Bowling machine replaces penalty corner striker

Junior Hockey World CupIndian goalkeeping coach David Staniforth (right) at a practice session (IE Photo)

When coach David Staniforth had the two goalkeepers of the Indian Junior team practice penalty corner drills in a practice session on Tuesday evening, there were no striker around the D. Doing the job of PC experts was a bowling machine the one cricketers use during training.

Instead of the goalkeepers watching for someone to take the push and then a stopper setting up the ball for the drag flicker, they waited for Staniforth to call out "push . stop..." The coach would then feed a ball to the machine set low on the ground, which would fire it out for the keeper to stop. To make the job harder Staniforth trained the machine on plastic wedge boards usually used for slip catching practice to have the balls change trajectory.

Staniforth says the uses of bowling machine wasn't new . "It's not as if we have never been using this machine before. I used it with the seniors at the national camp in Bhopal this year. But this is the first time we are using it in a practice session for juniors," he said.

There are plenty of advantages. Strikers can be left to train on other areas of their game while goalkeepers get focused training. "A keeper may have a problem with one kind of strike. But a striker won't always be able to target that area. Using this machine I can train a goalkeeper without depending on a striker. If I want to focus on any area I can land the ball in exactly that spot," he says.

90 miles per hour

The machine's specs say it can release balls at around 90 miles an hour which is roughly the speed at which drag flicks are taken. However the actual speeds seem lower. "The speed when it reaches the keeper is less because we use the slip catching board to give a deviation to the ball. Also because the ball is wet, it tends to skid inside the machine. That also reduces the speed," explains Staniforth.

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