“Goalie Specific” Hand-Eye Training
What we think of as hand-eye training for goalies covers a pretty broad spectrum. There is the dexterity part of it like juggling, which I see as more of a coordination drill rather than a strict hand-eye training drill.
So much of your success with juggling is dependent on your ability to catch the ball and toss it back in the air with the right direction, right force and most importantly, the right timing. Yes, our eyes help us judge where the right ball placement is, especially in the learning phase. Once you have the skill ‘mastered’ your body can run on autopilot.
Hand-eye training also includes tracking objects or lights with your eyes and responding accordingly. I do see that as vision training because the response is based on what you are seeing and how quickly you can pick it up and process it.
Then you have your catching drills where you might one hop the ball off a wall to practice catching a rising shot. We use a rebounder in the gym to do the same. You probably do some version of it in the basement or driveway and if you don’t, you should be.
Catching is an essential skill for you and it needs to be close to perfect. Baseball players aren’t even catching a ball off a tip or through a screen, but they practice their catching all the time. You should be working on it too.
Here’s how I want you to change it up though:
Instead of doing those catching drills barehanded, start doing them with your glove on.
If your glove is nearby, go put it on. I’ll wait…
Okay, now you have your glove on.
Point to the spot on your glove where you SHOULD ideally catch the puck.
Now… point to the middle of your palm where it sits in the glove.
Not the same spot at all is it?
Catching is a motor skill. When you catch barehanded, you are teaching your body and brain to position the middle of your palm in the path of the ball. Which is great, until you put on your glove and pucks start bouncing off the heel of your glove.
It sounds like a small thing, but our body learns from repetition, so give it the highest quality repetition possible, wear your glove for the majority of your catching. You don’t have to wear your glove to juggle J or do other dexterity drills.
Give it a try and don’t get frustrated if you struggle for the first few minutes, it takes a little getting used to. If you are catching every single ball, then throw harder, step closer to the wall or get someone to stand behind you and throw the ball off the wall for you, so you cannot see where it is coming from.
I know your next question.
Could I also wear my mask for these types of hand-eye/tracking drills?
Absolutely. Great idea.
Ed. Note: What are your thoughts about hand-eye training – any other tips to share? Hit us up in the comments!