Posted in Field Hockey, Hockey, sport, Uncategorized

Tip Tuesday

I started a new ‘job’ last night. It’s not completely new to me, I’ve been doing it for the last two seasons on a voluntary basis, but last night I took my first paid session as a fitness coach for Stevenage Hockey Club. 
I had missed it! And, taking a break for a while, I realised an important thing about coaching. People rely on you. They listen to you. (Not that they always want to!) But they are waiting for you to support them, encourage them, push them that little extra to make them work harder. Even though every person in my group is more than capable of pushing themselves, working hard and achieving, they missed me giving them the final push.
And I missed seeing the satisfaction of their own achievement. And the sweat! And pure look of disgust when I ask them to do something they don’t think they can do. (Just so we are clear, I’d never ask anyone to do anything they could not achieve! There’s no sense in that!) having faith in them is almost faith in my work for the past two seasons. I love coaching, it’s one of the most rewarding things I have done and hopefully will continue to do for as long as I’m able.

So with the season just around the corner I wanted to include a few tips, for Tip Tuesday. These have been kindly contributed by friends, from Stevenage Hockey Club, St Ives Hockey Club, GHK, Winchmore Hill & Enfield, Southend & Benfleet, St Albans & Potters Bar Hockey Clubs. I asked the question: What’s your one hockey tip?
It was interesting to see the responses from different players, and I could almost relate the tip to the type of player they are, what perspective they view the game from, or at least their positions on the pitch. As you can see there are some great tips here, in no particular order.

Starting Hockey: 

1. Go Training – For players old and new. A good social catch up, or ensuring you are selected for the right team.
How do you find out where training is?
There are many resources you can use to find out where your local club is. Many clubs are running ‘Back to Hockey’ sessions, so don’t be afraid to pick up a stick and get involved. Whether you used to play or have never played before. Search for hockey clubs in your area, contact the club captain, or main contact (in my experience, the fixtures sec. is usually a font of knowledge!) look at the club website and join the family. Experience from my friend that started hockey as a result of London 2012 Olympics shared that it was the friendliness of the membership secretary and the information shared that enabled her turn up and play.

Some websites to get you started:

England Hockey

Scottish Hockey

Hockey Wales

2. Make sure you’ve got the right protective kit (shinnies, gum shield, glove, mask for shorties) it’s not worth a hospital visit! – So where do we get all this kit from?

Different players will give all sorts of advice on kit, what is right for them, why, etc… This is probably a topic I may come back to in the future. For me, I’ve gone with comfort mainly, or price… But generally something that ‘feels’ right.
Some useful sports shops:

Millet Sports

Pro Sport Shop Hitchin (very supportive local shop)

3. Get a good stick. It doesn’t have to be expensive but one you feel comfortable with, weight etc – essential advice. There are many brands, models, weights, curves, compositions it can get very confusing! To start, pick up a stick, play with it, try different sticks and see what you like and what you prefer. I will be looking into sticks closer in the future… For me? I’ve been through a few, but now, it’s all about the Grays!!

Playing Hockey:

4. Stay Focused – on your goals, off and on pitch. Every season, game or training session have a personal goal and a team goal. Use this focus to achieve your best. Whether that is getting into the next team, running non-stop, scoring a goal, or making a save. On fighting being saved from relegation on our last game of the season one year, as captain, I asked advice from the England captain, Kate Richardson-Walsh. Seemed the right thing to do. It was a game we, on paper, were never going to win. She replied “Play each game as if it were your first, and every second like its your last”. Wise words that have provided much inspiration for myself and the team I was playing in at the time. It was like a revelation, and almost has become a mantra. Of course we won, and the words have stuck.

5. Train hard and listen to your coach – A very important tip and one that should be passed from beginner to professional. Coaches work hard to put themselves in a position of responsibility, they know their stuff (more often than not). They work hard to plan the sessions that you need and can make you better as a player… And sometimes as a person!

6. There are 11 players on the pitch, use all of them and don’t go it alone! – I love this tip and can relate to this. A team is a team, a squad is a squad, and without everyone working as a team and a squad, there’s no point having the best individual 11 players on the pitch if they can not work together. If you can win together, lose together, work together, then you’ll fight together. You can overcome anything.

7. Watch higher up players as u learn so much from them – this advice is sound for any player at every level. If you aspire to be better, watch a better player, or better team than you. Watch the team higher to see what you need to do to get there, watch matches, go training, watch it on the TV, watch the internationals live, watch different clubs, learn from Juniors – they are the future generation. They are creative and unafraid to try anything. I love watching hockey, how different teams form, what teams do well, what is not always done well, creation and inspiration is the key. Motivation and enthusiasm to better yourself is the outcome.

Coaching Hockey:

8. ‘Give early, and support to receive it back’ too many times people are caught in possession for not making a pass when its on. #frustrating – indeed very frustrating, and emphasises the above tip with teamwork and also training. Being in the right place at the right time requires hard work, dedication to your team mates and practice.

9. The importance of the fake on high press line hits. It’s a basketball bluff but totally legal in hockey. So look to pass elsewhere and push the opposite direction – a good skill if you can acquire it.

10. Have fun!!

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Hello Hockey!

So here I am sitting in the bath after watching the tense Semi-Finals game at the Women’s World League Semi-Finals in Valencia between Great Britain and Germany, wondering when the best time would be to start a blog?

Well right now I feel would set this blog off in style.

What a game! What an absolute corker of a game. Now you can appreciate that all I can offer is opinion. I’ve played hockey for a number of years now (to say how long would give my age away!) but I’m by no means an expert and I often find I look at different aspects of a game, or a player, to other people. I enjoy the game, I love playing the game, I adore watching the game… Any level, not just the international games. And I’ve recently started coaching the game and am always looking for ways to improve myself and players around me, from the bottom to the top. To help a person believe they can achieve is one of the most rewarding things I’ve discovered with hockey.

So, back to that game! GB set out the blocks, guns blazing, a real fire and determination about them. Recently they have started to rebuild their squad and a couple of new additions have joined the GB set up. And a couple of old faces have returned. But they appeared to have one goal in mind today and that was qualification for Rio 2016, the Olympic Games, and not even Germany were going to stand in their way. As a spectator, I could feel the excitement, I was sitting (or pacing!) on the edge of my seat from about half time. We had scored early on. A ball perfectly run out of midfield by Helen Richardson-Walsh, calmly passed out right to Sophie Bray, who could have taken the shot herself, but seeing Lily Owsley in a great position in front of goal, she slipped the ball through. In true style Owsley remained calm to not take the first time shot, fooled the German keeper to go to ground and casually popped the ball through to the backboard. Amazing!

Now, you can read the match reports for the rest of the game, but I want to emphasise that as one of many spectators at home willing the nation to succeed, it was tense! Immensely absorbing, and nail-biting to the bitter end. The succession of short corners awarded to Germany in the final quarter showed the determination of an opposition that was not prepared to give up easily. Normally I would be quite calm about this, but seeing the girls (England girls) losing the Gold medal in the last 11 seconds at the Commonwealth Games last year made me all the more nervous. But there was no need… Maddie Hinch had every inch of the goal covered, Hannah Macleod covered the suicide line with conviction, Helen Richardson-Walsh picked the post deflections to a tee, and the solid defending by Kate Richardson-Walsh, Laura Unsworth, Hollie Webb, Giselle Ansley and Emily Maguire combined showed that we are a team to be reckoned with, a force, a momentum that currently is unstoppable! They achieved their goal today, but knowing the girls (not personally, having watched them for a few years now) they will want an unbeaten record. They will want to come out and smash China into the next Olympics – and why shouldn’t they?

On the back of the success of the GB team today, I want this blog to provide a number of things, for a number of people.

Essentially I want people to love hockey as much as I do. I want people to learn about the sport, feel able to go pick up a stick and enjoy a game that can provide so much for so many. For those that play, I want to provide a place where you can share your experiences, club success and touring adventures. A place where coaches can share experiences, and players can share inspirations and dreams. I feel the direction of this blog will grow, whatever direction it needs.

Now whilst we all aspire to play the best we can, remember there are so many levels of best, and I want to point out that there are many clubs, coaches and players that make up the sport that I love… And this will hopefully encourage you to join our family.