Identifying and understanding the field hockey fundamentals is paramount to achieving the overall success of becoming an exceptional field hockey player.
If you are an aspiring player who is trying to improve your game, you first need to know what the fundamental skills of the game are. These are the techniques that lay the groundwork for your skills as a field hockey player. Once you have a clear understanding of what these fundamentals are, you can then start to work on them both individually and in combination with others.
The following describes some of the most common techniques used in field hockey that are critical to master for the smooth operation of the game.
- First Touch (Trapping)
One of the most important basic skills to master, first touch or trapping is the ability to control a field hockey ball once you receive it. To trap a ball there are some basic rules that you need to follow:
- You must be able to control the ball on both sides of the body; both strong and weak side
- A player must have the awareness to position their feet and body shape to control the ball;
- Before receiving the ball, you should already have thought about your next move, whether it's a dribble, new pass or shot at goal. Always think ahead.
The first touch is an important fundamental of the game as it is the first contact that you will have with the ball and therefore can determine the outcome of the play.
The 'hit' is the offensive counterpart to the First Touch. A hit is performed when you are in possession of the ball and you want to keep possession of it and strike it forward to advance it into the opposition's half.
There are two components to a hit:
- To hit or strike the ball with the force necessary to drive it forward;
- To maintain accuracy so it goes in your desired direction;
Keep in mind that hitting can be done in various positions, be it as a defender who attempts a hard hit pass, as a midfielder who pushes the ball across and into the circle, or as a striker who aims for the goal.
- Leading and Positioning
A player's positioning on the field greatly influences the flow of the game. Players are constantly adjusting their position on the pitch according to the play and the positions of their teammates.
A player's positioning is one of the most important fundamental skills of field hockey, requiring the player to have an understanding of the game and predict the play at hand. There are many aspects that a player must be aware of when deciding where to position themselves on the field, including:
- Assessing the teammates' and opponents’ spacing to identify the optimal position for receiving the ball;
- Creating quick judgements that allow the player to lead to the ball so that there is an option to pass the ball to a teammate in the ideal position to receive it;
Once you hone your skills to lead and position in the field, you can take your offensive play to the next level.
- Flat Stick Tackle
A flat stick tackle is a defensive technique that can be very effective in stopping an attacker from advancing with the ball. It requires a certain amount of hand-eye coordination, as well as agility and flexibility on the part of the defender.
The key to successfully honing your flat stick tackle is patience, as defending is all about waiting for the perfect time to tackle, without committing a foul.
- Jab or Poke
This technique is another way to put pressure on your opponent. Although it is not as aggressive as the flat stick tackle, it can be very effective on a very fast player. This is because you're not going to be able to catch up to them, but you can slow them down.
The objective of a jab tackle is not always to gain possession of the ball, but to disrupt the flow of your opponent and sometimes put the ball off the pitch or simply out of their reach.
The Bottom Line: The Importance of Solidifying Your Fundamentals to Become a Better Hockey Player
Without a solid base of fundamental skills, everything else you try to do on the pitch will be a struggle. It is vital for players to understand the importance of the fundamentals and take the time to practice them.
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