You have to use the base line like this in field hockey


Positioning yourself available for a pass on the baseline is a great way to make space. Defenders hate it. Look at what the player in white does around nine seconds into this clip of Bowdon Hightown v University of Birmingham. She heads for the baseline giving the player who has moved the ball wide a neat passing option with an angle that eliminates the defender on her non-stick side. The first player then cuts into the D for a pass which leads to a shot on goal. Didn’t work this time, but a great routine.

In another match (watch at about 1 minute in) here’s another great example of the base line being used on the left. It led to an attack on goal then a penalty flick.

Pitch talk and calling during a game: here’s a clever call hockey players can make

I’ve just attended one of the new England Hockey coaching workshops ‘Coaching for Club Players’. It was led by England and GB hockey international, and talented coach, Darren Cheesman and was full of valuable information.

During the course, Darren talked about noise and calling on the pitch – and how effective it can be in upping the energy as well as being useful tactically.

For example, a player can call out loudly to a team mate explaining what they are doing – so the defender can hear it easily. This could be telling a team mate you are going to take a defender with you to create space deliberately.

“This defender will come with me,” Darren explained that you could say to a team mate on the pitch as you are moving back to leave the goal more open for other attackers. Or “The defender is coming with me.” The talk seems as if it is meant for a fellow team mate, but it’s deliberately loud enough for a defender to hear – and it’s really aimed at them.

He explained that this kind of talk is something the Australian men do very well – they call loudly and more than other teams to create high energy.

“By telling the defender what you are doing it is a double edged sword,” says Darren.If you tell your opposition you are effectively tricking them out of the game by deliberately pulling them away to create space, psychologically they will be in two minds about whether to follow you or not. Their natural inclination might be to resist the trick.

They might not want to do it and might not go with you. In which case it leaves you free  to get the ball anyway because you don’t have a defender with you. If they do come with you, you are then creating space for another attacker. A double-edged sword indeed.

You might just find that calling like this, leaves them lingering somewhere ineffectively in between.

Obviously, it’s not a good idea to call and say things like I’m going to lead here, when it gives no advantage. But you can shout things like ‘we’re in a two v one here with this defender’ – it can up the tempo.


Attacking tips: key principles of leading

I was recently lucky enough to attend a coaching masterclass in Norwich, UK, with England under-16 hockey boys head coach Charlie Bannister on small unit play.
I am just a level-one coach so it was a privilege to see this level 4 master coach at work with some of the best young players in the Eastern region.
Small Unit Play is where training mimics game play, but in small units of players – three, four even eight players. Unlike drills and skills it puts players under pressure and helps with quick decision making and team tactics. He suggested that most of a training session should be small unit play.
We watched some incredibly talented youngsters working through unit play while Charlie explained what they were working on. One of the key learning points was about ‘leading’. This basically means getting into a good position to receive the ball and it’s one of the biggest challenges I personally face on the pitch. In the heat of match play it can be tough to work out exactly how and where to position yourself best to be available for a pass. But Charlie gave some real pointers for the basic principles that I have found helpful.
1. If the player carrying the ball is UNCONTESTED then support ahead of ball can lead behind their defenders. In other words if the player you are looking for a pass from doesn’t have any other players immediately on them then  you can ‘lead’ high up the pitch – stretching the game out and looking for a pass nearer towards your goal.
2. If the ball carrier is CONTESTED then support ahead of ball must show for the ball (laterally or vertically). In other words, if the player with the ball is under threat from a tackle then you have to make yourself available with a post up in front of them and show with your stick that you want the ball. Get in front of the defenders, block them with your body and post up. Alternatively, you can lead out wide – heading out to the side of the pitch to make yourself available for a pass where there is more space and there are less defenders. Leading out wide means heading out to the side of the pitch. There was a lot of talk of ‘leading out wide’ and ‘leading on the outside’ at the masterclass – and it was the main learning point I took away from the session.
Leading should always be done on the outside of the pitch. When you are making a run to make yourself available for the ball, head out to the side of the pitch first rather than towards the middle. According to Charlie Bannister there is almost always space available when you lead outside and wide. Head to the centre of the pitch and you will more likely be blocked by a defender.
And most importantly – don’t lead too early. Head off too early and you’ll alert the defenders. Wait to the last possible moment and then lead out wide on the outside of the pitch.
After you have made your pass, lead again on the outside.
If you have the ball go at space with pace…
Interestingly, Charlie called the players who were demonstrating over for a debrief (they were all hugely talented under 16 England junior development boys and girls) and suggested that they needed to make sure they were carrying the ball at one o’clock, rather than directly ahead of them. This would increase their vision and passing options.

How to play left wing in field hockey

Left wing could be said to be the trickiest position on the hockey pitch. So I’ve been seeking out some tips and advice about playing this position and playing attack in general.

This clip from Korea v New Zealand in the 2014 world cup shows a near perfect pass from the left attack which resulted in a second goal for Korea. It’s hard to see what’s happening on this clip – about 1:20 in, but I was there in person, sitting right by the left corner. I can assure you it was amazing.

It was Korea’s No 10 Park Mi-Hyun (one of my favourite women hockey players) sending an amazing back-stick cross into the D from the very top left corner. It was netted with a touch by a team mate. This has to be the ultimate left wing move. The clip also shows another earlier backstick cross from New Zealand which didn’t result in a goal.

So number one play from left wing has to be the ability to send powerful crosses into the D – off the backstick if need be. Sending them in a good position to be netted for a goal.

Meanwhile, before we continue if you’re looking for a gift for the hockey-mad person in your life visit  Hockey gift shop

Continued…This next clip from Ireland v US shows a lovely receiving of the ball by the left wing before she powers it into the D for a team mate to get on the end of. See 1.05 minutes into the clip. It didn’t directly lead to an immediate goal but it started a chain of events that led to a goal a few seconds later.

I love the footwork she uses to get into the right position to power the ball into the D.


But this is pretty advanced stuff. For the mere mortal hockey club-players a thread on Field Hockey Forum is quite useful…

Field Hockey Forum

In response to a question asking for how to play this position the following tips were suggested. Here’s a summary, but click on to the website itself for full details. Actually, it’s one of the best hockey websites around with user generated content from players who seem to know their stuff.

  • Pass and move into space, repeat. Look for give and go passes with your centre mid or thread some passes through to strikers and follow up to give them an option to drop back if they need. 
  • If you are in the D there are only three options, shoot, pass or put the ball on a foot. If you are in the 25 it is acceptable to take players on
  • Get in a space nice and wide and start shouting for the ball.
  • Get on the post when your team attacks and pick up deflections.
  • Play deep – slightly behind attackers so you can easily be seen and passed to.
  • Look for an early pass from deep, diagonally to the inside right position to wrong food defenders. (I’m not sure exactly what is meant by this tip on the thread, perhaps somebody can expand on this further?)
  • If you do ‘go for goal’, cut-in from the wing as soon as you cross the 23
  • Avoid if possible being forced into the corner.