Figure-8s - These will help you develop a feel for the puck on your stick and enable you to keep the puck away from a defender, but without curling, so you can maintain forward progress towards the goal. Start with the puck in front of you, with your arm extended slightly (but not all the way) forward. Point your stick straight forward, so the passing edge is facing towards your right (left, if left-handed). Slowly sweep the puck to your right and slightly backwards, until your arm is extended all the way to your right. As you reach that fully-extended point, gradually pivot your stick around behind the puck and push it forward (still at arm's reach to the right of you). Continue to swing the puck around and pivot your stick again so the passing edge of your stick is facing back towards you (tricky, since you need to alter your grip on the stick and bend your wrist at an awkward angle) and sweep the puck back to the starting position. Continue moving the puck back and to your left until it is at arm's reach to your LEFT, sweep it forward and back around to the starting point once again. The puck should have travelled in a big, sideways Figure-Eight. Once you start to get the hang of it, try it while swimming forward. Then learn to do it while swimming AND without looking at the puck.
Passing Over an Obstacle - This is an important drill if you would like to be able to throw higher and longer passes. It will also help you build confidence in your ability to make the puck go where you want it to go. Before beginning this, or any advanced passing drill, be sure to 'warm up' your wrist by doing some figure-8s and throwing 10 or 20 short, easy passes. Start with an obstacle that is short - 2 or 3 inches high, at most. Set the obstacle on the pool bottom and try to throw the puck over it - experiment with different starting distances between the puck and the obstacle - 12 to 18 inches away is probably the easiest. Think about getting your stick under the puck and throwing it up as you push it away from you. This is best done by rocking your stick back with a twisting motion of the wrist (like revving the engine on a motorcycle by twisting the handle grip) as you start the 'push' phase of your pass. The motion needs to be quick, yet smooth. Once you start to get the hang of it, gradually increase the height of the barrier, and try shooting from further away, too. As with any passing drill, don't get discouraged - it will take a LOT of practice.
Inside Flick - Being able to pass or shoot the puck with the 'passing' edge of your stick is good. Being able to pass or shoot with ALL the edges of your stick is even better. Start with the 'inside' or 'back' flick. The three key elements of a good flick (push, spin and lift) apply to inside flicks as well, but the motions to produce them are quite different. Start with your arm out in front of you, your elbow slightly bent, your stick pointing straight forward, and the puck on the back side of your stick, close to or even touching the tip of your thumb. The 'push' part of the flick is accomplished by swinging your entire arm so as to push the puck with the stick (If you're right-handed, you'll be pushing the puck to the left, and vice-versa). The 'spin' is imparted to the puck by pulling the stick towards your body (just like with a forward flick, the idea is to get the puck to 'roll' off the end of the stick). The 'lift' is produced by flexing your wrist and elbow up, bringing the stick up and away from the pool bottom as you complete the flicking motion. These motions will probably feel awkward at first, and it may take you a long time to get good at this - don't get discouraged! It is also a good idea to try various stick designs when learning this skill, as some sticks work much better than others (The amount of 'hook' at the end of the stick is the most significant factor). Once you get the hang of this drill, you can make it more interesting by using the top and bottom surface of your stick to flick the puck, varying the direction of the flick, flicking over a barrier, etc.
Passing While Swimming Once you get the hang of swimming and passing the puck, it is very useful to practice doing them both at the same time. This might sound trivial at first, but if you pay close attention, you will probably find that you stop kicking - if only for a brief moment - when winding up to shoot or pass the puck. This brief pause is actually fairly critical, as it serves to reduce your forward momentum and also to telegraph your move (in this case a shot or pass) to the opponent. To overcome this problem, practice shooting the puck while focusing on maintaining a smooth, un-interrupted kick. Go slowly at first, and make very small passes - perhaps only a third or a quarter of the distance you can pass while stationary. The trick to this drill is to try to keep your legs and lower body performing a smooth finning motion, even while your arm and shoulder is engaged in the passing motion. Practice using both dolphin and flutter kick. Once you get the hang of it, make the drill tougher by speeding up, shooting the puck further and higher, and changing the direction of the shot (forward, left, right, etc.). Once you can do this at full speed, you will be surprised at how often you can catch an opponent off-guard with a quick, snappy pass to a team-mate or a shoot-and-chase manoeuvre.
Advanced underwater workouts
- FUs - This is an acronym for 'Full Unders' usually done in a 25-yard (or meter) pool, an FU consists of finning the entire length of the interval while underwater. Breathing is allowed only at the pool walls (i.e. you must complete each length of the pool before surfacing to take a breath) and breathing time is included in the reported time for the interval. For example, if the interval is a 100-yard FU, and you complete each of the four 25-yard lengths in 14 seconds and pause for 3 seconds to breathe each time you reach a wall, the total time for the 100FU would be 4x14 + 3x3 = 65seconds. (Only 3 breathing pauses matter, as the interval ends immediately when you complete the 100 yards by reaching the wall at the end of the 4th length. Once you get the hang of FUs, you can make more and more challenging workouts by increasing the lengths of the intervals (e.g. 200FUs, 300FUs, etc.), performing multiple FUs one after another with a limited amount of time to complete each one, or simply by forcing yourself to go faster and spend less time breathing at each wall. For comparing your performance to other underwater hockey players, consider that anything under 60seconds is considered 'good' for a 100-yd FU. If you can break 50 seconds, contact your local underwater hockey recruiter, because you can probably 'walk on' to your country's team for the World Championships!
- 25 cubed - This workout consists of finning 25 lengths, each one 25 yards (or meters if you want to make it more challenging) long, underwater, and taking exactly 25 seconds for each length, including any breathing time required while hanging on the wall at the beginning or end of the length (as with FUs, breathing is not allowed anywhere except at the walls). There are two very different ways to do this drill - you can fin slowly and keep your heart-rate low, aiming to complete each length in approximately 20-24 seconds, allowing yourself only enough time to take one or two breaths at each wall, or you can go more quickly and attempt to recover from the exertions in the extra time you'll have on each wall