Coaching

Poacher turned gamekeeper: A hockey goalkeeper tells us how to shoot

In the first of an occasional series, we get players to spill the beans on how to play against them – this time a goalkeeper, Dan Pilgrim, tells us what sort of shots he hates!

Here are a few strategies that goalkeepers hate which you can use to boost the number of goals your team scores.

LOOK FOR DEFLECTIONS

Many coaches now look for, and teach, sliding in for deflections near or at the post, to get the ball past the goalkeeper. GB’s Barry Middleton is great at this and will score goals all season long.

A lot of goals at national league level are scored via penalty corners when a runner, or the injector, comes inside to meet a dummied pass. The goalkeeper is sent the wrong way and then gets the ball redirected around them.

Deflections change the angle of the incoming shot and if the goalkeeper has committed and cannot get back across, he/she is definitively beaten.

LOOK FOR GAPS

Picking out gaps the goalkeeper will struggle to close presents another great scoring opportunity. Elite shooters that can see available space, even if slight, will beat the goalkeeper in this way. If you watch ice hockey or football, the most capable shooters will “snipe” the goalkeeper, because, at the highest level, anything else should be stoppable. These kinds of shot manage to make the best goalkeepers look mortal!

Try the space between the gloves and head (although you need good accuracy, unless you want to get chased by a goalkeeper for aiming at their head!), or gloves and body, for instance, or between the legs. And if a goalkeeper hasn’t got their gloves up, then they won’t be able to raise them quickly enough against a fast-paced shot.

GOING THROUGH THE LEGS

This is worth a second mention – shots through the legs are a royal pain for goalkeepers as it’s difficult to quickly close your legs against a powerful shot as it means changing position and shifting bodyweight almost instantaneously. Rotterdam were beating Reading’s starter James Bailey this way in this season’s Euro Hockey League. But it is also a great scoring area on penalty corners where the goalkeeper cannot react well against a flick straight down the middle, especially if they are expecting a ball high, wide, or into the corners.

Going for the leg gap also works brilliantly in other scoring opportunities. One-on-one against a goalkeeper, you can look to drag them out, to open up these gaps, and then score through the legs as you go. Long time East Grinstead stalwart Danny Hall, who is now at Holcombe, is great at scoring these kinds of goals . There is a great clip of him netting against Nick Brothers, on YouTube (see ‘Watch the video’, above), where he moves Brothers to open up this space.

TIP THE BALL OVER THE GOALIE

“Chipping” the goalkeeper, as they say in football, is about getting the goalkeeper to go down, before putting the ball over them to score. In a one-on-one situation if you can get the goalkeeper to slide in early and commit then you can lift the ball (which you can practise outside training hours!) up and over them to score.

James Tindall scored an audacious goal this way against South Africa’s Chris Hibbert in the Beijing Olympics. The goal was less about Tindall’s ability to lob than it was about convincing the stopper to come off his line to meet. Tindall then timed his run perfectly to latch onto a long pass and lift the ball over the goalkeeper who had gone to ground which left him vulnerable to a raised ball.

STRETCH THE GOALKEEPER

Going wide or for the corners, as Dutch penalty corner specialist Taeke Taekema does, is also great for an optimum scoring chance. If the goalkeeper doesn’t have that reach or the natural flexibility to go into the splits, or the quick reactions to fully extend to save, then you can really make the most of that to make their life in goal difficult.

Looking to shoot past the goalkeeper, rather than just straight at them (which is what should happen with a good goalkeeper, who is on the angle!), is better than seeing your shot saved easily. Use two-on-ones or three-on-twos to drag the goalkeeper off their post. This means the shooter can then stretch the keeper with a shot into the wide part of the goal.

GO OUT AND POACH!

Not literally (as poaching is illegal), but the way you approach scoring will see how well you ultimately do. Being alert and aware of how the goalkeeper you are up against plays (and their strengths and weaknesses!) will help tremendously.

Remember you are not going to get many great scoring chances on a plate when playing a well-drilled team. And those wonder goals aren’t going to always happen, because you won’t have the time or space to look up and find the perfect scoring chance. Playing like a poacher actually has a greater payoff in the long run, when you think
about it!

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