will give you an edge, whilst making the right decisions will result in less mistakes, and therefore less goals.

Improving recovery

Recovery is important to your game, since having made the save you will need to recover in time for the next shot, and poor recovery or slow reactions will result in an easy goal for the opposition. By practising a number of drills specific to situations where quick recovery is essential and will separate the good from the bad; poor recovery will leave open net opportunities for the opposing forwards to get easy goals. It is necessary to improve your recoveries to keep you in the game, and up to the fast level of game play. Maintaining an appropriate level of fitness and working on specific body muscle groups to strengthen specific joints and movement, will help and benefit your recovery times.

More advice

Whilst this book may, and hopefully will, guide you through your progression as a developing goalkeeper in field hockey (yes, no matter how good we think we are, we should always be trying to push ourselves to the next level), there is still a lot more to learn about. Even though it can be a challenge to find specific and useful nuggets of information out there on the topic, if you look hard enough, you should be rewarded for your search.

Other books

Although few and far between, there are a few books out there with potential reading material to learn from, concerning how to keep your goal, there are a few gems of knowledge in existence; if you can find them that is. You can find some scraps of information on goalkeeping in old hockey books, with much better guides on stretching and body work found in ice hockey goaltending books. Keep your mind open to new ideas on diving saves and the like, or improving your mental game and rebound control you could read some soccer and ice hockey books.

Other resources

Watching live games

Another easy and great idea is to actually go and watch live games; even if it means watching a game played by one of your club’s teams. By watching the goalkeepers play, you can analyse and pick apart their game, working out their strengths and weaknesses, helping you to simplify yours; by realising their mistakes, you can reduce the number you make. After all, playing the game at the highest level always comes down to making the right decision in the right situation, so cutting down your options and selecting the most efficient will make you a better goalkeeper.