Much like any sport, core skills are critical to the success of both a player and the game itself. They form the foundation to later develop advanced skills, and for a player to enjoy and engage in the game at any age. However, core skills do need to be continually practiced and defined in a range of scenarios.
There are two types of core skills: technical skills (skill execution) and tactical skills (decisions and actions). We recommend that as a coach or parent you help new players develop their technical skills before tactical skills.
When it comes to hockey for beginners, we recommend these three key core skills that all hockey players should know and continually practice.
Core skill #1: push passing
Push passing refers to passing the ball without lifting the stick off the ball. To do this effectively, there are three key elements to focus on:
- Grip: Use a basic grip on the stick. You can play around with how high the right hand is when doing this.
- Ball position: The ball should be on the stick, and typically starts in line with the back foot (or close to). Note: there should be no back swing.
- Body position: Your knees should be bent, and the stick and the body should follow through in the direction of the pass. The right arm should extend strongly.
Core skill #2: receiving
Receiving refers to controlling the ball when passed directly to you, whether it is stopped completely or still moving. There are two key points to remember when receiving the ball:
- Grip: Again, use a basic grip. The right hand should be relaxed to absorb the ball as it meets the stick.
- Body position: Knees are bent with the stick on the ground, upright and in line with the ball. Typically, feet are set apart for balance.
Core skill #3: tackling
Tackling is a technique where the stick is used to intercept or take the ball off an opponent. The block tackle is a type of tackle that we will describe here. The key points to keep in mind when block tackling are:
- Body position: Keep your body low with your feet staggered to stay mobile.
- Channeling: Move your body’s position to create space for the opponent to carry the ball to the defenders forehand.
- Stick position: This should be horizontal to the ground and out in front of the body. There should be no swinging involved.
The above core skills can be practiced anywhere. If you are a parent trying to help your children improve their skills or coaching a young hockey team, we suggest following these guidelines as your child/players continue to develop:
- Give your child/players time to explore the game: create a safe environment for them to practice. This could be as simple as allowing 5 minutes of free time in the backyard to play alone or in pairs at the club.
- Observe and ask questions as you go along.
- There is no one way to perform a skill: execution of a skill can be done in different ways. If a player is performing a skill without injuring themselves or limiting their ability to further develop that skill, then there may not be a need to change anything.
To help with practicing those core skills or even more advanced skills, we have teamed up with Polytan – Official surface partner of Hockey New Zealand, to giveaway five Hockey Dream It Prize Packs which include:
- A 2x2m hockey skills mat
- A Kookaburra hockey stick and ball
- A Vantage Black Sticks women’s or men’s player shirt.
For the chance to win one of these awesome prize packs, simply enter here: https://polytan.com.au/dreamit/. Entries close April 25, 2021 at 11:59 pm. Good luck and happy practicing!