Here’s a few clips I’ve found that can help you learn more about block tackling in hockey.
A block tackle is a useful way to steal the ball from an opponent – but what’s the best way to do it perfectly?
# Force player on to your strong stick side by lining up your right shoulder with theirs. This forces them to your strong stick side. Take a 45 degree angle with your feet so you can rotate your body.
# Don’t get too close or you risk being eliminated. Be about a step and a half away from the ball carrier.
# Don’t necessarily look to get ball straight away. Jab tackle, not to get the ball but to force them into where you want them. Then block tackle – see 4:38 into the Ryde Hockey video below.
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.
A new video Tackling Drills, Techniques & Strategies for Field Hockey by former Olympic hockey coach Shiv Jagday has some useful tips.
#1 It’s more important to know when to commit and tackle than how to tackle. The skill is in recognising the situation and knowing what to do: poke, block or just channel.
#2 Never over commit with a poke tackle because you will have shifted your weight so far forward you can’t recover. Instead, just hassle with quick small steps and put the forward under huge pressure. Put artificial pressure on so player doesn’t know if you are going to commit or not. ‘Like a cobra, then a cobra strikes you dead,’ he says. ‘Look at the great boxers. They show the left then jab right.’ Put pressure then back off.
#3 If you move your shoulder rather than facing straight on you can channel the player where you want them to go.
For information on buying the video go to
The latest issue of Planet Hockey (issue 3, see link below to download) is well worth a look and has an interesting feature on defending a drag flick.
#1 Prepare early and decide on a defensive set up. Many teams have set running patterns for a penalty corner. For example first runner pressures drag flicker, second and third runners defend the possible lay offs and deflectors and post defenders cover post.
#2 Point at pressure target (ie drag flicker at top of D) with hips and shoulders. Only turn your head towards the injector.
#3 Adopt a relaxed stance.
#4 Offsetting. This technique that some teams use to defend flicks sees goal keeper covering one side and runner and post defender attempting to channel flicker in the direction GK is covering.
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
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. – 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.