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Most hockey players have poor vision due to their poor body positions or the lack of vision training in the various drills. How often have we set up practice drills with a static partner that players begin to almost assume whenever they pass they must pass it straight ahead of them, an exaggeration maybe. How often when we are doing passing and receiving do we set it up on a diagonal, or, horizontal?? Hardly ever would be my guess and we are all guilty of this. We set it up on a straight line, why? It makes sense, is easier to organize and its what we have always done.
To correct the body positions is to correct their ability to use their vision. I also believe that vision goes hand in hand with reaction drills.
I think as coaching develops and the game becomes faster with the artificial surfaces so too have the exercises. We should refrain from the use of static exercises but rather include moving drills where possible. Yes we need to explain statically how to hit, push, slap but once they have got the action right then we should make them move with it before passing OR rather make the person opposite them move so they have to look where they are passing due to the changing target.
EXERCISES TO HELP IMPROVE VISION
- CHANGING THE SQUARE
Set up teams of four players, giving each player a ball. Form squares about 5m by 5m, the corners marked by cones. You should let them practice this activity first without a ball and later with a ball. Every time the coach gives a visual signal, the team’s dribble (without and later with the ball) toward the next square, keeping control of their balls. (Be sure to make it clear which way to run).
The team that manages to control all their balls first in the next square wins.
Once they have got the drill right then you can try get different groups running in opposite directions.
To advance the drill further would be to bring in a defender in between the squares to try to improve their one vs. one skills. The defender would be fairly stationary but would try intercepting any loose balls and would make the players move at angles rather than dribble straight.
- AROUND THE TRIAGLE
Mark off an equilateral triangle and set up four cones along one (the base) side of it. The players will compete in pairs. Both start from different locations around the triangle. As they get to the base of the triangle, they must dribble in and out of the four cones before dribbling up the next side. The player that is the “chaser” will have to look up judging how close they are two the other person. The element of being chased will make them both execute their skills at pace.
To advance this exercise we wan bring a defender into the middle of the triangle. The defender can then at any stage try and make a flat stick tackle along one of the lines making the attackers use vision, speed and skill in one drill.
Create a box about 10m by 10m in the middle of the field. Set up about 5 goals outside the box at various positions in the field. The goals are 1m by 1m. Divide your group of 10 into two teams of 5 and let them give themselves a team name. All 10 players are positioned in the box and there are 5 balls in the box. On your command you call out one of the teams names, the team you call out is attacking and the other team defends. Each player in the attacking team has to dribble a ball through one of the goal areas and the score is recorded. The other team then becomes the attacker and the team with the most goals after 5 turns wins. I would suggest putting in a time limit of say 1 minute to score.
It may be more beneficial to let one player from each team mark a specific player from the other team so there is more structure.
To advance this you could take away 2 balls. This would create a situation of higher difficulty but the attacking team could then utilize passing rather than dribbling out of the area.
- 2 vs. 1 WITH COUNTER
Set up a field about 10m by 10m and two wide goals on each side. Divide the players into two-player teams. Each play lasts three minutes, during which two players of one team alternately attack the goals opposite each other. One opponent defends each goal only. To score, one of the two attackers has to dribble (control) the ball across the goal line.
The attack is concluded when a goal is scored OR
A defender (who has managed to gain possession of the ball) passes toward his teammate in the opposite goal (after receiving the ball, he should dribble it into “his” oal)
There is an infringement by the attackers (after an infringement, a free hit is awarded to the defender, whose task is to pass the ball to his outlet player in the opposite goal).
After an infringement by a defender, the attackers choose between a pass to the teammate or a penetration dribble (in the event that his partner is marked closely).
Independent of the result of the counterattack, the next 2 on 1 should be directed toward the opposite wide goal. The duration of the game is two attacking and two defending periods of 3 minutes for each team.
USING REACTION DRILLS TO IMPROVE VISION
- Two people stand opposite each other; one person holds a ball in each hand with their arms outstretched in front of them. The person with the balls drops one of the balls onto the turf. The player standing opposite has a stick and as the ball bounces on the turf must move to the ball ensuring that the get their stick underneath it so it does not bounce again. They then dribble the ball to cones on the diagonal about 5 yards away.
- Using a ladder is effective for footwork but can be very effective when used with stick and ball to improve vision. If you do not have a ladder you can use cones. There are various footwork drills that can be performed. The key is to make sure the player is carrying their stick ready to receive a ball. The coach stands at the end of the ladder with a pile of balls. As the player moves through the ladder the coach at any stage rolls the ball to either left or right of the ladder. The player has to accelerate towards the ball and receive it and then pass it back to the coach, or another player standing wider of the ladder.
To advance in this drill the footwork itself becomes more complicated and the coach can be harsher in the speed of pass as well as angle of pass.
The coach can also start to flip balls at a low height so the player has to adjust their receiving position.