In sport we are constantly told to practice, usually at the sport we are competing in. But there are also transferrable skills from other sports that can be used to better yourself. For example, there are several aspects of racket sports including tennis, squash and padel that can be used to improve your hockey skills.
Here are three essential Hockey skills that can be improved by playing racket sports:
Movement is instrumental to being successful at hockey, in all areas of the pitch. Lateral movement involves moving side to side, and this is especially important in hockey. There are hockey-specific lateral movement drills you can try, but racket sports can also help improve these.
In tennis, you are covering such a wide area of the court switching from forehand to backhand that your lateral movement will be improving naturally, as it becomes a habit. The same applies to squash, just over a smaller surface area.
If you want a combination of the two then padel is the perfect mix of both tennis and squash and will help improve your mobility when it comes to the hockey field. The key with any of these racket sports is to keep playing over and over again, working on continuously moving your feet to get to the ball. Eventually these good habits will fall into place, and you should have fun while doing it.
There is no point working on your movement, if you can’t judge the flight of the ball correctly and that is where good hand-eye coordination comes into play. Hockey is all about reading and reacting, so developing a strong hand eye-coordination is very important. It can be game-changing in match situations, for example being able to trap a ball in mid-air with your stick could be the difference between your team scoring or conceding a goal.
Although, hand-eye coordination is important to all positions on a hockey field, there is an extra sense of importance to the goalkeeper whose main responsibility is to judge the flight of the goal and stop it going into the goal. So how can you work on this with a racket?
There are many drills you can do with a racket to practice your hand-eye coordination. This could even involve going back to basics and hitting a tennis ball against a wall and practicing judging the flight of the ball at different speeds. This could get very tedious, so it may be better to play squash or padel where you can do a very similar thing against an opponent.
Making decisions is involved in all sports, but the pace of which you need to do that is amplified in a game of hockey where there are such tight pockets of spaces to work your way out of. Of course, playing more hockey matches is a great way of figuring out what works and what doesn’t, but racket sports also involve making those split-second choices.
Squash is often compared to chess, because as you are playing one shot, you have got to constantly be thinking of the next. The same could be applied to padel, where the game is played at a quicker rate than tennis due to the court being smaller. The best way to practice your decision making on court, is by playing points so you are put in lots of different situations.
The overriding point is that the racket sports mentioned, and others, all have qualities about them that could improve not only your fitness but also take you to the next level of your hockey ability. You may also get a new hobby out of it too!