Goalies have one of the most challenging positions in all of sports.
They are tasked with keeping a tiny black puck from entering a rather large goal. And, they have to do with it while being covered from head to toe in pads.
To add to the difficulty, they have to do it on incredibly slippery ice while wearing skates with a blade that is a few millimeters wide. This is why hand-eye coordination is so important.
Not only do goalies need to be able to skate and develop strength, but they also need to know how to see the puck as it flies through the air or floats across the ice. And, they need to be able to stop it before it crosses the line and enters the goal and lights the lamp.
Fortunately, there are drills that goalies can practice to improve their hand-eye coordination.
Using tennis balls for hand-eye coordination
One of the most unusual drills is called “Letter Ball.” This drill needs a tennis ball and a Sharpie. Use the Sharpie to write letters on the tennis ball. Then, as you throw the ball against a wall, you call out the letter you see. With this drill, you have to keep your eyes on the ball so you can see what letter is coming or going.
Letter Ball can also be played while a goalie is in the net.
It is best to do this on a driveway, rather than on the ice. You will need to have someone shoot the ball at you and as you stand in the goal, you say the letter you see as the ball comes at you.
Then, you must stop the ball, too. This is a fast-paced drill. Since the tennis ball will be shot at you, it is helpful to wear some protective gear like a face mask.
You need to get into a squat position. While in the squat position, you hop towards the finish line. Keep your back straight as you hop. Then, go back to your starting stop and grab the tennis balls.
As you hop, bounce the tennis balls. You can bounce both at the same time or you can stagger them to add to the difficulty of this drill.
Not only will this improve your hand-eye coordination, but it will also help strengthen your legs and back. You will also work on keeping your head up as you hop, squat, and bounce the balls.
Practice your baseball skills
Another good way to improve hand-eye coordination is by spending time in a batting cage.
While you will not be swinging at baseballs while guarding the net, hitting a baseball is still considered the most difficult task in all of sports. If you want to make it even more difficult, turn your time in the batting cage into a Letter Ball version of batting practice.
If you can swing a baseball bat and hit the baseball, you can certainly stop a puck when it is coming at you. The same focus is needed in both tasks.
Learn to juggle
One other unique skill that can help with hand-eye coordination is learning to juggle.
This is a tough skill to master and it can help with puck handling, too. It is best to learn to juggle while standing on firm ground, but as you get better, you can work on doing it while skating.
What makes this a helpful skill is that you look up while juggling, not down – which is what is necessary for any good hockey player, too.
Wall ball with a handball
Most hand-eye coordination exercises do not need to be done on the ice, but they do require a wall, a friend, or some other piece of equipment.
Playing wall ball is one useful drill. This should be done with a handball. With a handball, you stand against a wall and bounce it. When the ball comes back, you hit it with your hand and try to increase the power and speed each time.
To make it even more difficult, use your weaker hand. And, to add even more, play with a friend and you each take turns hitting the ball against the wall.
With a friend, the ball becomes unpredictable and you really have to rely on your hand-eye coordination to keep the ball going.
Wall ball can be played with a traditional hand ball or to make the drill more difficult, hockey goalies can use misshapen balls. This way, the ball’s trajectory off of the wall will be totally unpredictable.
Play video games
Even though it is not an athletic way to develop hand-eye coordination, many experts suggest that hockey players and other athletes play video games.
The best games for hand-eye coordination are the action games, like first-person shooter games.
While they do not help as much as the athletic games that involve hitting balls and moving targets, they do help. There have been plenty of studies done on how action video games do improve hand-eye coordination.
In most of the studies, the games were played for no more than one hour per day. Athletes should spend more time practicing and conditioning rather than playing video games.
Eye exercises that help
Lastly, hand-eye coordination can be improved by exercising the eyes.
This only requires a few minutes of work per day and the benefits are immense. All you need are two objects that are the same size and have plenty of details on them. Magazines work well. Put one magazine 10 feet away and the other 18 inches away.
Stare at the close one for about five seconds, then look at the one that is far away for the same amount of time. Look closely at the details and as you switch from near to far and back again look for more details.
This exercise can also be done by placing the magazines to the left and right and looking from side to side.