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.
- 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.