Last Updated on April 9, 2022 by Field Hockey
An internet meme and inspirational quote states:
“It never gets easier, you just get better.”
This anonymous piece of philosophy can easily be translated into the sport of field hockey.
Field hockey skills do not change – experienced field hockey players can attest that their first foray into the sport probably involved unsuccessful swipes at a small, white ball, or thrusting their stick at the ball in the hope that the two would connect. However, after a couple of field hockey practice sessions, something had changed, and hitting the ball seemed to be more measured, and the ball was heading towards its intended target more frequently; similarly, the ball was finding its way onto their stick and less time onto their feet. A few more training drills later, and suddenly being in the right place at the right time to intercept a ball or being in a good shooting position seemed like less of a coincidence.
You Gotta Checkout: The Top Field Hockey Sticks for 2022
Your coach or team manager is the best person to provide proper field hockey training, but this guide hopes to give a brief analysis of field hockey drills and field hockey workouts that you can do either with your teammates, with a partner, or if you have a lot of space (and no windows around), by yourself.
With field hockey drills and fitness please keep in mind that eating right and balancing your diet around the season and games is super important. A good resource around fat burning foods and fats is crucial to keeping your peak performance throughout your season. You want to be in tip-top shape for your limited time of the season which includes endurance works outs and the foods for those workouts. Also its good to learn how to ration your carbohydrate intake/balance throughout the week depending on your gaming schedule.
For a super in depth analysis of drills and mental training at any level check out these books below!
Keep in mind that field hockey fitness as a whole requires the players to be in almost constant movement and involves a lot of sprinting and quick changes of direction – especially in higher skill grades and high school and college-age competitions – so it is advisable to have a good field hockey fitness program and exercise plan that is suitable for your current level of health, and most importantly – don’t forget to warm up and cool down properly with some light running and aerobic stretching.
Field Hockey Drills & Tips for Beginners
This is a great field hockey skills video that demonstrates the basics and shows good body position for beginners.
The Push Pass
A great way to teach some field hockey basics to young or new players to field hockey is for them to engage in some field hockey passing drills and simply hit and pass the ball around a small group of two to four people. This is a common way that senior and even international teams warm up to get the feel of the field and to “get their eye in.”
Starting at the very beginning, it is important to have the correct grip on your hockey stick. In your left hand, hold the grip end of your hockey stick with the hook in the air, as if you are holding a sword. Now let the hook end of your sword point to the ground. Voila, you are now a hockey-stick wielding pirate. The left hand is always the top hand, and you should have a pretty firm grip on it. The right hand will go just above the point where the grip becomes the shaft of the hockey stick. Keep this hand loose; it is used for directing the ball rather than power. The “split hand” positioning will be the same for your “push”, “trap” and “dribbling” skills.
Your next concern is where to put your feet. With the ball on your right side, start with your left foot forward, and your toes pointed at your target. Your right foot should be about in line with the ball, and in a comfortable position. This stance will also help you in terms of hitting and trapping the ball.
Start with the face of the stick at the back of the ball. With one strong movement, use the face to “push” the ball to your target. Congratulations, you have just learned one of the most basic of skills in field hockey. It is also the most effective means of passing the ball. With practice, you will be able to do it more quickly, through the air, while running, and in different directions.
The Hit Pass
Hitting the ball in field hockey is a more powerful way to move the ball across the field. To hit the ball, you will have to slide your right hand up the hockey stick so it is directly underneath your left hand, and grip the stick more tightly than before. Move your body so you can point your left shoulder and your left foot towards your target. Take a short backswing similar to a golf swing, trying to keep the hook from going above your shoulder, lock your wrists and aim to hit behind the ball. Keep watching the ball through the entire motion, and follow through with your swing, then stand back and appreciate your hit. It might take a few attempts to get your action smooth, or your radar accurate, but practice practice practice makes perfect.
A different kind of hit is the slap-hit. With your hands together at the top of your stick, bend your knees and back so you are as low as you can go. Keep your feet wide and swing at the ball, keeping your stick parallel to the ground. Again, use your left shoulder to direct your hit. The slap-hit is a great alternative to the standing hit, as the ball tends to bounce less. With practice and technique, you can hit the ball just as hard with either approach.
Trapping a ball in field hockey is just a fancy way of saying “stop”. Get a teammate to pass you the ball. With your hands separated on your stick (the “push” grip), let the ball hit the flat side of the hook, keeping your hands soft. Try not to push forward at the ball with your stick, just let the ball come to you to start with. A great habit to get into is to cushion the ball as it comes to you – make light contact on the ball with your stick and the guide it backwards towards you or slightly behind you. Lunging at the ball with your stick or holding onto your stick too tightly will result in the ball bouncing away from you, or you might even deflect the ball into your own body. Remember to keep your eye on the ball all the time, as you will be able to move your stick a lot faster than you can your body to trap it. Practice trapping the ball to your right and directly in front of you. When you are confident with your trapping skills, try a backstick trap to your left, remembering to rotate the stick in your hands so the flat side of the hook meets the ball.
A flatstick trap is also an effective and useful skill to possess – as the ball comes to you, bend at the knees and back and hold your stick parallel to the ground. This is a great way to ensure you don’t miss-trap a flat pass, but a bouncing ball can cause problems! Keep in mind that on sand-based fields, you can also graze your knuckles using flatstick traps as your hand will be touching the ground in some cases, so remember to wear a protective glove, or bring plenty of band-aids to the game!
Dribbling is how a player runs across the field while keeping possession of the ball. Separate your hands on your stick and place it behind the ball. Then run, ensuring that the ball does not break contact with your stick. This is a very basic dribble, and a good way to learn the basics.
To speed up your game, you can dribble by gently pushing the ball ahead of yourself, then running onto the ball again, and pushing it ahead once more. This is best used in open play when you have a lot of room to move in and no opposition players around you. For close-in play, use the same idea, but push the ball about 12 inches in front of you. By keeping the ball close to your body, you can quickly change direction.
Try pushing the ball from your right to your left, rotating your stick in the air to trap it backstick style. Still with your stick rotated, try pushing it back to your right, and rotate your hands back to trap it with your forestick. This is called “Indian dribbling.” It is difficult to pick up while running, but once mastered, will improve your game immensely.
Field hockey shooting is a paramount skill for forwards and attacking players, but all players should be taught how to shoot in field hockey. Shooting builds on the hitting and pushing skills, and is normally done with a lot of power while in motion. Experiment with your hitting – you might have noticed that the ball lifts from the field when you change the angle of your stick, or if you hit “down” onto the top of the back side of the ball. These are known as “undercutting” and “squeezing” the ball respectively. It is easier and more effective to shoot the ball when it has even a small amount of motion in the direction of the goal.
A much harder variation on the hit is the “tomahawk” or reverse-stick hit. This requires the player to be very low to the ground, and hitting the ball in an axe-chopping motion using their backstick. It can be a devastating offensive skill, but is difficult to master.
Pushes can also be made airborne by slightly angling your stick and making contact underneath the ball. An aerial push is called a “flick” or “scoop”. Flicks and scoops are normally used for close-quarters attack when shooting at goal, as it is a faster motion than hitting the ball.
All players should be able to use defensive skills, but are exceptionally important for halves and fullbacks to learn. To tackle a player in possession of the ball, you are aiming to use your stick to make them lose control of it.
When your opposition is within a stick’s length of you, quickly lean forward and “jab” at the ball – you can use either one hand or two for this. Try to keep on the balls of your feet for this skill, as it may take several jabs to dispossess your player, and you need to be able to move forward, back, left and right quickly.
Another tackling technique is the “flat stick tackle”, where you hold your stick parallel to the ground as your opposing player approaches you from the front. This tackle is strong and effective, although it can leave you prone to having the ball lifted over your stick if you miss.
Effective field hockey defense can rely on a good knowledge of field hockey tactics, so you can employ “channeling” to set up your tackle properly. This involves forcing your opposition player to move to a closed-in area such as near the sideline, or away from their teammates through body position, use of the jab technique, and using your speed and agility to stop them from dribbling past you.
Field hockey goalkeeper training is a specialist skill. If you are interesting in becoming a goalkeeper, a high level of agility and flexibility is recommended. You will need to have exceptional hand-eye coordination, and not flinch when the ball is coming towards you. Try not to turn your back to the ball – the least protected part of a field hockey goalkeeper is their back! A field hockey goalkeeper is also the only player allowed to use their body and feet to play the ball, so a good kicking technique by using the toe or side of the foot is also important. Training for field hockey should incorporate shooting drills as well as individual goalkeeper development where possible.
These are the fundamental skills of field hockey, and are a great base to build from. You can use combinations of these fundamentals to create your own field hockey skill drills.
Intermediate Field Hockey Drills
Beginners and juniors should concentrate on improving their basic skills through field hockey training drills. It is important to remind the players (and yourself) that the drills and skills being taught won’t always be used in a game situation, but that you are teaching them the correct body position and coordination required to play. Prior to your training session, create a thorough list of field hockey drills practice plans that you can use. Depending on skill levels, not all drills will be successful straight away! Beginner field hockey drills should try to remain fun and interesting – you might need to rotate through drills quickly to retain everyone’s concentration! If you can make fun field hockey drills for kids, skills will develop a lot more quickly.
All the players need to do in this simple field hockey drill is to juggle the ball on the end of their stick for as long as they can. This will improve hand-eye coordination and let them feel the weight of both the ball and their stick. This is one of the most fun field hockey drills to start with, and can grow into competitions within the team. Keepie-up is a good introduction to individual field hockey drills.
Dribbling is possibly the most important field hockey exercises to perfect, and each training session should involve some field hockey dribbling drills. They can be very simple field hockey drills, but can be modified to cater for more experienced players too. As a starter, set up four lines of players, and start two players with one ball each. Each player needs to dribble the ball to the start of the next line, where they pass the ball to the player at the front. They must dribble the ball back to the first line. As the skill levels improve, add some obstacles such as witches hats or cones to make things more interesting and competitive. Relays and races are good junior field hockey drills
Hit the Cone
Simply place a cone in the centre of the goal, and ask players to try and hit it with a ball. This will show who has a strong or accurate hit, and who might need some more exclusive training. This sort of exercise is a perfect way to finish off field hockey drills for kids, as field hockey goal shooting drills are often their favourite part of the game. Once your keeper is confident, add them into the game as part of your regular field hockey goal scoring drills and field hockey keeper drills.
Two-on-one / One-on-one
These work as both field hockey tackling drills and field hockey dribbling drills beginners. One player is chosen to defend an area, and one or two attacking players must try to work the ball past them. This kind of game is one of the more common defensive field hockey drills that can be used in more senior and advanced competitions too. Identify boundaries that the attacking players must stay within, or you’ll be chasing kids all over the field. Remember to switch the defending player every few minutes, as these sorts of drills for field hockey can be taxing on the players back.
In two-on-one situations, encourage the attacking players to pass the ball to each other, and for the defensive player to try and get between them. This is a good drill to promote movement from support players, and for correct defensive positioning.
In one-on-one drills, it helps to promote close-in dribbling skills as well as a good tackling technique.
Piggy in the Middle
A different take on a children’s classic game, start with one player in the middle of a circle, and everyone else on the outside. One player passes the ball to the “piggy in the middle”, who traps the ball and passes it to another player in the circle. Good field hockey drills will try to involve all players, so make sure that the piggy gets interchanged frequently.
Putting all of these skills together can be done through mini games played during field hockey practices. Separate your training squad into two teams and introduce some field hockey plays to use, including the give-and-go, deflections, transfers and posting. Tactics in field hockey to keep the defense moving and opening passing channels could also be identified. Game situations will put the field hockey offensive drills and field hockey defensive drills that your players have practiced into use.
Field Hockey Drills for One Person
Field hockey is a team sport, but even if you are by yourself, there are some field hockey skills and techniques that you can practice on your own.
Setting yourself some dribbling obstacle courses can improve your stick skills as well as speed, and is one of the most effective solo field hockey training exercises you can do, and should be part of a regular field hockey training program, especially in the more advanced grades. If you have access to a lot of hockey balls, you can work on some field hockey shooting drills by placing a ball at different points around the goal circle and shooting from irregular angles and off your left and right feet. This field hockey practice plan could also be used for field hockey goalkeeping drills in a team environment.
If you are able to use walls, tyres or boards such as those used in indoor hockey, practice pushing the ball at an angle into it and running on to collect the rebound, which will help with a lot of field hockey techniques including passing and trapping on the run.
Field hockey goalkeeper exercises might not sound like the kind of thing they can do on their own, but keepers can practice juggling the ball like a soccer player on your feet, legs and pads. Field hockey goalkeeper drills from the junior to the elite levels will find the keeper in a prone or plank position, then spring to their feet, followed by short, sharp sideways sprints. These sorts of exercises are ideal field hockey conditioning drills, as they promote fitness and agility. Solo goalkeepers might find it difficult to practice their saving, but can always work on field hockey fitness drills.
There are a lot of youth field hockey drills, field hockey training videos and free field hockey drills available on YouTube that are useful to see how these skills can be used together.
Beginners at field hockey might find that skills are either impossible or easy. The process by which it migrates from one category to the other is known as practicing.
Good luck and have fun!