Friday, July 12, 2024

Hockey Matters: Coaching yourself in a game

Even if you play on the national team for a major field hockey country, you probably do not have the luxury of a personal coach who solely watches your performance during a game.

And, even if you had such an extravagance, this coach wouldn’t be able to provide you with feedback during the game, the time when critical advice on how you are performing can make a meaningful difference. 

Therefore, you must personally coach yourself during a game if you want to perform at, or close to, your best.

To successfully coach yourself in a game, you must objectively measure your performance during a game by critically analyzing your actions and their results.  


  1. Why did I choose a through pass, e.g., the ball goes off the field?
  2. Why was my pass intercepted?
  3. After a successful pass, is my team in a better situation, i.e., was there a better choice, or did I put a teammate into difficulty?
  4. Why didn’t a teammate, who was square, or backward of square, call that they were open?  You can share this information with them right away.
  5. Am I looking off the ball when I am not the receiver of a pass?

Passing skill choice

  1. Always measure whether a hit, slap hit, reverse hit, or a push (flat or in the air) would’ve been a better choice.
  2. Judge your technique each time, not just when your technique fails.  It is important to remember what you did right, so you can repeat it.


  1. Did I move towards the ball or were my feet glued to the turf?
  2. Was my stick too flat to receive the ball while on the run?
  3. Did I focus on the ball all the way onto my stick?  What distracted me?
  4. Why didn’t I have time to move to trap on the forehand instead of the reverse stick when in a defensive role or on the left side of the field?
  5. Why didn’t I move to receive the ball on the reverse stick side to go forward instead of receiving with my back to the attacking goal, or vice versa?
Hollie Pearne-Webb in the pre match huddle at the World Cup PIC: WORLDSPORTPICS /FRANK UIJLENBROEK

Carrying the ball, maintaining personal possession

  1. Why did I run with the ball instead of passing?
  2. Why am I carrying the ball way over on the right side of my body or on the reverse side?
  3. Why did I get tackled? Did I get too close to a defender well positioned? 
  4. Why didn’t I shuffle back to maintain possession and use pivot footwork?
  5. Why did I spin instead of shuffle back?

Positioning in attack

  1. Did I move up with the play immediately to support the attack?
  2. If I was the primary person to receive the pass, did I run off the ball into a place where I could receive the ball easily from the person in possession, or did I make it more difficult for them to pass the ball to me?
  3. Where should I, the non-primary person, run to get open after the primary person receives the pass successfully?
  4. Did I communicate my lead with the person who made the pass?
  5. Am I making space for a teammate who is receiving a pass or am I crowding the space?
  6. Did I call sensibly to let a teammate know that I am available for a best choice pass?


  1. In anticipation of a loss of possession, and definitely as we lose possession, which player is my responsibility?
  2. Am I marking to intercept the pass or marking from behind as per my team’s approach?


  1. Am I positioning myself to tackle on my strong side or am I going to be caught tackling on my reverse side?
  2. Why did I lunge forward to tackle? Why did I commit to a jab? Why did I choose to shave tackle?
  3. How well did my pressure & delay process work? Did I slow down the opposition’s attacking play? Did my pressure lead to a loss of possession by the other team?
  4. What did I do that allowed me to completely take the ball away without causing a foul?
  5. Where did the ball end up after I made the tackle?  Did it bounce back to the opposition?  Does my team have control?  Why did I rush and push the ball off the field after making the tackle or just get rid of it up the field?


  1. Am I able to cover in the space behind the player who is trying to tackle an opponent?
  2. What space should I be covering when the ball is on the other side of the field?
  3. Am I looking off the ball to be aware of the positioning of other players?

Positioning in defense

  1. As soon as we lose possession, or in anticipation of a loss of possession, did I run back immediately to be in my defensive position?
  2. Am I giving the right advice to my teammates to assist in their positioning?

Almost every action undertaken by a team in attack fails otherwise teams would score a goal every time they had possession of the ball. 

On other hand, most of the actions undertaken by a team in defense aren’t successful, but through the failure of the opposition to attack successfully, we don’t pay the price of giving up a goal each time. 

If players measured their own actions logically and critically at each moment, the performance of the team would improve. 

Players will be focused on correcting their collective mistakes as the game proceeds because advice after the game, albeit sound advice, cannot change the outcome during the game.

(Author’s note: I developed this approach of measuring my performance in a game during a time when I had the misfortune to play for coaches who berated us unfairly and/or praised us nonsensically).

Peter D’Cruz is the founder of the Hockey Curriculum for Players & Coaches

Total Hockey



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