John Hurst: Clean Sheet

John Hurst: clean sheet

John Hurst is a former England and Great Britain goalkeeper and goalkeeper coach, working with the worlds best goalkeepers including Maddie Hinch, Beth Storey and Simon Mason.

In recent years John has also held the Position of Goalkeeping Performance Manager for England Hockey, managing the goalkeeper coaching throughout the Performance programmes.

He shares his insights with us on the unique world of goalkeeping.

1. Playing history

I represented England and Great Britain between 1977 and 1988 with a total of over 100 International appearances including Champions’ Trophies, European and World Cups.

I captained England on several occasions between 1979 and 1981 and was in England and Great Britain teams which won World Cup Silver, European Indoor Silver, European Bronze and Champions’ Trophy Silver Medals.

john hurst england hockey captain

I was in the Great Britain Squad in preparation for the 1988 Seoul Olympics finishing my career as non-travelling reserve for the Olympic Gold Medal winning team

2. Cat or dog?


3. Managing or goalkeeper coaching?

Both equally rewarding

4. Best sporting highlight?

There are so many but Rio Gold with the women is at the top.

winning hockey olympic gold

5. Surf or turf?

Surf (I love seafood!)

6. Sporting idol

Gordon Banks

7. Why do you love goalkeeping

Goalkeeping is not just a (part of a) game, it is also an Art! You may have noticed that goalkeepers are different in many ways to field players. There is only 1 per team of 11 players but look at the number of goalkeepers who become administrators/managers/umpires etc. in the game and it is disproportionately high! john hurst quote

8. Top 3 goalkeepers of all time

Impossible question as you can’t compare goalkeepers across differing times. You also have to separate Men and Women. In the modern game (last 5-10 years) I would put Vincent Van Asch and Davey Harte top in the men and Maddie Hinch in the women.

9. Most prolific striker you’ve faced?

Penalty Corners must be Paul Litjens of The Netherlands. Open play, Roderick Bouwman (also The Netherlands)

john hurst with maddie hinch

10. Sum up your playing career in 3 words

Satisfying, rewarding, elating

How many Olympics have you been to and can you describe the experience?

None as a player – 6 as a Management Team member.

Team GB has grown from being a glorified Travel Agent immersed in “Blazer Brigade” self-importance (1992 – my first) to being a well-oiled machine whose sole objective is to provide the best possible environment for the athletes (2016 – my last.)

For two weeks you are the centre of World attention but immersed in a bubble designed to give you the best chance to do well. In 2016 we had no idea that the BBC news was delayed so the Nation could watch the penalty shoot-out against The Netherlands. Team GB does what it says on the tin! It is a TEAM in every sense of the word. There is a huge sense of camaraderie across the sports.

Tell us about your transition for being a goalkeeper to being a goalkeeper coach?

When Ian Taylor and I were playing in international teams, there was no goalkeeper coaching so we developed our own drills and used them to keep us occupied when the coaches were doing other things with the rest! David Vinson had begun to think about techniques like “save-clear” in the late ’70’s’ and we worked with him to develop ideas as well. By the late 1980’s I had been asked to run some courses for goalkeepers and this took off in 1989 after I stopped playing internationally. 

The focus for the previous 4 years (1984-1988) had been on Olympics and a home World Cup at Willesden, London. Not much thought had been given to the next generation of England Senior keepers. Bernie Cotton, newly appointed England Manager and an old teammate at County, Division and England, liked what I had been doing with these goalkeeper courses and asked me to run one for the Hockey Association to bring together all the good goalkeepers in contention for the Senior team. This was a daunting prospect as I was working with international strikers I had played with. I recall that Sean Kerly and Steve Batchelor were there among others. From this we picked Steve Taylor and Sean Rowlands and these two went to the 1990 World Cup in Lahore.

Bernie asked me to join the Management Team as an unpaid goalkeeper coach and video man. (Video was a new thing, having first been used extensively in 1986.) It was unpaid but I was now doing my 50 days a year as National Goalkeeper Coach which involved setting up grassroots courses and teaching coaches how to coach goalkeepers so I could just about afford it.

In your time as a coach, what do you think makes the difference between a good GK and a world class GK?

Determination and a desire to improve plus the mental strength to do everything needed physically and mentally to succeed.

How do you see the game changing in the next 5-10 years?

I think it will get faster and the rules will evolve to make it an even better spectator sport. This will bring more danger for field players and I think we will see them in helmets within 10 years.

If you could give 18 year old John Hurst advice, what would it be?

Watch the ball and Just Play, don’t think.

young john hurst
Finally, what are your top tips to any aspiring goalkeepers out there?

Be imaginative to invent ways you can become better. For example, practise kicking a tennis ball against a wall (no kit) to improve both feet, and play tennis against the wall with your stick.

Practice what you CAN’T do so well, not what you CAN do.

Don’t go rushing round the circle, your job is to defend the goal.

Only dive when you need to.

Don’t go to ground unless you have to.

Be the quickest you can be over 5 and 10 metres.

Practice the techniques (kicking, head over the ball, lunging to the corners without sitting down, diving on your side not your belly and be able to dive both ways) when you are young and they will stay with you.

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