How to Warm up a Field Hockey Goalie

Goalies can sometimes get lost within the mix of a team. When you have a roster of 15 or more, it’s hard to focus your attention on one individual player. Goalies, though, need individualized attention. Not only do they play a major role in determining the outcome of the game, but they use a completely different set of skills compared to the rest of the team. Rather than aiming to perfect their stick skills during their warm-up, they need to focus on stretching and reflex training.

This guide is aimed to give coaches an idea of what goalies need to focus on during their pre-game warm-up:

  • A proper warm-up that includes a jog and stretching
  • Short sprints
  • Goaltending drills

With the drills and routine outlined below, you’ll be confident in knowing that the defensive line is complete with someone solid and unbeatable in the goal.

Stretch with the Team

The pre-game warm-up should start with a team jog and stretch. The goalie needs to be able to easily contort her body to stop the ball. So, stretching the entire body will help to prevent injury and improve your goalie’s flexibility. And while the best way to stretch the muscle groups is through callisthenic stretches (moving stretches), goalies should also incorporate some static stretches into their routine if they need to stretch any hard-to-reach muscle groups.

Below is a list of the main muscle groups a goalie should focus on stretching:

  • Groin
  • Hamstrings
  • Quadriceps
  • Calves
  • Biceps
  • Triceps

Please see our guide, How to Warm up in Field Hockey, for examples of callisthenic stretches and additional ideas for pre-game warm-ups.

When everyone’s muscles are warmed up and the field players are ready to move on to practice their stick skills, the goalie should split from the team to start her own routine of short sprints and goaltending drills.

Short Sprints

It may seem counter intuitive to have a goalie sprint before the game. But, short sprints are one of the best exercises you can incorporate into a goalie’s warm-up. Sprints wake up, warm up, and loosen the muscles before the game. So, don’t worry if your goalie is winded during the warm-up; her body will recover and her performance will improve during the game.

Hot Tip: Warm up in Full Gear

Make sure your goalie completes the sprint and skill portion of her warm-up in full goalie gear. Movement and maneuverability change when the goalie is in her pads. So, to give her the best preparation for game play, have her warm up and practice in her gear.

Goaltending Drills

Listed below are a few drills to incorporate into your goalie’s pre-game warm-up. These drills will focus on the skills goalies use during play:

  • Warming up the muscles
  • Accelerating out of turns
  • Cutting off the shooting angles
  • Clearing the ball
  • Increasing reaction time

Box Sprints

This drill uses sprints, shuffles, and backpedals to warm up the different muscle groups used during quick direction changes.

To set up the drill, place four cones in a square formation, five yards apart from each other. The goalie can start on any cone of her choosing and then move from each cone to the next to form a square. Below are the steps your goalie should take to complete this drill:

  1. She may start on any cone in the square, dressed in full goalie gear.
  2. She starts the drill by sprinting forward to the second cone.
  3. When she reaches the second cone, have her plant the outside foot and push off of it to side-shuffle to the third cone.
  4. When she reaches the third cone, she needs to plant her outside foot and push off it to move backwards. She will then backpedal to the final cone.
  5. When she reaches the last cone (fourth cone), she needs to push off of her outside foot and side-shuffle back to the original cone.
  6. Repeat as desired.

To complete the drill in the reverse direction, simply have her start on the fourth cone — instead of the first — and have her move in the reverse directions for the side-shuffle. The only major change that occurs in reversing the direction is the foot she plants with. Always have her push off the outside foot to maintain maximum control in the direction change.

Back & Forth Toss

Randomly tossing or pushing the ball at your goalie will help her develop her reaction time. You can do this by placing a dozen balls by the p-flick mark and tossing them in different directions and heights at your goalie. You will get her moving every which way — so, the more random, the better.

Note: You may also substitute field hockey balls with golf balls to make the drill slightly harder.

Rapid Fire: Around the Circle

Rapid fire is a common warm-up drill for goalies because it involves the entire team. The players get to practice their shots and the goalie gets to practice her angles, saves, and ability to clear the ball.

To set up the drill, the goalie starts in the goal. The players will line up (each with a ball) evenly spaced along the shooting circle. Starting from one end of the shooting circle, each player will take a shot on goal.

As the players shoot, the goalie needs to practice cutting off the angles, blocking shots, and clearing the balls out of the circle. The goalie should focus on using side-shuffles to reposition herself as the ball moves back and forth across the shooting circle. During this drill, she also needs to be readily prepared to move off of the goal line to cut off the shooting angles.

Rapid Fire: Side to Side

To increase the difficulty of the drill, have the players alternate their shots from one side of the circle to the other:

  1. The player on the far right of the shooting circle (closest to the end line) takes the first shot.
  2. Then, the player on the far left of the shooting circle (closest to the end line) takes the next shot.
  3. The drill alternates back and forth between both sides of the shooting circle to allow the goalie to see shots from all angles and work on her body positioning. It will continue until everyone on the circle has taken a shot on goal.

The main purpose of this drill is to help the goalie become more aware of her position in relation to the goal (at all times) so that she can block all of the shots.

Listed below are the key focus points for the goalie in the rapid fire drills:

  • Be able to guard the post for shots coming from the side angles
  • Shuffling the feet to always face away from the goal
  • Moving forward off the goal line to cut off the shooting angles
  • Being aware of her position in relation to the goal at all times
  • Clearing the ball hard and to the outside of the field

To make the drill slightly harder, you can allow your team to pick up two rebound shots after each initial hit. This will help the goalie practice recovering after the initial shot to block the rebounds.

Clearing the Ball

This drill will help your goalie practice her clears. Stand about 10 yards away from the goal and close to the end line. The goalie will start facing you near the goal, perpendicular to the backboard. Then, hit the ball at various speeds at her. Have her clear the ball with the “sweet spot” on her kicker into the goal. This will help her practice making a strong clear on the first touch and since she is kicking the balls into the goal, you won’t have to go get them later.

Goalie Ready?

These drills will not only serve to prepare your goalie’s physical capabilities, but also the mental. Having a good warm-up can mean the difference between a shutout game and a high scoring game (in the other team’s favor).

If you don’t have an assistant coach to help warm up the goalie, either distribute your time evenly between the team and goalkeeper, or incorporate drills into your team warm-up that include everyone. Rapid fire is a great drill to get you started.

The goalie is the last line of defense. So, make sure to complete your team with a strong goaltender. Keep your goalie fresh and limber, and you’ll have an unbeatable team!

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