Hockey Sticks Guide: Bow

The bow, or rake as it is also known is the amount of curvature along the playing surface of the stick from the top of the handle to the base of the head of a hockey stick. The amount of bow is measured by placing the hockey stick face down on a flat surface and measuring the maximum distance between the surface and the playing surface of the stick.

Over the past decade player's preference of increasingly more bow led initially to an imposed limit of 50mm. Now however, following a rules amendment from the FIH (Hockey's Governing Body). The new ruling setting the maximum level of bow to 25mm came into force as of the 1st of January 2006.

This change to the rules was deemed necessary in response to the development of the drag flick technique for short corner routines, Internationals were regularly producing ball speeds of up to 90 mph and this in turn led to a number of well publicised injuries resulting in the FIH's decision to take action to limit the dangers involved.

In a pre-emptive response to the forthcoming rule change all hockey stick manufacturers limited the hockey sticks in their ranges to a maximum bow of 25mm for the 2005-2006 season, therefore removing many of the products with more extreme bows.

Advantages of Increased Bow

With the new limitations in place, some of the benefits of increased bow have now been reduced but do still offer performance advantages to many players.

  • Slingshot effect:
    As the ball is propelled along the shaft of the stick it builds up speed so that when it leaves the end of the stick it is travelling faster than the speed of the head of the stick (if the technique is executed properly). This technique can be used on both a horizontal plane with the stick parallel to the ground (for passing or drag flicking) or a vertical plane with the stick at right angles to the ground (for aerial passes). Without going into a full explanation of the drag flick technique it is difficult to explain the benefits of increased bow. In general terms it enables the individual to build up initial speed over an increased distance without the ball slipping off the head, provides more energy into the ball in the desired direction of travel and due to the fact that so much of the ball speed is generated at end of the motion a greater level of control (and disguise) is/can be created.
     
  • Dampening:
    The exact opposite effect of a slingshot motion, when receiving the ball with the stick in a horizontal position, parallel to the ground, the bow will work against that natural tendency of the ball to roll up the stick thus providing greater control.
     

Disadvantages of Increased Bow

With the reduced advantages of the new bow limitations comes reduced disadvantages.

  • Hitting & Passing:
    Due to the curvature of a hockey stick with an increased bow, the stick will come into contact with the ball sooner and at a different angle than with a straight or less bowed stick. Depending on the angle of the stick when attempting to strike or pass the ball two different effects are likely to occur. Striking the ball with the stick in a vertical position (i.e. at right angles to the ground) the ball will lift off the ground to a varying extent, depending on the power imparted to the ball. Striking the ball with the stick in a horizontal position (i.e. with the stick parallel to the ground) will cause the ball to move in a direction left of the intended target. Striking the ball with the stick in any position in between is likely to cause the ball to lift and and move in a direction left of the intended target, depending on the sticks angle and the power imparted to the ball.
     
  • Receiving on the Reverse Side:
    When receiving a ball on your reverse stick side, the tendency is to lean the leading edge of the stick towards the ball in order to trap it and instantly gain more control. With a hockey stick with an increased bow when you lean the leading edge of the stick towards the ball the bowed element of the shaft raises further off the ground sometimes leading to the ball slipping underneath the shaft of the stick.

Having listed the disadvantages of a hockey stick with an increased bow, we must point out that all of the disadvantages can be overcome with the development of a slightly altered technique. For many, the change in technique will come very naturally in 2 or 3 training sessions as you get used to the stick and more aware of its differences.

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