‘Closing down’ in field hockey: how to defend better

Coaches often urge players to ‘close them down’. But what does this actually mean and how do you do it?

Closing down means manoeuvring an opposing player into a position that will make you, the defender, better placed to limit their space so they will make a bad pass or you can make a tackle.

Jane Powell, in Hockey: Skills, Techniques, Tactics says that ‘closing down’ is all about dictating to the attacker which space they can use.

# Close down in a curve to force the attacker on to your stronger, open stick side.

# Maintain the distance of a stick and a step away from your opponent. Get too close and you are easier to eliminate.

# Get as side on as possible. This helps you keep mobile and harder to dodge.

# Jab with your stick and fake with your body to keep attacker’s eyes down and make them feel under pressure. Stop them looking up for passing options.

These skills are shown in the opening few seconds of this England Hockey video. Watch how the defender nearest the camera slightly moves to the left of the picture and starts to angle her body. It subtly forces the attacker to move towards her open stick, giving the defender more control. She jabs and hassles but from a distance so that she doesn’t get in too close to the player. She is side on.

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