All attackers can improve their game by honing their defensive skills.
The best attackers, so I am reliably informed by our team coaches, also know how to defend. If an attacker loses the ball, no matter where they are in the pitch even if they are in their attacking D, they must instantly switch into ‘defender’ mode and try and win the ball back again. The aim is to try and keep the ball in your attacking 25 to give you another chance on goal – and stop breakaway runs by the opposition. Always remember, you are the first line of defense near your attacking goal – even if you are a left wing, like myself – right wing or centre forward.
The best attackers track back when they’ve lost the ball. The weaker attackers just watch on helplessly as the ball is taken back down the pitch. Don’t stand for it – get angry and get that ball back. It’s yours, it’s in your attacking area – get it back immediately! If you adopt this mind set, your team captain will love you – the most useful attackers track back – and you’ll create more attacking chances.
It’s also worth knowing where and how to place yourself when the opposite team win an 18 yard free hit. Defenders in club hockey often have the hardest, scariest hits on the pitch – so rather than diving straight in position yourself so you can channel, hurry and jab at them. This will stress them and rush them into making a poor pass. This is often your best tactic – and safest.
Here’s a very useful clip from England Hockey running through all the basics of defending.
Defensive positioning stance: Make sure you never stand flat – like a sumo wrestler waiting for a fight. Instead, stagger your feet and stay on the balls of your feet so you can quickly change direction.
Don’t leap in for a tackle: A defender in our club has recently been playing at a higher level more regularly with our first team. She said the main thing she had learned was not to dive in too quickly: committing yourself makes it easier for an attacking player to get past you. Instead, shadow, channel and bide your time.
Both hands on the stick: One handed tackles are mostly useless, unless you are jabbing, so keep strong and both hands on the stick.
This video from Mark Knowles gives some great pointers for tackling.
Finally, this discussion thread on the marvellous Field Hockey Forum is useful about defensive strategies. Field Hockey Forum defensive positioning