Hockey stick review: Grays GX8000 Midbow

GRAYS GX 8000 Mid Bow Hockey Stick

2014_Grays_GX8000_MidBow_HS_Micro_Composite_Hockey_Stick

I wanted to try a heavier, straighter stick so I thought I’d test out the GX8000 Mid Bow from Grays in a medium weight. I’m a devoted Grays stick fan so decided to choose from their range.

Yes it makes a massive difference compared to my previous light Grays Dynabow and Jumbow sticks. My hit is much, much more powerful, presumably because there’s more weight behind the hit. However, I feel this is at the expense of ease of stick skills, 3D and backstick shots.

The spec actually says this stick is good for these but I have to disagree and I prefer the lighter sticks for the 3D and the Jumbow for tomahawk shots.

Unfortunately, you have to buy a stick before you can really find out whether it works for you or not. No stick can do everything so it’s always a compromise between bow shape and weight and so far I haven’t found the perfect answer.

Crucially, what’s also not evident until you get this stick in your hand is that it has a ridge effect on the shaft which I loathe – and wouldn’t have chosen if I’d seen it in the flesh. If you are thinking of buying I advise you to enlarge the sales image and take a close look at the shaft of this stick. In the hand I found it  uncomfortable and more difficult to turn in your lower hand to do stick work with.

This Grays GX8000 Midbow also seems to slap hit better – with more power. Again maybe it’s having more weight behind the impact. The spec does say it’s good for slapping.

Update: Spotted a team mate using this same stick on Saturday. She agreed it was less easy to turn the stick in your hand with the ridges. However, she felt it had dramatically improved her jinking and lifting off the ball (she is a defender) and agreed it was fantastic for hard hitting.

My verdict: Uncomfortable to handle, really hate the wide ridged feel, and not the best for nippy stick skills in my opinion because the stick feels harder to turn in your hand. Amazing for supercharging your hits and slap hits.  

Here’s what they say about it on the Barrington Sports website…

GX 8000 Mid-Bow HS
New Mid-Bow HS model for 2013
Featuring new Tri-Tec carbon construction
New IFA on the surface of the head to improve control
New Energy Reduction Handle construction
Featuring new Abrasion Resistant heel protection and PP Enhanced Low Backhand Zone

MICRO Headshape
Excellent head profile for both drag flicking and 3 D skills.
Ideal head thickness for hitting, combined with thinner toe profile ideal for skills of lifting the ball using 3D one handed skills.

MID-BOW
The Mid-Bow blade profile shape has been repositioned more in the mid section of the blade at 30cm from the base of the head. The curve height is 24.75mm. The uniform bow is shaped and contoured continuously along the handle to the head and is especially contoured to improve the angle at which the stick head comes into contact with the ball – it will help give players the technical edge in performing todays 3D hockey skills. Easily identifiable by its own unique new graphical design, the Mid – Bow blade profile continues to become increasingly popular amongst a new generation of players who have learned their skills exclusively on synthetic pitches.
– Help control flat, sweep and slap hitting techniques.
– Help extend the reach zone over which you can dribble the ball freely using both forehand and backhand.
– Improve the first touch control when stopping the ball at full stretch.

Here’s what a top hockey coach observed at the 2014 world cup…

Tasmanian Institute of Sport Hockey Coach Andrew McDonald (pictured below) attended the World Cup for a HA Coach education study tour.Here are some of his fascinating observations about what he saw there. His notes identify trends in play – and training implications for this. For example, the increasing use of shave tackles and what this means for where and how the ball is now protected.

I’d welcome your comments on his observations – especially with regards to coaching implications.

AndrewMcDonald

Tasmanian Institute of Sport hockey

  • Shave tackling – getting down low with the left hand and at other times right hand, coming from behind to steal the ball. Ball carriers are increasingly being required to now protect the ball from the shave tackle, which has implications on where and how the ball is protected.
  • Use of the Overhead – By far one of the most evident progressions by key players – e.g., Knowles (Aust), England, Netherlands, Argentina and Germany. Players are throwing a greater variety of overheads over short to medium distances and with greater accuracy. Accuracy is essential to ensure no umpire engagement as a result of a defender coming with-in 5 metres, e.g., thrown with enough skill and accuracy and speed that the receiver is not effected by the encroaching defender, in fact works against the defender, as they must stay five.
  • 3D / Aerial skills near the attacking the circle – increasingly attackers are being rewarded / allowed to carry the ball on their stick into the circle. This is different to jinking but related. Ghodes, Argentina, Dutch e.g., Van Ass (M) as an example.
  • Eliminating at speed – 1 v 1 – The best forwards are capable of eliminating opponents with speed and skill in these 1 v 1 situations. The best strikers are confident and desire to attack.
  • Being able to carry the ball at speed is critical. Thus this is a skill that needs to be practised in training.
  • Receiving overheads and getting it to ground quickly – e.g., Knowles, Cirrel etc. This is now very much an essential skill.
  • Reverse (Tomma) hitting into the circle – FLAT. Ever increasing is the ability to crack the ball into the attacking circle from the reverse. That combined with far post deflections continues to score goals. Again a skill that needs time in the training program.
  • Penalty Corner Attack vs Penalty Corner Defence Strategy – each need to be given adequate time to be best prepared – e.g., PCD running a close trail to a proficient PCA is necessary. Having capable PCA individuals is critical.
  • T-SPOT (where the baseline and circle edge collide)– Forwards are aiming to capitalise on the distance defenders allow them when “backing off” to protect their feet and prevent a PCA. The left to right drag in these areas by attackers followed by some air, speed and full use of available space is now testing defenders.
  • Making the park look big! (e.g., utilising space over the full field, not just  orridor). In essence making sure there is width, depth and movement off the ball. The Dutch women were very good at this.
  • Flexibility in positioning! (Flexibility and quick understanding of positional requirements). Australia (Men) by far the best. The regular interchanging of roles and positioning as required by opportunities and general field play was hard to track. Hence becomes extremely difficult to play against, e.g., continuing hand-overs, which creates uncertainty. If teams man to man mark then they are manipulated. In essence this for the Australia men has become an essential selection capacity.
  • Long aerials 60 yards+ = 1v1 against opposition defenders and goal-scoring opportunities. Defenders increasingly need the capacity to send an overhead of 60 yards+. This was used regularly as an aggressive method to expose opposition defenders to a 1 v 1 with space. The “linking” and recognition of the opportunity is critical as is the capacity.
  • 1-touch deflections into the attacking circle – general field play and set play free hits. Given that many teams gang tackle near the circle edge, a common way of entry was the 1-touch deflection. The Australians (Ockenden, Dwyer) and the England team also utilised this.
  • Two benefits – 1. necessary to have a receiver in front ready and expecting it.
  • sometimes the ball found the foot of an ill prepared defender. This is a set play that needs time in training program.
  • Tackling around the circle edge. (W) – It was evident that the Hockeyroos need more polish in this area. The best opposition forwards were too often eliminating the first defender to present.
  • Free hits near the 25, (just outside) are now becoming a set play – e.g., Cirello – who drags the ball at speed into the attacking circle. This is often deliberately given some air to put pressure on defenders and provide uncertainty.
  • Strength on the ball in the corridor – (It seems obvious) but the better players (in the middle) are the players that possessed and protected the ball well when under threats from different angles. Rarely did they lose possession and importantly these players showed good awareness of their next release / passing option. (e.g., Zalewski, Hammond, Middleton)
  • Pass forward then follow up – a number of the better players work hard to follow up their pass and create the overload – e.g., (Middleton, Jackson – England / Hammond, Ockenden, Zalewski – Aust)
  • The “V” drag done at speed – e.g., Jackson / Middleton –England – Often done when running at speed with an opponent at the side, the V drag is used and this enables “flow” to continue.
  • Dumping then 1-touch pass forward – Attackers when tracking on angles are dumping the ball to the player behind, in the best examples, these are then 1-time passed to a higher option. Thus quick ball movement occurs and get s at the opposition defence.
  • Gang Tackling – The best defensive team (Aust men), work in “gangs” to deny opposition access to their attacking circle. Much of this requires, communication, urgency, understanding and a solid work ethic!
  • Tackling against the reverse Tomma Goal-shot – Clearly it is important defenders work on their understanding, technique and positioning to close down the opposition “tomma” goal-shots. This continues to make up a high and increasing percentage of goals scored. Some countries were poorer than others at preventing a tomma – e.g., South Africa.
  • Goals scored positional plotting within the circle – Mathew Wells is collating an overall percentage / Tally of where goals are scored from, his initial findings, he indicates a higher percentage of goals are scored in the 7 metre area near the goal-face. This would suggest deflections, e.g., far post / rebounds off pads etc.

Other general observations…

  • Team outletting structures – Argentina quite good at linking and working for each other to enable good lineout balls to a high striker, quite patient in how they set this up. It is worth viewing their patterns. Australia and Holland also very good.
  • PCA Double Battery’s – common – with some shifting laterally before the ball is released.
  • Team set rotations – used by all teams.
  • Strict 45 seconds to be ready on PCD from the time it is awarded – green cards were given should this not be done both for attack and defence.
  • Interchanges done mid pitch with no holding up of cards – seemed to work well throughout the tournament.
  • Goal down – 5mins to go – towards the end of the game most teams were taking the GK off to create a high forward.
  • PCD – most GK’s offset to the right
  • Mass interchanges – teams would hold the free hit at the back – this allowed teams to settle back into their structures.
  • PCD – Germany also wearing knee guards, e.g., like baseball.
  • PCD – Speed of the counter attack, the best at it were:

Men – AUS, ARG, BEL, NZ  / Women – USA, Netherlands

  • Courage – Strikers need time to rehearse deflections from reverse tommas, develop confidence and develop courage they won’t be hurt.

I would usually put a weblink to reference this, however, I am unable to link to the piece as it is a pdf download. So instead I’ve included a screen shot of how it appears in google so you can find it yourself if you want to check the source.

TIS link

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Defending penalty short corners

Tips and information on how to defend a penalty corner…

This is Dutch international Tjerk’s powerpoint on offensive and defensive corners

This post has a great video with captions about defending a short corners https://playbetterfieldhockey.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/how-to-play-left-back-defender-in-field-hockey/

This is a short but easy follow video that looks a bit more like club hockey might. In the higher level Olympic clips the left post player starts the corner second from left, the left player runs out and the post player slips across to cover left post. There’s a little slip across but this doesn’t happen in this club level video where the left post player just starts the corner standing by the left post and there they stay. Wondering why the higher level teams set up slightly differently?

 

Harvard field hockey on short corners. At 1:05 in this video there’s a really good close up of the foot, ball and stick position of the injector.

 

How to play right wing in field hockey. Insights from playing left back

An injury for a friendly match meant that I had to play left defender in a club hockey match last Saturday. Marking and patrolling to prevent right side attacks from the opposition was one of the best eye openers I have ever had about the best way to play attack. I highly recommend it for any attacker. For example, have a go at defending the position you usually play during training or a friendly match and you will learn a lot.

Here’s what I learned…

  • Dummy leading, then changing to relead on the other side is one of the best ways to make space and fiendishly challenging to track, even for a determined marker like myself. You can see this type of thing on this England Hockey video at around 2:20. It is unbelievably effective and I’ll be doing it a lot more if I play in attack now.
  • Indicating too strongly with your stick you want the ball is a giveaway for whoever is marking you. A visual clue like this is too much of a gift to the defense in club hockey.
  • Attackers get visibly and audibly angry and annoyed when you are marking them out of a game. They start huffing and pushing you. Attackers should try not to show irritation as defenders use this to judge whether or not they are getting it right.
  • It was interesting watching the attacker run at the defense after a break up the pitch. They start to tire after they have beaten a midfielder – looked to me like it would be best to make a pass at that point. When they are coming at you heads down on the ball, running at pace, it’s easy meat. Pass and move is better – now I understand why the coach says that repeatedly.
  • If you get stuck in the corner with the ball and you can’t clear it, roll around and put it on the attackers feet to win a free hit rather than just clearing it off the side. But make sure you don’t hand them the ball – you must put it on their feet.
  • A high press is effective. Attackers pressing high with midfielders pressing high behind them make it harder to find a pass.

How to play left back defender in field hockey

 

It’s important to be versatile when you play club hockey and on Saturday an injury in the team meant I tried my hand at playing in defense in a friendly match.

I enjoyed it but am after more information about how to play this position well, so this post will be a work in progress as an when I find information on this.

A good place to start is the England Hockey youtube film that covers general tips on defending.

 

  • LB provides balance and cover when the ball is on the opposite side of the pitch. (Elizabeth Sanders from Field Hockey – Steps for Successs)
  • Takes most left side line hits
  • Assists or takes deep defensive hits
  • Must have good foot speed because the main assignment is to mark the right outside opposition forward.
  • Must mark tightly and tackle the ball with strength to prevent right side attacks
  • Pass accurately and safely when you win the ball
  • Don’t get square to the attacker. See Kate Richardson-Walsh’s tips on defending in another post Kate’s tips on defending
  • Defend a short corner.