Clubhouse: The last line

Maddie Hinch makes a diving save

The Clubhouse, the new England Hockey Magazine insert, delivers interviews, tips and coaching guides straight to your letterbox or perhaps even your clubhouse. For the most recent issue, we asked England's two resident shot-stoppers to pass on their knowledge.

If there's one position on the pitch that calls for constant focus, it's the player between the sticks. Maddie Hinch, the England women's keeper, talks maintaining her focus and the best drills for sharpening your game.

During a match is it hard to stay focused?

It’s definitely a challenge. I think it becomes a bit easier as you get older, I used to get so easily distracted and in the quieter times my mind would wander towards what I was going to have for dinner or something. I’ve had to learn techniques to maintain my focus – this is where the mental side of goalkeeping becomes so hard. Stopping the ball is relatively straightforward; it’s what you tell yourself during the game.

What about those games where you’re not busy at all?

In the games where you’re not tested much you have to keep yourself in the game. I do a lot of talking to the defence and I find that works well for me. The more I talk to them the more I’m switched on. If I find myself getting quiet then I know I have to bring myself back into the game. There are some games   in which we’re so much on top that we’re constantly in their 25 yard line so I can’t organise the defence, when that happens I tend to just commentate to myself! It’s just anything that will enable me to stay switched on, but that’s easier said than done and I’m definitely still learning!

How do you cope psychologically when you make an error?

Again this is stuff that I’m learning more and more about the more that I play. I used to just blame myself for everything and in my head it was always my fault but you just have to remind yourself that whilst you are the last line you do need a good team around you. You find that when keepers have top games generally everyone around them has done their job really well as well. It’s usually a team effort.

But when that fails and you let one in that you could have stopped?

I think when you know you’ve made a real cock-up you just have to try and overcome it. I actually have a bit of a technique where I’ll just go behind my goal and have a drink of my water bottle. When I’m walking back on to the pitch I’ll throw my water bottle back behind my goal and that’s quite important, that’s me throwing away the error that’s just taken place. When you’re on the pitch it has to be gone, there’s no point in thinking about it. That moment is passed and you have to focus on what you’re going to do next, I tend to go and talk positively to the backline and just smile to myself. It’s all those little things that help you to overcome an error but again it’s easier said than done, especially when you’re playing in front of a large group of people!

What are your favourite type of drills?

We’re quite lucky because we have John Hurst the goalkeeping coach who works with us and I like spending time with him because that gives us a lot of time to work on specific things. I like throwing myself around, I always have, and if I need to wake myself up I’ll probably just do a real quickfire drill with John or with the forwards. I love shooting, I love it when the forwards are involved, working with John is sometimes boring but that’s the stuff that you know needs to be done to allow you to go in and make saves look a lot easier than they are.

Do you look at other goalkeepers and attempt to emulate them?

The top goalkeepers don’t tend to do anything too dramatic, they’re just usually very solid, and they’re the good keepers and that’s the level I’m aspiring to. I don’t want to have to do anything dramatic, I want to be in the right place with the right technique. I like all the fun, close-shooting exercises but you need to do the more technical exercises as well.

What would be your main advice for an aspiring goalkeeper?

The main thing is that keepers have to back themselves. If you have a keeper who isn’t quite sure about their own abilities then that’s the worst position to be in. Even if you’re feeling a little bit rubbish, or you don’t believe you can do it, you almost have to give off the sense that you’re confident because your teammates rely a lot of how your keeper feels. It’s not arrogance, it’s a confidence, you have to demonstrate that in your body language. When I coach keepers I say ‘puff out your chest, stand there with a little bit of swagger and challenge people to beat you’.

And if they crack that?

I tell them to enjoy themselves and start throwing themselves around the D! A lot of them think they just have to stand there and take the shots but nobody really cares about how the shots are stopped, as long as they don’t go in. There’s obviously technical stuff which can help you improve as a keeper but, to be honest, as long as you’re getting in the way then it doesn’t really matter.

To read George Pinner's tips on goalkeeping, as well as loads of other great tips and features, download the latest copy of The Clubhouse, available at the bottom of the page!