Penalty Corners: Drag Flicks
Drag flicks present a huge problem for keepers in that they increase the variables that a keeper must deal with on penalty corners. Previously, the straight hit was the primary option and logging became the popular technique for dealing with the well struck shot.
In my previous tip on logging, I talked about a corner set up for defense and touched on the positioning of the post player and the keeper. In that set up the post player is even with the keeper and to his left when the shot is taken which requires the keeper to effectively cover the three yards to the right of the post player (facing out). Most keepers are looking to get low and extend to their right when dropping to log and that presents a problem with balance for options and especially the drag flick.
Drag flicks require the keeper to play in a more upright and balanced stance. No longer is goalkeeper's responsibility the three yards to the right of the post player and the height of the backboard. Now he has to cover that three yards and the height of the crossbar. You need to remember that you still have a post player and he is still responsible for shots at him. If you're area of responsibility is the right side of the goal you're not going to set up on an angle to cover the whole goal, you're going to set up slightly to the right.
As I mentioned, balance is key. Your weight needs to be evenly balanced on both feet. When keepers are anticipating a shot to a side (like their right) they tend to load their weight on the opposite leg (left foot) to get full extension. That's fine if the shot is going to the right, but you're stuck if the ball goes to your left. Make sure you keep your shoulders over or between your feet. That will help keep your weight evenly distributed.
A keeper must be able to get to high and low corners on drag flicks and that requires a more explosive, bigger stance. At the top levels you see keepers keeping their hands up and out to reduce the distance they need to react to make saves to the upper corners. This also adds the illusion of size.
The width of your stance will also impact whether you can use your legs or hands to make a save on low flicks. The wider you are in your stance, the harder it's going to be to save low flicks with your legs. That typically results in the keeper diving with his hand on shots to the left.
Because of the mechanics of the drag flick, it is a deceptive shot. A strike is fairly straightforward because the ball comes off the stick head. A drag flick starts on the stick shaft and the shot location will depend on the release point. It's a hard shot to read and keepers typically have problems because as soon as they see flick, they think aerial shot. Track the ball from the pushout to the stop and react to the shot. Focus on the ball, not the striker.
The reality of corners is that when they are well executed they're lethal. Even when you know what the corner is and where the shot is going, there is a high success rate for scoring. Having said that, don't eliminate yourself by getting caught up in reacting to dummy hits and motion at the top of the circle. Successful penalty corner defense is a team effort. Your rusher has to be fearless and have the courage and confidence to limit or block the shot at the top. Your post player has got to be able to cover his area. You can't cover everything by yourself. The most realistic expectation is for you to save the saveable.
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