Eye-Hand Coordination

Eye-Hand Coordination

For handball goalkeepers, one key skill underpins their success more than any other, and it’s eye-hand coordination. This interesting “dance” between sight and action is not just a beneficial skill but a basis of excellent performance in handball goalkeeping.

But why is this specific coordination held in such high regard? And how can it be the make-or-break factor for those protecting the goal? This blog post dives into the critical importance of eye-hand coordination in handball goalkeeping, exploring how it serves as the foundation on which game-winning saves are built. From improving reaction times to improving decision-making skill. For beginners and senior level goalkeepers, understanding and improving it could be the key to unlocking your full potential on the court.  



What is Eye-Hand Coordination?

Eye-hand coordination refers to how quickly and accurately an athlete’s muscles and hands react to the input of visual messages gathered by the eyes. It is the coordinated control of eye movement with hand movement, and the processing of visual input to guide reaching and grasping along with the use of proprioception of the hands to guide the eyes.

Eye-hand coordination, also known as visuo-motor coordination, is the synchronized control of eye movement with hand movement. This skill enables an individual to process visual input (what they see) and guide their hand movements in response, effectively translating visual information into physical action.

It involves the harmonious collaboration between the visual system, the brain, and the muscles to perform tasks with precision and accuracy. All of which are extremely important for handball goalkeepers. In essence, hand-eye coordination is about how well one’s eyes and hands work together under the direction of the brain.

It’s a fundamental skill that affects a wide range of everyday activities and specialized tasks, from writing and typing to driving, playing sports, and beyond. In sports, particularly those requiring quick reflexes and precise movements like handball, it’s a critical ability that directly impacts performance.

The development and refinement of hand-eye coordination involve several cognitive processes, including visual perception (the ability to interpret and make sense of visual stimuli), motor planning (the brain’s process of planning and executing physical actions), and spatial awareness (understanding the position of objects in space relative to oneself). By improving eye-hand coordination, individuals can improve their ability to perform complex movements with greater speed, accuracy, and efficiency.  


How Important Eye-Hand Coordination is For Handball Goalkeepers?

I will say this clearly enough, and I will still say it probably thousand times more: it is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT for handball goalkeepers! When we see handball ball coming towards us (if we “see” the ball), we use the visual information from our eyes to react.

Visual information influences every goalkeeper’s decisions in front of the goal based on what the goalkeeper can “see” happening, and based on their interpretation of player’s movement, position or game overall.

To put simply enough: we can’t save what we can’t see!  We must constantly judge both speed and distance of the player and of the ball, and predict possible outcomes, based on the movements and positions of shooters.

The required decision-making we make in the goal is based on accurate visual information. It’s exceptionally important for handball goalkeepers, given the demanding nature of their role on the court. This skill is a key component for goalkeeper performance, affecting virtually every aspect of goalkeeper game.

Here are a few reasons for why eye-hand coordination is so critical for handball goalkeepers:

Improving Reaction Times

The ability to react quickly to shots, which can reach speeds of over 100 km/h, is essential for goalkeepers. Eye-hand coordination plays a pivotal role in minimizing the reaction time by enabling goalkeepers to quickly interpret the ball’s trajectory and execute the necessary movements to save the shot. Good eye-hand coordination helps goalkeepers react faster to shots. This speed is extremely important, especially for close-range shots where reaction time can make the difference between a save and a goal.  


Improving Save Accuracy

Accurate hand movements, guided by precise visual input, allow goalkeepers to not only save the ball but also control where it goes afterwards. This can be crucial in preventing rebounds that might lead to scoring opportunities for the opposing team. Goalkeepers with high skills in eye-hand coordination can better position their hands to intercept or deflect shots, reducing potential amount of received goals.  


Better Ball Tracking

Eye-hand coordination enables goalkeepers to track the ball’s trajectory more effectively, from the moment it leaves the shooter’s hand until it reaches the goal. This skill is crucial for anticipating the ball’s path and making successful saves.  


Improved Decision Making

High-level eye-hand coordination allows goalkeepers to quickly assess a situation and decide the best course of action when it comes to saving shots. This quick decision-making is essential for handling fast-paced shots and complex game situations. A goalkeeper’s decision on how to make a save depends significantly on their ability to quickly assess the situation and coordinate their hands accordingly. Eye-hand coordination is fundamental in making these split-second decisions effectively.  


Supporting Anticipation Skills

Good eye-hand coordination helps goalkeepers anticipate the ball’s path before the shot is even executed. This involves reading the shooter’s body language, body, arm and hand position, and predicting the ball’s trajectory, allowing for proactive rather than reactive saves.  


Reducing Injury Risks

When goalkeepers have excellent eye-hand coordination, they’re better equipped to make saves with proper technique, which can reduce the risk of injuries. Accurate coordination helps in aligning the body correctly, thus preventing unnecessary strain or impact injuries. Better control and precision in movement can help goalkeepers avoid injuries. Proper positioning and technique in using their hands and arms for saves can reduce the risk of strains and impacts.  


Adaptability to Different Shot Types

Effective eye-hand coordination equips goalkeepers to adapt to various shot types, including fast breaks, spin shots, and lob shots. This adaptability is crucial for anticipating and reacting to different strategies used by attackers.  


Increasing Consistency

Consistency in goalkeeping performance is often what differentiates the good from the great goalkeeper. With refined eye-hand coordination, goalkeepers can maintain a high level of performance throughout a game and across different matches, contributing significantly to their team’s defensive stability.  


Increased Confidence

As goalkeepers improve their eye-hand coordination, their confidence in making saves and handling high-pressure situations increases. This confidence can positively affect their overall game performance and the team’s success and mental strength.    


Why is it so Important Overall in Sport?

Visual coordination affects timing, speed of reaction, body control and balance. While the emphasis of certain visual skills differs from one sport to another, these skills are always a critical factor for peak performance.  Cross-training them will help you reach a higher level in any activity.  


How Can we Improve it?

With deliberate vision training exercises that require the synchronization of motor movements with visual input. Eye-hand coordination tends to decline when we stop developing it.

Effective exercises can vary from simple visual-response tasks that require minimal brain processing, to more complex visual-response tasks that require greater analysis of visual information, such as juggling, soft toss, or computerized target shooting games, etc.

Improving eye-hand coordination in handball goalkeeper training involves specific drills and practices designed to improve the synchronization of visual input with hand movement. Eye-hand coordination exercises can vary widely, incorporating different patterns and complexities can challenge and improve coordination, reaction time, and precision.

Here are some common patterns and types of exercises that can be used, especially useful for handball goalkeepers and athletes in general:  


Ball Tracking Exercises

Focus on moving objects: Have the goalkeeper track different sized balls (handballs, tennis balls, etc.) with their eyes as they are thrown in various directions. This helps improve tracking skills and visual focus, essential for following the ball’s trajectory during games.  


Tracking Exercises

These exercises involve following moving objects with the eyes while maintaining focus and readiness to react. This can include following balls on strings, LED lights on reaction boards, signaling light systems with semaphores, or even digital simulations that move unpredictably in different patterns across a screen.  


Catching and Throwing

Simple but effective, catching and throwing exercises with different options – using different sizes or weights of balls, changing the throwing angle, or introducing new movements – help improve timing and precision in eye-hand coordination.  


Ball Bouncing

Bouncing a ball against a wall or against a floor and catching it with one hand or alternating hands, possibly with variations in height, speed, or using multiple balls, challenges coordination and reaction speed.  


Reaction Drills

Fast-paced catches: Use quick, close-range throws towards the goalkeeper, varying the speed and direction. This forces the goalkeeper to react quickly, improving their response time and precision in catching or saving the ball. Light reaction systems: Utilize modern training tools like reaction lights, where goalkeepers must quickly touch or catch lights or objects that illuminate randomly, improving reaction speed and decision-making under pressure.  



Starting with two balls and progressing to more, juggling is a great way to develop timing, rhythm, and the ability to track multiple objects simultaneously, improving both eye-hand coordination and concentration.  


Apps and Video Games

Utilize technology: Certain video games and mobile applications are designed to improve cognitive functions, including hand-eye coordination. Integrating these tools into training can make the process engaging while working on crucial reaction and precision skills.  


Sequencing Exercises

Activities that require following a specific sequence of movements or actions (like touch-screen games or complex drills involving catching, moving to a new location, and then performing another action) boost memory, coordination, and the ability to process and react to complex patterns.  


Precision Throws

Target practice: Set up targets within the goal and have the goalkeeper practice throwing balls to hit these targets. This aids in accurate ball distribution, a key skill for initiating counterattacks.  


Target Hitting

Exercises where the goal is to hit specific targets with a ball can range from static targets to moving ones, improving precision, timing, and the ability to predict and react to movement.  


Dynamic Stability and Coordination Drills

Combine stability and ball handling: Performing stability exercises on unstable surfaces (like balance boards or Bosu balls) while catching or throwing can enhance coordination, as it forces the goalkeeper to stabilize their body while focusing on hand movements.  


Visual Training Exercises

Improve visual acuity and peripheral vision: Exercises that strengthen eye muscles and expand the field of vision can be beneficial. Practices like focusing on objects at varying distances quickly or using peripheral vision to track objects can improve visual input.  


Visual Motor Integration Exercises

These are more complex drills, and they can include tasks like drawing or tracing while looking in a mirror, which challenges the brain to adapt movements based on visual feedback that doesn’t directly align with hand movements.  


Mental Imagery and Visualization

Visualize successful movements – Mental training, where goalkeepers visualize making successful saves and reacting precisely, can reinforce neural pathways associated with hand-eye coordination, improving performance even off the court.  


Progressive Overload

Gradually increase difficulty – As goalkeepers become more skilled, increasing the difficulty of the drills (faster balls, more unpredictable trajectories) can continue to challenge and develop their coordination skills. By incorporating any of these, or a combination of these patterns into training, athletes can significantly improve their eye-hand coordination, leading to better performance in their sport.

For handball goalkeepers, these exercises are particularly valuable for improving their ability to make split-second saves, accurately predict player movements and shot trajectories, and effectively react in any moment to the dynamic nature of the game.  



Video – Alternate Hand Wall Toss

Here is a simple hand-eye drill “Alternate Hand Wall Toss” that you can do with one, with two, or with three balls. If you want to increase the difficulty, you can make tosses faster, and you can stand closer or further away from the wall.



Video – Eye-Hand Coordination – Different Patterns

In the video below you can see a few different patterns and options of exercises for eye-hand coordination.
I love using these exercises in my coaching work with handball goalkeepers, but they can be used widely in any sport, with any athlete.
You can always include these options, or create some new own ideas! They are very fun and extremely useful for athletes!


Option 1
Right hand is moving to the left and to the right, and it’s throwing and catching green and orange bean bags. The bean bags are flying straight up (they are not crossing and not going around in a circle). After doing this with the right hand, you can try the same thing with the left hand.  

Option 2

Right hand keeps doing the same throws like in option 1 and then left hand joins to throw yellow bean bag at the same time when the orange (outside) bean bag goes up. So the pattern is such that the two outside bean bags are thrown up at the same time and the middle bean bag goes up alone.  

Option 3

Combined flow of option 1 and option 2.  

Option 4

The same as option 2, but now one outside bean bag will go up alone and the other outside bean bag and the middle one will go together up.  

Video – Eye-Hand Coordination Drill With Cards

In the video below, you can see a fun drill to work on eye-hand coordination with your goalkeepers.

You can do a basic version which is presented in the video, with one or a few goalkeepers simultaneously.

Or you can add additional tasks before or after catching each next card. The tasks can be either goalkeeper specific save reactions for saves of high, or middle, or low shots; 180 or 360 degrees jump turns; forward or backwards somersaults; etc. You can be as creative as you want with additional tasks.


Video – Eye-Hand-Foot Coordination

In the video below, you can see some of the exercises for eye-hand-foot coordination with additional tasks for improving the speed of decision making. with the TestYou Brain Training System.



Video – TestYou Eye-Hand Coordination

In the video below, you can see some of the exercises with the TestYou Brain Training System with the topic of the eye-hand coordination, with additional tasks for improving the speed of decision making. Options of exercises and levels of difficulty are literally endless and they depend on your creativity!



Video – FSN Sport Science – Episode 3 – Reaction Time – Tennis Test

Interesting video for the end: Take a look at this video where FSN Sport Science conducts the ultimate test to determine which athletes have the best hand-eye coordination:  




In Conclusion

This complex skill is not just an asset for handball goalkeepers, it’s a necessity. The ability to synchronize visual information with motor responses directly impacts a goalkeeper’s efficiency, effectiveness, and overall performance on the court. Developing and improving this skill is crucial for anyone who wants to excel in the demanding and pivotal role of a handball goalkeeper.    




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All content (such as text, data, graphics files, images, illustrations, videos, sound files), and all other materials contained in www.vanjaradic.fi are copyrighted unless otherwise noted and are the property of Vanja Radic Coaching. If you want to cite or use any part of the content from my website, you need to get the permission first, so please contact me for that matter.