An air hockey defeat is definitely up there among the top ten walks of shame – be it during a spontaneous hangout with your friends, a competitive lunch break with a coworker, the big tournament day, or the well-awaited family game night.
We wholeheartedly understand your frustration as the fate-deciding puck once again lands in your goal.
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Therefore, we are here to let you in on our secrets to getting the perfect score. First, brace yourselves for impact or, in other words, prepare a good defense and remember that there is no better offense in air hockey than a good defensive strategy.
Here are a few of our techniques to help you keep every inch of the playfield covered at all times;
1. Correct Your Posture
A common mistake among novice players is that they lean their torso over to cover their side of the table. This prevents them from moving back in time to block a shot. The correct stance would include your torso being perpendicular to the floor as your hands rest on the railings at the side.
To maintain balance, your right leg should be forward with your right knee bent and resting lightly on the table. Focus all your weight on the balls of your feet so you can sprint from side to side quickly.
2. Hold Your Mallet like a Pro
Once you know where to stand, grabbing the mallet with all five of your fingers is probably not the best way to go. When defending the goal, you must keep a few fingers inside the mallet and have a good hold on the outside.
This helps you guide your striker efficiently across the table while not exerting too much force on your arm. The impact remains the same and may even help reduce the time taken to block an incoming shot. Professional players tend to use special gloves or even tape their fingers to the mallet itself for a better grip.
3. Keep the Puck Close
The next step is to track your puck, which involves a bit of multitasking. This technique includes following the puck with your eyes as it moves across the table, as well as matching its movements with your mallet.
Duplicating its directions helps you react to it easily, and not averting your eyes from it gives you the time you would need to plan a strategy. It might seem difficult at first, but developing a good attention span, better reflexes, and dedicated practice will definitely get you on the right track.
However, if you find it difficult to focus on the game and can no longer keep track of your mallet, do not let the puck leave your gaze in any way.
Usually, players tend to send the puck onto the other side as soon as they get ahold of it to maintain a fast pace. This hastiness makes them vulnerable to common trick shots. Instead, you should learn to keep the puck with you for as long as possible.
You can achieve this by bracing your mallet as a way to catch or circle back the puck towards you as often as you can. This will help you drift the puck, plan your next move, and use the element of surprise.
4. Use the Triangle Defense
While a player must constantly adapt their defensive strategy according to their opponent’s body language, playing history, and the scoreboard, a beginner might not have time to think things through. For such a situation, the triangle defense strategy acts as a great backup.
To set this defense, you have to place your hands in a way that allows you to move in a triangle. The best way is to put your mallet above or 2-3 feet from the center of the goal. Here is how the strategy counters three common shots:
Straight shots often tend to come out of nowhere, but the triangle defense is already prepared. Most of these naturally hit your mallet at its original position and don’t go further.
Staying in the center ensures you can move left and right at a moment’s notice. The right space to glide your striker is all you need to block this daunting move.
This action makes use of the rails to get behind your mallet without you knowing. Blocking them too late may even cause you to score on yourself. Moving your mallet down in a diagonal motion will help get in front of it and thus effectively prevent the shot.
5. Beware of the Rebounds
A good player believes and prepares for the consequences of his actions which, in this case, present themselves as rebounds. These are the moves occurring as a result of your own shot missing the goal and ricocheting off the rails.
To prevent humiliation by scoring against yourself, you must know your way around the table and maintain presence of mind even after your move so you can easily counter it in case of a backfire.
Go Get Them!
There is often no right way to win a game, but one can always take precautions against losing. Moreover, the arcade might tell you otherwise, but patience plays a huge role in winning air hockey.
Having a solid defense usually means a good knowledge of the game, unbeatable focus, and multiple plays over a range of table sizes. You can only get better if you learn to adapt to the various ways a game could play out, so determination towards practice is a must.