Train your hockey gaze: shooting more goals on target with the ‘quiet eye’ technique

Sports psychologists are researching elite athletes’ vision on the ball. They are finding that apparently the better athletes are at making the ball go where they want it too, the better they are at something called ‘quiet eye’ tracking.

Scientists at Calgary University and Essex University are using eye trackers to establish the best place to look to make an athlete more effective. The idea is to give your eyes as much data as possible before you take a hit or a shot or a throw – and let your body follow.

“When your eyes provide the data, your motor system just knows what to do,” says lead scientists Joan Vickers, from Calgary University.

Much of the work has involved tracking pro golfers and basketball shooters. The findings showed that when golfers look at the back of the ball, then the hole, then the back of the ball again – holding their gaze there steadily, they will putt more balls.

They have also looked at ice hockey goalies and found that when they saved successfully, they had fixed on the ball earlier and left their gaze there longer.

The key to success, and you can be trained in the technique, is to reduce and still your eye movements. Look at the target (goal) then back to the ball and fix your gaze on the ball. The following video shows how gaze training might improve penalty kicks in football – so I assume the same technique would improve strike rate in hockey penalty flicks.

It’s more tricky when you are dealing with a moving ball. However, looking at the reports what might work is looking with a quiet eye at the point in the net where you would like the ball to go as you wait for an injection on a short corner. Then without too much eye movement waiting for the ball to come and keeping your gaze down on the ball as you strike, not wobbling the eyes around and looking quickly up at the net again. Presumably, as in golf, looking at the back of the ball is best.

The key is to stop your gaze tracking around all over the place and to keep it ‘quiet’ – with two seconds spent looking at the target.

The technique has been used in basket ball (see the above video). The players start b saying ‘nothing but net’ as they are preparing. Then look at the front of the hoop in the centre and say to themselves ‘sight focus’ which lasts two seconds – enough to lock the eye on the target point.

Another benefit of calming your gaze and not letting it dart everywhere is that, research shows, it can help with anxiety.

Here’s a link to a good article about all this which has deeper references to study papers and scientists.

The Quiet Eye and its application to skill acquisition and performance

 

 

 

Drag flick – Canadian national team captain shares his tips

 

Canadian national team captain Scott Tupper shares a few tips on how he executes a winning drag flick…

# Start moving towards the ball when it has half way across the D after the injector has released it.

# Carry the ball as long as possible

# Really release through to the goal with all your body weight and momentum

# Get a footwork routine that you can just repeat each time so you don’t have to think about it.

# There is no one correct way to do a drag flick. Just find the way that suits you best and keep rehearsing it over and over

 

How to defend a drag flick

The latest issue of Planet Hockey (issue 3, see link below to download) is well worth a look and has an interesting feature on defending a drag flick.

It suggests…

#1 Prepare early and decide on a defensive set up. Many teams have set running patterns for a penalty corner. For example first runner pressures drag flicker, second and third runners defend the possible lay offs and deflectors and post defenders cover post.

#2 Point at pressure target (ie drag flicker at top of D) with hips and shoulders. Only turn your head towards the injector.

#3 Adopt a relaxed stance.

#4 Offsetting. This technique that some teams use to defend flicks sees goal keeper covering one side and runner and post defender attempting to channel flicker in the direction GK is covering.

http://www.planethockey.com

@planethockeymag

http://www.planethockeymag.com/magazine-downloads

 

Drag flick body position secret – why you have to get back and chest low

This video from Reds Hockey Club, Perth, Australia is helpful for learning to dragflick because it slows the clip and directs you to focus on one aspect of the shot.

The coach is Nico Resta from Argentina.

He says there are 15 or 16 points to think about when learning to dragflick and this video looks mostly at three – footwork, body and finishing position.

Coaching points:

Grip: Start with your bottom hand in the middle of the stick. You can move it higher as you become more adept.

Feet: Left starts level with the ball.

Back: Chest and back have to be ‘really low’. This is because hand and stick have to parallel with the floor. ‘Always low until you release the ball’.

Here’s another clip of Nico showing off his stick and ball trick skills.

And another of him in action. I love the ball played ahead into space at 6:44 in this clip.

Drag flicking – masterclass with one of the best in the world, Holland’s Mink Van der Weerden technique

Dutch hockey player Mink Van der Weerden does the business when it comes to drag flicking. Ross Bone, writing in The Telegraph, said: “In the men’s game, the names of the world class drag flickers roll off the tongue: Mink van der Weerden of the Netherlands, England’s Ashley Jackson and Tom Boon of Belgium to name just a few.”Telegraph.co.uk

Luckily, for those studying the art of the drag flick, Mink Van der Weerden gives a master class for Living Hockey that’s available to watch on YouTube. I think this is most useful for looking at the run up to a drag flick because he shows how far your feet should be away from the ball by placing two feet. It’s also interesting in that he explains that you have to hold off early in the shot, keeping your stick up and he then shows the exact point at which the power and flicking begin. Well worth a watch – or 10!

I’ve also taken a screen grab from the video compilation of his goals at the top of this post, which may also be helpful in illustrating just how wide his stance is during a drag flick. Viewed like this it almost looks like gymnastics!

mink goal 5

 

Just for good measure, here’s a link to a compilation of clips about drag flicking. Just in case you have time on your hands! Drag flicking videos

Gadget that helps you learn to dragflick. Does it work?

sleeppush

There’s a machine available to help you learn to dragflick. It’s what amounts to an elevated platform. It’s called the Sleeppush – and looks like a mini ski slope. But does it work – and can you buy one?

From the image above, I’m also thinking could you make your own improvised one with a plank of varnished wood propped up one end?

From the scant info available on the manufacturer’s website http://www.sleeppush.nl it looks as if it’s main benefits are that you can train longer with more repetitions because the elevated platform reduces the risk of pain or injury.

It’s also easier to lift the ball towards the goal.

I’d be interested to see how this translates into helping a player improve their actual dragflick from the ground position.

There’s an interesting discussion about it on the excellent Field Hockey Forum.

In response to a ‘how does it work’ query, Hans-Pieter van Beek, who seems to be either the retailer or inventor, posts in response.

“As there is a higher ball position there is less pressure on your knees ankles back and therefore it is more easy to master the technic without getting tired or injured.

“Also there is an innovating S-curve to help you master the right balposition. And as you can see in our movies there is a lot of fun for the kids. Because the kids will succeed easily they will keep interest for developing and training their dragflick.

The website with info about it is http://www.sleeppush.nl. The contact details are
mail@sleeppush.nl and mail@dragflick.org but neither of these addresses seem to be working – mail just bounces back.

I can’t find a price at the moment – but I will continue to try and contact the suppliers and post on here if I get any more info. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be available outside the Netherlands.

If you’ve experience of this machine or any thoughts about whether it might work or not, I’d love to hear from you.