How using SOB hockey technique can help you score more goals. Tips from an Australian coach

Coach Paul Gaudoin teaches some future team Australia players how to deal with some of the new tactics he has seen emerging in International hockey.

He’s noticed that players are physical and might barge in and dispossess you of the ball. To combat this he insists players must use SOB techniques – stick on ball.

He talks about this at 3:40 into the video – and shows how to get a ball away at the goal for a shot without taking your stick away. Hope it helps you score more goals.



This girl can – how not to pick hockey teams

Why grassroots hockey should never use the ‘captains-pick-teams-one-by-one’ method of team sorting….

Hockey is a competitive sport, but the Back to Hockey campaign is all inclusive. It welcomes players of all ages and abilities.

However, there’s an inherent contradiction in this. A contradiction in the idea of putting out the strongest team and yet encouraging everybody to take part. It’s my belief that everybody should be able to play and to find the right level. So how do you pick teams and deal with this contradiction?

I certainly know how not to do it! Recently, I watched a couple of times as a local grassroots club sorted themselves out into informal teams for club games and training. It was suggested that the club use the ‘two captains pick who they want’ method of sorting teams. A couple of players were named as captains and they had to choose who they wanted one by one. They were too young to know that it might be wise to pick a weaker player first and just went for the stronger players first, looking uncomfortable as they did it.

And guess what? The older Back to Hockey players were picked last – after the gifted youngsters and the more skilled, experienced players. One older player, who loves playing but only started a couple of months’ ago whispered, looking very hurt, ‘I was picked last of course, along with all the bottom team players. I’m rubbish. I don’t know why I bother playing.’ Yet the club is short of players and needs her for the lower division team. She’s a valuable club member. This was humiliating and wrong. I was shocked this is still happening in grassroots hockey.

I can’t express strongly enough how wrong this is. There is no reason to be picking teams in this way. Even the argument that the pickers should pick the weakest first doesn’t work for me. Leaving your Back to Hockey players last to be picked is not good for the grassroots sport.

I was utterly outraged. Not least since I was subjected to this ritual humiliation myself with netball at school. I was tiny and often picked towards the end for netball, along with the other short girls. This is why I now hate netball. Doing this in a club achieved nothing but make people hate hockey and never come back.

I’ve seen the best coaches simply and discreetly hand out bibs, apparently randomly, and nobody notices and feels left out.

Meanwhile, a much better approach at my club Norwich City HC. Coaches randomly numbered players into four groups. Then small unit play between teams with the losing group  swapping to play other losing team and winners playing each other. Allows players to be stretched against stronger players and have some success against weaker teams. Worked really well and was impressive.

What do you think is the best way to sort teams in club games and training matches – and any informal games?

Here’s how the Australians coach

Coaching drills – what the Australians do.

Looking for a great training drill idea? This is an excellent five on five game from Hockey Australia. Whizz forward to 9:30 and you’ll see the coach explain the drill. What’s great about this drill is it gives the defenders a job – they have to clear the ball through small cone marked goals to score a point. This makes the drill more intense and keeps defenders motivated. There’s also a point for a good shot on goal by attackers and three points for a goal. It’s intense, motivating and worth a try.

Just Hockey Skill Up – Paul Gaudoin – Receiving at the next level


Better ways to coach children

On Friday I attended one of the new England Hockey coaching courses Engaging Games for Children led by Stuart Armstrong.

England Hockey coaching programme

Stuart looked at a useful technique described as ‘cold calling’.

  • Use lots of questions when coaching kids, but instead of asking for hands up, directly ask for an answer from one specific child. ‘Annie, can you give me an answer?’
  • Identify different players to answer questions so that they all have to be mentally engaged at all times – don’t just ask for a show of hands and pick one who seems to know the answer.
  • If Annie doesn’t know. Say ‘Don’t worry Annie I’ll come back to you later.Can anyone help? ” So the child doesn’t feel uncomfortable, but still has to listen to the answer because you’ll be coming back to ask her again later. She will have to remain mentally engaged and there is no opt out.
  • If she can’t answer, look around for somebody else to help out. Or even ask the child who she would like to help her.
  • When you eventually get an answer, go back to Annie and check for learning.
  • Leave some thinking time before you ask the first person and don’t use it as a way of picking on children who you think might not be listening.
  • Look at the taxonomy of teaching books by Doug Lemov, Teach like a Champion.
  • Here’s some links to other websites that looks at cold calling kids and hand raising.
  • Questioning technique
  • Cold calling good technique
  • Hand raising alternatives
  • Cold calling – how to

Stuart Armstrong’s website

Here’s what a top hockey coach observed at the 2014 world cup…

Tasmanian Institute of Sport Hockey Coach Andrew McDonald (pictured below) attended the World Cup for a HA Coach education study tour.Here are some of his fascinating observations about what he saw there. His notes identify trends in play – and training implications for this. For example, the increasing use of shave tackles and what this means for where and how the ball is now protected.

I’d welcome your comments on his observations – especially with regards to coaching implications.


Tasmanian Institute of Sport hockey

  • Shave tackling – getting down low with the left hand and at other times right hand, coming from behind to steal the ball. Ball carriers are increasingly being required to now protect the ball from the shave tackle, which has implications on where and how the ball is protected.
  • Use of the Overhead – By far one of the most evident progressions by key players – e.g., Knowles (Aust), England, Netherlands, Argentina and Germany. Players are throwing a greater variety of overheads over short to medium distances and with greater accuracy. Accuracy is essential to ensure no umpire engagement as a result of a defender coming with-in 5 metres, e.g., thrown with enough skill and accuracy and speed that the receiver is not effected by the encroaching defender, in fact works against the defender, as they must stay five.
  • 3D / Aerial skills near the attacking the circle – increasingly attackers are being rewarded / allowed to carry the ball on their stick into the circle. This is different to jinking but related. Ghodes, Argentina, Dutch e.g., Van Ass (M) as an example.
  • Eliminating at speed – 1 v 1 – The best forwards are capable of eliminating opponents with speed and skill in these 1 v 1 situations. The best strikers are confident and desire to attack.
  • Being able to carry the ball at speed is critical. Thus this is a skill that needs to be practised in training.
  • Receiving overheads and getting it to ground quickly – e.g., Knowles, Cirrel etc. This is now very much an essential skill.
  • Reverse (Tomma) hitting into the circle – FLAT. Ever increasing is the ability to crack the ball into the attacking circle from the reverse. That combined with far post deflections continues to score goals. Again a skill that needs time in the training program.
  • Penalty Corner Attack vs Penalty Corner Defence Strategy – each need to be given adequate time to be best prepared – e.g., PCD running a close trail to a proficient PCA is necessary. Having capable PCA individuals is critical.
  • T-SPOT (where the baseline and circle edge collide)– Forwards are aiming to capitalise on the distance defenders allow them when “backing off” to protect their feet and prevent a PCA. The left to right drag in these areas by attackers followed by some air, speed and full use of available space is now testing defenders.
  • Making the park look big! (e.g., utilising space over the full field, not just  orridor). In essence making sure there is width, depth and movement off the ball. The Dutch women were very good at this.
  • Flexibility in positioning! (Flexibility and quick understanding of positional requirements). Australia (Men) by far the best. The regular interchanging of roles and positioning as required by opportunities and general field play was hard to track. Hence becomes extremely difficult to play against, e.g., continuing hand-overs, which creates uncertainty. If teams man to man mark then they are manipulated. In essence this for the Australia men has become an essential selection capacity.
  • Long aerials 60 yards+ = 1v1 against opposition defenders and goal-scoring opportunities. Defenders increasingly need the capacity to send an overhead of 60 yards+. This was used regularly as an aggressive method to expose opposition defenders to a 1 v 1 with space. The “linking” and recognition of the opportunity is critical as is the capacity.
  • 1-touch deflections into the attacking circle – general field play and set play free hits. Given that many teams gang tackle near the circle edge, a common way of entry was the 1-touch deflection. The Australians (Ockenden, Dwyer) and the England team also utilised this.
  • Two benefits – 1. necessary to have a receiver in front ready and expecting it.
  • sometimes the ball found the foot of an ill prepared defender. This is a set play that needs time in training program.
  • Tackling around the circle edge. (W) – It was evident that the Hockeyroos need more polish in this area. The best opposition forwards were too often eliminating the first defender to present.
  • Free hits near the 25, (just outside) are now becoming a set play – e.g., Cirello – who drags the ball at speed into the attacking circle. This is often deliberately given some air to put pressure on defenders and provide uncertainty.
  • Strength on the ball in the corridor – (It seems obvious) but the better players (in the middle) are the players that possessed and protected the ball well when under threats from different angles. Rarely did they lose possession and importantly these players showed good awareness of their next release / passing option. (e.g., Zalewski, Hammond, Middleton)
  • Pass forward then follow up – a number of the better players work hard to follow up their pass and create the overload – e.g., (Middleton, Jackson – England / Hammond, Ockenden, Zalewski – Aust)
  • The “V” drag done at speed – e.g., Jackson / Middleton –England – Often done when running at speed with an opponent at the side, the V drag is used and this enables “flow” to continue.
  • Dumping then 1-touch pass forward – Attackers when tracking on angles are dumping the ball to the player behind, in the best examples, these are then 1-time passed to a higher option. Thus quick ball movement occurs and get s at the opposition defence.
  • Gang Tackling – The best defensive team (Aust men), work in “gangs” to deny opposition access to their attacking circle. Much of this requires, communication, urgency, understanding and a solid work ethic!
  • Tackling against the reverse Tomma Goal-shot – Clearly it is important defenders work on their understanding, technique and positioning to close down the opposition “tomma” goal-shots. This continues to make up a high and increasing percentage of goals scored. Some countries were poorer than others at preventing a tomma – e.g., South Africa.
  • Goals scored positional plotting within the circle – Mathew Wells is collating an overall percentage / Tally of where goals are scored from, his initial findings, he indicates a higher percentage of goals are scored in the 7 metre area near the goal-face. This would suggest deflections, e.g., far post / rebounds off pads etc.

Other general observations…

  • Team outletting structures – Argentina quite good at linking and working for each other to enable good lineout balls to a high striker, quite patient in how they set this up. It is worth viewing their patterns. Australia and Holland also very good.
  • PCA Double Battery’s – common – with some shifting laterally before the ball is released.
  • Team set rotations – used by all teams.
  • Strict 45 seconds to be ready on PCD from the time it is awarded – green cards were given should this not be done both for attack and defence.
  • Interchanges done mid pitch with no holding up of cards – seemed to work well throughout the tournament.
  • Goal down – 5mins to go – towards the end of the game most teams were taking the GK off to create a high forward.
  • PCD – most GK’s offset to the right
  • Mass interchanges – teams would hold the free hit at the back – this allowed teams to settle back into their structures.
  • PCD – Germany also wearing knee guards, e.g., like baseball.
  • PCD – Speed of the counter attack, the best at it were:

Men – AUS, ARG, BEL, NZ  / Women – USA, Netherlands

  • Courage – Strikers need time to rehearse deflections from reverse tommas, develop confidence and develop courage they won’t be hurt.

I would usually put a weblink to reference this, however, I am unable to link to the piece as it is a pdf download. So instead I’ve included a screen shot of how it appears in google so you can find it yourself if you want to check the source.

TIS link









Coaching mini hockey – basics of a great session

My brother Joe is an excellent and well-respected cricket coach who is qualified to a high level. He is known for helping the less experienced players up their game and dramatically improve and has built a hugely strong and thiving club by building up from junior level and bringing young players through.

I had a chat with him over the weekend and this was his recommendation for a good coaching session in any sport…

  • Have a session scheduled around a key skill. Plan, plan and plan again.
  • Introduce yourself and warm up.
  • Constantly check for understanding with open questions. “Where are you going to hit the ball?”
  • Don’t get stressed if the session you planned doesn’t work. Just say: “This is not working, we’ll change this.”
  • Demonstrate a skill and get them to try it.
  • Call them back in and check for understanding. “So tell me something about going in for  rebound off the keeper’s feet?”
  • Demo again and call back in again for understanding
  • Small unit game play – set with conditions to use the skill they just drilled. eg. Two points for a goal, one point for following up a rebound off the keeper’s feet.
  • Don’t be afraid to tell off children who are really misbehaving. Joe takes them back to their parents who are watching, if they are really disruptive.
  • At the very end of the session revisit the key skill again with some more open questions.
  • Make the kids tidy up at the end of the session.
  • It’s all about learning through play…