Pre-scanning: what we can learn from football?

Pre-scanning is, apparently, one of the most important hockey skills. It sounds straightforward, but what exactly should be be scanning for and how can you improve your vision?

Here’s some pointers…

  • Elite India hockey player Manpreet Singh believes scanning is the key to good hockey. He says whenever you receive the ball, you must know where you are going to pass it next because you’ve already looked around, or pre-scanned. You should give and go, holding the ball for no more than three seconds. Pre-scanning allows you to act faster. If you can’t pass control the ball or lay it back to players behind you.
  • Look properly and be aware of distractions. This video by sports scientist Dr Graham Phillips about eye-tracking and football is fascinating. At 3:40 he talks about how players are often attracted to movement – seeing a player making a lot of heat and noise and possibly missing a better pass from a player who is quietly camped out in a lot of space. He says we also automatically scan left to right when our mother-tongue is read on the page left to right. At 5:07 he shows how an elite player scans methodically, starting in the middle and then looking left to right. Scanning the whole field quickly to find the best pass.
  • Learn from football. There’s lots of footage of elite football player pre-scanning for the best pass, such as these clips of Lionel Messi and  Frank Lampard. He looks repeatedly before he receives the ball and then knows exactly what he’s going to do with it. Messi scans 12 times in this clip before receiving the ball. This clip of Pirlo scanning on the football pitch is pretty good too.
  • Don’t ball watch. Be more aware of your surroundings rather than just ball training. When ball comes to you, you’ll have no idea what to do with it. Look for opportunities to move ball into space or pass. Catch yourself ball watching and when you’re not aware of what’s around. Look for space and opportunities. Defensively, be aware of where the danger might be coming from rather than just watching the player on the ball. Watch for players making a run in behind you. Play with your head up – hold your top elbow high and bend deeper if you want to get better vision.
  • Simply Soccer recommends ‘constant checks’ every few seconds. Make sure even when you don’t have the ball, you keep looking around so you know exactly what’s going on. He also recommends studying players who are really good at pre-scanning to see what they do in their games. Watch match footage and live matches, especially high level matches to watch players that need to operate in tight areas. These are the players that usually have good awareness. Do ‘constant checks’ even when you are at training or even practicing by yourself.
  • When you receive the ball you need to already have scanned for where the pressure is and where the open space is. As you receive move the ball into space.
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