Hockey Sticks Guide: Head Shape
Since the advent of artificial playing surfaces a number of different head shapes have been developed in order to provide greater control, especially on the reverse stick side. More recently with the improvement in quality control standards and technological advances, a number of manufacturers have also introduced some innovations which aim to provide improved feel for the ball and overall control. In this section we aim to provide an overview of the options available and highlight some of the latest developments in hockey stick head technology.
Choosing the Correct Head Shape
- Shorti Head:
Prior to the introduction of laminate head technology (see materials section for more info) the limitations of a solid Mulberry wood head construction resulted in the development of the Shorti head. The Shorti has a very short head recurve and as a result offers a very small hitting sweet spot and very limited surface are area on the reverse stick side for ball control. Demand for this head shape has dwindled over the last 10 years or so as players recognise the benefits of the greater surface area offered by other head styles, the exception being some internationals who take advantage of the smaller head to develop faster dribbling skills. Indoor hockey is another area of the sport where the Shorti head has not suffered a complete demise, due to the tendency to play much lower to the ground especially on the reverse stick side.
- Maxi Head:
Developed initially in the early 1990s with the development of laminate head construction, the Maxi filled the demand for a head shape that provided more control area on the reverse playing side. An additional side effect of increased surface area was the improved sweet spot for creating maximum power in hit shots and passes. The more open recurve of the Maxi head also led to the development of skills to take advantage of its ability to trap the ball in the space between the toe of the head and the shaft, often called dragging and most noticeable at short corner injections. Now almost universally accepted, the Maxi head is used by 95% of international players and probably 90% of school and club players.
- Hook Head:
Following the development of the Maxi head during the early transition from grass to artificial playing surfaces, many players who still adopted a more upright style called for a head shape with an even greater surface area on the reverse stick side. In response hockey stick manufacturers came up with the Hook head which met all their demands. In recent years as more and more players have adopted a lower playing position, demand for the Hook head has fallen but a small minority of players, usually forwards who pass and receive the ball at pace (and therefore usually more upright) still favour this option. As a result some manufacturers still offer a few sticks in their range with a Hook head.
As a result of the Maxi head being almost universally adopted manufacturers turned their attention to developing new and innovative features to aid players in other aspects of their game. Several manufacturers have introduced features to some of the sticks in their ranges aimed at providing an area of the hockey stick's head in which the ball has a tendency to sit whilst carrying the ball in the normal dribbling position.
The resulting developments have a number of benefits, but may also have a number of flaws depending on your individual style of play but generally make use of the FIH's specification which allows the face of the stick to deviate from a flat plane by up to 4mm.
- TK CWT 1 Profile
TK's CWT (Control Wing Technology) features an indented or concave playing surface running from the toe all the way round the head and continues roughly 20cm up the shaft of the stick. Usually available in conjuction with a late bow shaft profile, this combination results in a stick which would prove particularly attractive to drag flick specialists who use the indented channel down the shaft as a means to control the ball more accurately during the flicking motion. The indented head area is particularly adept at aiding the player control the ball whilst performing open and reverse stick dribbling skills and also provides greater control of the ball when attempting aerial flicks.
The main flaw in this otherwise superb development becomes especially apparant if you are an upright player trying to receive a bobbling ball. When attempting to control a ball with the shaft in an roughly vertical orrientation the ball has a tendency to rebound in slightly unexpected directions.
- TK CWT 2 / Kookaburra Skill Zone
The revised CWT2 profile from TK and the Kookaburra Skill Zone would seem to have been developed simutaneously as an evolution of the TK CWT design. These new profiles make available the benefits of the concave face design to the regular player by reducing the distance up shaft the intented area extends to 5cm. As a result you still gain the greater ball control whilst dribbling and flicking but are now have a more consistent rebound/stopping ability down the shaft.
- Grays Scoop Profile
The Grays Scoop range once again uses a 4mm indentation to the playing surface of the head in order to offer greater control. However, unlike both TK and Kookaburra designs whereby the indent is uniform throughtout the head with the transitions limited to the edges leaving a flat central playing surface, the Scoop design features a radial indentation which is deepest at the inner recurve of the stick and transitions to the flat/planar surface in all directions.
The scoop exhibits a fantastic ability to keep the ball under control in the central area of the stick's head and can offer some additional degree of control when receiving balls. On the downside, due to the lack of a flat playing surface, hitting from an upright position of with poor technique can result in a loss of control causing the ball going into the air.
- Voodoo Banana Profile
In order to provide the additional control that can be achieved with the use of a concave/indented head Voodoo adopted a slightly different approach. The Banana Toe results in a 4mm curvature of the head's toe. This unique feature provides slightly increased ball control in the open stick position but really proves its worth when controling the dribble on thr reverse side. The recurved toe, overcomes the natural under-rotation of the stick which often sees the ball end up between your feet, by changing the angle with which the toe makes contact with the ball forcing the ball out in front of you. One small side-effect of this design is the tendency for the ball to clip the toe when trying to dragflick.
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