Advanced positioning

To make the most of angle play, and challenging the shooter’s angle of the possible shot, you must understand your positioning in relation to the goal, and the ball itself. By really challenging the angle, and ‘getting in the face’ of the shooter, you should be able to force the shot wide; coming out so far that they miss because there is nothing of the net to shoot at.


Covering the angle

When playing the angles, it is necessary to understand how your depth in goal affects your ability to make the save. Staying on your line means that shots to the sides will be much further away, forcing you to extend and across in order to make the save, whereas coming off your line closes down the angle, making an easier save. Draw a mental line between the striker and centre of goal and positioning correctly, you can reduce the amount of space the striker can shoot at.


If you have the chance to challenge the angle, use positioning to your advantage to allow you to cover more of the shot, rather than making the save difficult for yourself.



Gap control

Gap control is basically the space between you and the shooter. With a small gap between you and the attacker, they will have less space to shoot at, and will have to shoot at you, or look for the space in the corners, whereas not challenging and hanging back against the shot, will give the shooter more options. By playing the gaps actively, you are able to limit the shooting space the shooter can see, reducing their options of scoring; actively challenging to pick their spot wisely from a number of options that have been cut down by you limiting the angle they can see.


Goalkeeper with strong gap control, vastly reducing the shooter’s scoring chances.
Goalkeeper with strong gap control, vastly reducing the shooter’s scoring chances.


Goalkeeper with poor gap positioning, leaving too much of the net open for the shooter.
Goalkeeper with poor gap positioning, leaving too much of the net open for the shooter.


Making use of your angles

Now that you have grown used to positioning yourself in the correct angle around goal and the D, it is important to employ your angles in playing a situation to your advantage. Learning to be aggressive with your positioning to challenge the shooter really gives you an edge when faced with an open opportunity against a one on one or set play scenario (like a close-in shot developing from a pass within the packed D from a free hit or long corner), where you can actively reduce scoring chances by stepping out to meet the shot. This way you have the means at your disposal to give you the upper hand in reducing the chances of a goal; it is up to you to use them.


Narrowing the angle

The most important skill of angle play by the goalkeeper is narrowing the player’s shooting angle to make it harder for them to score; bringing the goalkeeper closer to the shot, to make the save easier, whilst taking away valuable shooting space at the same time. As the attacker comes in to for the shot the goalkeeper steps out onto the angle, getting in position to cover the shooting space, thus reducing the shooter’s options.


By challenging the shooter, you make it harder for them; having to take time to choose the shot, by which time you are ready and waiting.


Staying on your line gives the shooter too much space to choose from on the play.
Staying on your line gives the shooter too much space to choose from on the play.


By challenging off your line, you can dramatically reduce the shooting options.
By challenging off your line, you can dramatically reduce the shooting options.


Here, the goalkeeper moves off his line to challenge the angle to his left post (holding the right post to force the shot to his left).
Here, the goalkeeper moves off his line to challenge the angle to his left post (holding the right post to force the shot to his left).







Deciding on your stance

The age old perspective is that positioning in a stance is up for to you to decide, according to your height, weight etc. or should follow a theoretic stance. Again, everybody is different, so not everyone’s going to be happy doing the same thing. Body posture affects both how you make the save and how you move around the D.


Of course different stances generally to apply for different situations; if you’re charging down a shot you’re not going to have your legs wide apart, and if you’re stopping a low shot to the side you don’t want your feet together, but the stance mentioned here is more movement based.


Which stance should I use?

Which stance you use depends on your personal abilities (in terms of reflexes, reaching out for shots from a glove stance, or strength, in being able to stand with a widened leg stance and being able to move further in a shorter time span, due to the strength of your leg muscles). There is no ‘set method’ for a ready stance, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. It is up to deciding which is better for you and plays to your strengths, that will determine the ready stance you use.


Experiment to find what works for you, and then stick to it. As you start off in ‘between the sticks’ as a younger keeper, it’s best to iron out the basics, so you will find a lot of goalkeepers using a simple ‘y’ stance. As you get older, you will want to develop your style and skills to counter the development of the opposition players, which includes working on a better ready stance. However, change will not come naturally (along with the dangers of bad habits recurring) and you will have to work and train hard to adapt. You will find that positioning yourself wider apart with your hands held raised is uncomfortable and weird at first, so it will need work and practice to programme your brain for it, but the benefits will pay off if you want to use this stance.


A lot of pro keepers use a ‘flexible stance’; that is, they adapt it to the situation and its needs, despite having a predominant stance they use for most of the time. When action gets tighter in and the D gets filled up, they will lower their gloves ready to block off a lower shot (playing the percentages to cover shooting space and the most obvious shot able), whereas when in open and set plays, they will go back to readying for a potential raised shot, given the shooter’s time and space to release a high ball. Learning to read the play and make judgements like this will help you with your overall game and shot stopping abilities.


Ultimately, go with what works best for you: you are the central role in this situation and you have to be the one stopping all those shots! Don’t be put off by what other people are doing; what others say (unless your coach does have a point in fixing an issue!) or the goalkeepers you idolise do (unless they play a similar style and you think you can fit that into yours). Stick with what works for you – only you know what’s best can decide and can make the decision with that information.

The Ready Stance

The ready stance is your basic form of positioning – readying for the shot, and possible action. In essence, you should be in your ready stance whenever the game is in your end; you should be prepared for anything, as anything could happen. I personally change up and adapt my stance to suit different game situations, but when developing your style it is a good idea to test out the capabilities of your core ready stance, giving you optimum movement and glove usage.


Your ready stance should be suited to you: no-one else can make up your mind for you, or play for you, so working out what works for you will help your play in the long run. If it’s not broken, then don’t fix it, but if you find your stance affecting movement or making higher saves, you may want to change it.


The ‘ready’ stance

Your ready stance is what you go into before facing a shot; making sure you are all ready and raring to go, able to make the most out of your equipment to make the save – gloves out and legs prepared for the shot. As the player comes in, move into your ready stance, making sure you are ready to stop the incoming shot; setting up before means you are better off in your chance of making the save, not having to react immediately once the shot is taken.


Commonly theorised stance

The common theory for a ready stance is based on an open body shape, allowing you optimal movement and flexibility for save making. In the general stance, the gloves are held at mid-height, above the pads and below the shoulders (when raising your arms, your gloves will go above the hips, around chest/stomach height, or higher, depending on what the goalkeeper is comfortable with). The feet are placed shoulder width apart, so that the pads are open, allowing you to cover more space. Positioning of the hands and stick can vary to personal preferences. In readiness for a shot, the goalkeeper should be alert, but relaxed to make the save.




You stand on your balls of your feet rather than the tips, giving you greater balance in responding to the next shot, as discussed in the next section. The integral chin-above-knees-above-toes position has the knees bent and the back crouched with the head forward, with the chin above the knees and the knees above the toes; moving into a save allows you to control the ‘backlash’; not falling over as you over balance.


Getting set for the shot

Keep in mind the level of competition you’re facing, as these are common factors in deciding your optimal stance; if you are shorter you’ll want a taller stance, so you can stop the higher shots more easily, whereas if you’re taller person you’ll want a wider, lower stance as you already cover that space, and have trouble moving because of your size. 


If you use a smalleer, closer together stance, it will take you longer to move around the circle, whereas a wider stance will make it easier for you to cover larger distances in smaller steps, but will leave the gap between your pads more vulnerable to a shot there.


Body Posture

How you position your body in relation to the chances of making the save is all important in your preparation for the shot. A fully prepared and set ready stance is central to the ability to make a successful save.


Balance is integral to movement and any save; if you topple back, you lose balance and could fall (putting you out of action for a second save, as you end up lying on the floor), whilst if you balance too far forward, you can end up similarly imbalanced; launching forward and toppling over. Balancing the motion of a save allows you control the shot and rebound better, which is needed for a successful and well executed save-clear; gaining greater control and power over the clearance of the shot during the redirect.


To learn about the different modern styles of the ready stance, follow this link:

Understanding The Stances

With the modern stance developing with the increased need for movement, and making use of the hands to make reflexive saves at the higher area of the net, two distinctive styles haves started to stand out. The varying stances will be described and evaluated next: the Y style popular in Europe and the X stance, popular in Australasia, have become the main variations of the standard stance.

The Y stance

Popular in parts of England and Europe (as well as globally throughout the worldwide hockey community in North and South America, India and Pakistan, Malaysia, Russia and the Africa’s), the Y stance has the legs placed together, or not too far apart, with the hands apart, making a Y shape with the body. This creates a blocking barrier; the pads closing off the space, preventing the ball squeezing through the legs, during movement and the hands supporting the coverage of mid-height shots (placing the gloves at around stomach or hip height). With the body bunched up, the goalkeeper has to react reflexively to shots as they face them.

Depending on your preference and the type of shot faced, you could place your hands higher up, within the upper x shape, although most goalkeepers who use a Y stance prefer to have their hands in tight, reacting to each shot as it is released. This allows them to move their gloves into the save as the ball arrives; using their reflexes to make the stop, rather than relying on their positioning, which is helpful when the player disguises a difficult shot, like a reverse hit, which forces the keeper to react instantly once the shot is released.

Just like in soccer, with the gloves lowered, it is easier to dive into low saves, as the hands are already in position for the shot (not having to drop the gloves as you dive to move into the save), whilst making it easier to cut off the shooting space of a low shot when stepping out on the play to close down a shooter.


The X stance

Made popular in Australia, with input from the likes of Stephen Mowlam (), the modern X stance has the legs in a wider stance, related to the shoulder-wide positioning in the common stance; the arms pushed out as well, creating an X shape. This gives the goalkeeper quicker movement around their D, and allows them to move their hands into the save, rather than expecting to make saves via reflex reactions (not having to launch into the saving motion). The hands are raised and outside of the body, giving the goalkeeper greater ability and pro-activeness in moving into all saves against raised shots with the gloves. The gloves raised like this give the goalkeeper a better chance dealing with the incredible drag flicks possible at the highest levels, such as those of Taeke Taekema, and the stance giving greater push into aerial saves.

Depending on the height of the ball (i.e. a lob/penalty flick or high flick in a penalty corner situation), the hands are raised above the chest, at shoulder height or more, pushing them further out as necessary to cover the open sides of the goal. Unlike the Y stance, the goalkeeper has less distance to reach out to; using their reflexes wisely against shots they would otherwise miss, making use of the extra reaction speed to move into the save if they see the ball at the last minute, palming away the ball to safety on the play. With the legs spaced further out, it is also easier to move around, as you are already and the distance provides an increased lateral push, as well as moving into low shots wide of the body, as they are nearer to the shot (rather than with a closed leg stance); giving greater extension as you can push into a reaching leg save or split.

The X stance is also gaining followers across the globe, like Canada’s Mike Mahood, and is fairly popular with the Spanish keepers (influenced by the national goalkeeper coach Martin Drijver), like Fransisco Cortes (Spain’s no 1 who plays his hockey for Club Hockey), who uses a spread out X shape during open play, as seen in the recent Olympics. There is also a European variation of the X stance, as used by Guus Vogels (the famous world class Dutch goalkeeper who has recently retired from international play) where the raised hands are placed outside the body, replicating the symmetrical X shape, but they are closer to the body.


Understanding Angles

The principal of angles dictates your whole game; playing the angles and setting up in front of a shot is all about cutting down shooting space, giving you a greater chance of making the save, rather than leaving too much open and having to make every save by throwing yourself around. Learning the different angles made by standing at different will affect how you make the save and your ability to.

The centre line

When the play starts breaking around them, and they become locked in a scramble for the ball, it can become easy for the goalkeeper to get lost and forget their angles. The goalkeeper should be central to the ball; using an imaginary line to get square to the shot. Working on getting to know your angles will mean you know where you are in relation to them when challenging out.

The centre line is the basis of every save and every movement around your goal: the middle of the goal and the goal line determine your angles; coming off the line makes the angle smaller and moving to the side cuts down the angle on your closest post, whilst making the angle to your other side larger. By checking the posts to see they are in a good position, the keeper can work out their angles to decide how far to come out.


Below are diagrams representing angles set up from left and right post and central shots; the red line stands for the centre line, with the lines drawn out from the corner posts, as you would when stepping out from the goal line. Understanding the angle you cover with your positioning will help you close down the shooting space available to the attacker.


Playing the angles

Learning to play your angles will help determine how and where you make the save. By stepping out along the angle, you can actively cut down the shooting space, making it much easier to make saves as a result. Hanging back on your line leaves too much open space, turning your goal into a shooting gallery for incoming attackers to pick their spots openly. Instead, try to ‘narrow’ your angle to help you make the save; challenging the shooter for their shot.

Post angles

At a tight angle, with the ball in the corner or near the base line, the goalkeeper’s angle covers a small area (blocking off the post) against a shot, so they can stay near the goal. This allows you to cut off the shot tight to the post, stopping the shooter scoring there. Make sure you get your foot right on the post to stop a low ball squeaking past you!


However, to prevent you deflecting a shot into your own goal, you want to stay inside the near posts. At tight angles, you always want to position yourself so any deflected shot will go outside the post. Always be square to the ball (if on the post, getting at a right angle, so you are sideways-on): use your centre line to give yourself the advantage in covering shooting space.

Outside the post - woops! Ball in the net!
Outside the post - woops! Ball in the net!
Inside the post - ball cleared to safety.
Inside the post - ball cleared to safety.

A quick way to tell if you are outside the near post is to point your arms straight sideways when square to the ball; the arm nearest the goal should point outside the near post. If it points inside the post, you need to take another step or two out.

As the ball moves away from goal, the near post is not as much of a concern; your focus now is to move further out to cover the angle of the middle and sides of goal.

Again, Jeff Benjamin should be credited as a source in writing this article.

The Arc Around The Goal

As the ball moves around the pitch, more shooting lanes open up. As you face these different angles, you have to be able to move across with the ball; moving into cover the new angle, changing angles to suit the change in play and allow you to make the save against the new shot.

The D within the D’

To develop angle skills and a second sense of where you are in relation to the goal, you need to know where you are in the D. Imagining a smaller D within the actual D helps you locate your posts and position. This smaller D is the arc around goal; mirroring the D itself, but reduced for the size of angle of the shooter’s space. Depending on how deep you play within the D (how far you play off the line) and whether you like to step out and aggressively roam around, the size of this arc will change.

Imagine a D of 3 to 4 metres in diameter from the goal-line. The actual size will depend on your reaction speeds and your reach: if you have quicker reflexes, you can get away with playing a deeper style. The steps around the posts, getting from one side to the other will then create the D for you.


The arc

It is important to understand the arc of positioning: shots from the sides are different to front shots straight at you when standing centrally to the goal; stepping tight to the post covers a tight angle on the left or right space, but leaves a massive open space to the other side of you (that shooters can then exploit by passing to someone standing on that side), whereas with a central shot both sides are open to shoot at.

The arc goes from post to post, covering the different angles in relation to where the ball is on the pitch. As the ball moves, your position in the arc moves with it.


The border line for where you should be in terms of the goal, is as follows:

  • If the ball is central, you would be standing in the middle of goal; covering a straight shot down the middle and read to react to shots to the sides (which the shooter will try for as they can see the shooting space)

  • If the ball is to the left, you would step over to the left post to cover

  • If the ball is to the right, you would move to the right post to close off the space

    Tip: If the ball moves to the goal line, then you would move to cover tight to the post itself (because you can close off the shot at the post, as there is no chance to shoot around you)

You should learn this arc and use it as a general guideline for positioning as the ball moves. Matching where you are to this in training practise and games, you will soon learn it so much that you know where you are automatically without having to look behind you (something only the best keepers can do by the ‘back of their hand’).

However, don’t think you have to move in this pattern all the time – if a pass is made and you have to change position, you need to move as quickly as possible, cutting across the arc to cover the open space.

Also remember that any given keeper’s arc will change as they gain size, strength and ability. You may want to run the exercise with the ropes once a season to see if their arc has changed

Adjusting your angles

Depending on which side the ball is on, you want to be able to move across to cover the post, or step with the play to close down the attacker and cover the shooting space available to them. By moving early, you can set up your triangle and angular positioning to help you in making the save you will face; closing down the shooter’s options to limit their chances of scoring.


By practising and practising, you should be able to learn how to read a shot: telling if it’s headed wide or at you. Knowing whether a shot will go wide or head to goal is essential to reach a high level of play; that way you know whether you will have to block a potential shot, or let it go wide and out of play.

For obvious writing reasons, I think Ian Taylor and Jeff Benjamin ( should be accredited as sources, for their useful information in helping me write about this tricky subject of angles!


Kicking is fundamental to field hockey goalkeeping; goalkeepers are separated by their ability to pass the ball with their feet. With the ‘foot’ rule for outfield players, we are the only person who is allowed to legally use their feet to our own and our team’s advantage. It is therefore essential that you have good technique to clear the ball when the chance arises.


As the only player on the pitch able to kick the ball, and therefore be able to make clearances; controlling rebounds and directing break outs; it is your responsibility to learn how to influence the play and get a strong kicking ability to help your team and reduce rebound goals.


Clearance method

In essence, the kick is great for rebound control and should be used as such to clear away rebound chances. Kicking the ball away from open players; to the corners and over the sideline, or to your sides where there is no opposition will prevent any scoring chances developing from your clearance.


By thinking carefully, you will be able to clear the ball away to safety and limit any more possible scoring chances.


Learning to kick from both feet

Learning to kick strongly from both feet gives you more options when facing clearance opportunities. You should be able to make a stronger clearance with the opposite foot on clearances to your current side; left foot on right side, and right foot on left side.


By learning to kick from the different feet and bringing your skill up to task, you will have the options that other goalkeepers won’t have; reacting to changes in play to clear the ball away as needed.


The ‘basic’ kick

With the ball near your feet after a save has been made, you can kick the ball to a defender’s stick to help get the ball out of the area. A basic kick suits the need of the situation; not all kicks have to be long, but a simple kick to one of your team mates or away to the side line is sometimes all it needs.



  • First check your angles and get your head in line with the ball

  • Lead with your head; this well help direction the kick

  • Step towards the ball with your non-kicking foot with your toes pointing in the direction you want the ball to go in

  • Kick with your kicking foot like you would kick a football (soccer ball)

  • Kick with the inside of your foot for more control

  • Keep your head and chest over the ball to stop the ball rising up


Before you kick the ball clear, determine your target area (where you want the ball to end up) and the direction it needs to go in. Follow the ball with your eyes to watch its progress and keep the forward balance; keep your ‘eyes over knees over toes’ throughout to keep your stance balanced and provide a clean, fluid kick clear.


Having a good follow through

As with making saves, a good follow through is needed to get a good clearance. Follow through is everything, once the technique has been learnt; when kicking, push through with the kicker after you have kicked the ball, so that it maintains its angle of direction.


Push through with your body, turning your hips and upper body into the move as you push through the kick; following through, up with your leg as you make the kick, to make sure you maintain the ball’s direction.


Kicking with the instep

The main and really the only proper method of kicking is to kick with the instep. Some goalkeepers who point out that a kicking motion of moving the leg across to meet a ball at the edge of the angle and causing a redirection who count as a kick. However, every goalkeeper should be taught an active method of kicking where the goalkeeper gets behind the ball, allowing them to get more power behind for the kick for a stronger and more direct kick, for the ball to go a longer distance, whilst keeping accuracy.


By getting close to the ball and then clearing with the instep, the goalkeeper has far greater control over its direction and will provide a longer clearance.










When kicking with the instep, the kicking leg should be drawn back to knee height, and then released to get full force in the clearance. By angling the kicker diagonally to the kicking side (i.e. left or right diagonally along the angle), the ball will be kicked with greater precision.


  • Get behind the ball, ready to launch it away

  • Bring the kicking leg back like a spring, so that you can maximise the power of the kick

  • Kicking with force, drive down and through the ball with momentum to get the best clearance

  • Make sure your leg position stays the same, so that the ball travels where you wanted it to



Have your weight forward (head over shoulders) to keep your balance, so you don’t slip back, and have a strong kick with proper balance to make the best possible clearance. Kick with the inside of your foot for better control; turning the foot to angle it where you want the ball to go.