While the team swarm like bees around the halfway line, it’s easy to sometimes cast an eye back down the field and feel sorry for the lonely goalkeeper. However, the goalie can often be the most important player on a field hockey pitch.
What makes a good Field Hockey Goalie?
With unique skills in comparison to the rest of the team, I’ve compiled a list of the strengths that are needed to play that very important goalie position. They are –
- The goalkeeper should be cool and not get rattled if a goal is made by the opposing side
- They should be the quickest person on the team over five yards
- The goalie should be a quick decision-maker
- They must always be watching the ball
- Above all, the goalkeeper should have courage. They should not step back from any ball, afraid to stop it
1. Keep your position
It’s vital when playing as a goalie to always keep your position. Don’t charge out of your position to interfere in another, player’s play. Use your head, and stay measured in your defense of the goal. The consistent, steady, dependable goalie can help win the game and gain a leading reputation. As the goalkeeper, always watch the eyes of the opposing forward. That way he or she can tell where the forward is going to shoot or place the ball. The goalkeeper should resist being drawn away from their goal line. Standing about a foot (half a meter) in front, but not further away is ideal positioning. From this position, the goalkeeper should have courage, and not step or stumble back from the ball, afraid to stop it.
2. Stand tall and wide
When an opposition player is whacking the ball at you from the flick spot, a natural inclination can be to tense up and make yourself small. If you stay wide and tall, watching the ball, it becomes easier to naturally react to the stroke and make the save. A big position also stands you in good stead when the forwards mis-hits a shot, you are in a position to save the ball. The same applies against flickers at corners.
Players will try to use disguise routines on corners, so try to just stare at the ball and wait for them to release it before you react. Try not to predict or get fooled by body movements or dummies.
3. Kick or stick?
Quick and clear thinking is an important trait of field hockey goalies.
Not only should does a goalie rely on a stick, but remember the goalie may also kick and stop the ball with his or her body. To choose which action is best – a save by hands, stick, or body, sets the best goalies apart. The main objective is to keep the ball out of the goal while moving it to less dangerous areas of play. This often requires quick, clear thinking on the part of the goalkeeper.
Fullbacks should never leave the goalkeeper alone and unprotected. Nor should they stand so close to them, or directly in front. Blocking the goalie’s line of sight, or interfering with the goalie’s play results in the goalkeeper losing sight of the ball.
4. Stay on the balls of your feet
A good goalkeeper should always try to stay on the balls of their feet. This helps you keep the ball flat when kicking and making foot saves. This is also an important tip when diving or smothering the ball, to ensure you don’t rotate your body back. Your head is weighty so importantly it helps keeps your weight forward. When diving or smothering, always try to land on your side and your hips. Not only is this more comfortable than falling on your front, it means you are in a position to possibly save a rebound or another follow-up shot.
Hand positioning is key when an opposing forward steps within striking or good assist range. Keeping your hands up gives you a fraction more time to make the save. Rather than having your arms down, meaning you’re raising them before a save can be made. This also prepares you for diving where you could crash to the ground in a body fall.
5. Try and be courageous, stay of strong mind
By strong of mind, I mean don’t take conceding a goal like a death in the family. Clear your mind and focus on the next goal-bound shot. Every game is different and you could still end up being the hero at a later stage. If you are still fretting about an earlier goal you won’t be in the frame of mind to be at your best for the next shot.
I have previously spoken about the importance of mindset when playing your best hockey. You’ll find, this is especially important for goalkeepers. Due to the fact that you need to be the most composed of all, especially as your margin for error is the lowest. You can’t be a good goalkeeper without bravery, and there’s none braver than Vincent Vanasch, voted the world’s best goalkeeper.
6. Well practiced in the five-second surge
The 5 seconds surge to save the ball can be played over and over again in a game. Not only do you need to be very fast off the line, but be fearless in that five-second charge. You also have to be fit enough to do it over and over again in a match. This means your training should concentrate on short sprints and surges, repetitively. Preparation is key to being able to keep this up for the whole game.
Please remember to play safe and wear the correct protection. You can read my article about the best female goalie in the world, Maddie Hinch’s goalie gear here…