When you are on the pitch, just try to improve with every session and push yourself that little bit extra when you go on. See mistakes as a mark of progress. Don’t shy away from anything if you make mistakes in practice at a young age. It’s something I am still learning in my career, that you can’t judge yourself entirely on mistakes, they are an important part of improving. Try new things and eventually it will pay off.
With moving to playing against zone, it’s about knowing where you are going with the ball when you receive it. I would encourage juniors, even if they are warming up with a team-mate, to look before the ball comes and look around you, with 360 vision. When you’re on the ball, again look around you and pick out things around the pitch so you get used to playing with your head up and you know what your next action will be. The game just opens up entirely once you are able to do this consistently and an opponent will find it much harder to defend against.
In the past, the England Hockey way of playing and against man-to-man has been seen you coming back to the ball. There is a time and a place for that when you are securing possession but in zonal play, you can get body-ready for the half-turn – where you are effectively facing forwards when you receive the ball – if the space is there.
Think about that body position. If you look at some of the best midfielders, they are always looking for those angles and they aren’t receiving the ball straight on from a player. We are working on this with GB and all international sides are. It’s one of the hardest parts of the game because you need that awareness, which in high pressure games isn’t always easy. My advice would be for juniors to start young and make it natural. It would put young players in great stead.
Harry Martin plays for Hampstead & Westminster and GB
Does your club have interesting news or features? Email us!