Posted in Field Hockey

The half court press…

So a while back I took to Twitter (@hellohockey) to ask some opinion and explanation about the half court press, publishing the above photo. Sifting through the email responses I’d like to share the most useful and helpful reply.

The photo you put up seems a very simplistic way of talking about the half court press and is not actually accurate so I wanted to try to help you understand it, if I can?

Understanding the half court press depends completely on whether you’re trying to understand it to incorporate into your teams play or whether your trying to understand it in order to play against a team who plays half court press. Going by the photo you put up I am assuming you are maybe going to try to use it and incorporate into your teams play.

With that being the case, the first thing I’d say is that your team (and in particular your attackers and midfielders) need to be very very fit. It’s such a hard thing to be attacking in your opponents D and then when the ball goes off the back for a hit out the team have to make it back to be in their own half in order to defend the hit out. 

As the photo said, ideally everyone should be defending in their own half but bear in mind that the opposing team are going to still have at least three, probably four, of their players in their half in order to hit the ball round the back at the hit out. The attackers need to set themselves up just inside their own half and basically just do shuttles across the pitch as the ball gets hit around the back. If/when it looks like the opposing team have played a weak pass or if you target one of their players as the weakest then only then would one of your attackers break the line in order to put pressure on. The only time you want the line broken is basically a sure cert time that you are going to get the ball. It’s then up to the rest of the attackers and midfielders to get into the other half and D in order to counter attack…hence the fitness again.

The midfield, when the attackers are shuttling are more often than the not shuttling too in order to fill the gaps in the press. Hence, like I said about not always marking in your own half like the photo said. It is still a press remember and marking the space is much more important than marking the players in any press. 

The defence should always be front marking anyway but never is it more important than in a half court press. If the attackers in the other team are in front of the defenders facing the ball and posting up then it almost always will break the press down, causing it to be very ineffective because you are then just basically always defending a hit out in your own half as opposed to pressing on it from much further up the pitch, as in a full court or even three quarter court press. So defenders need to be in front of their players and not allowing them to post up…this is a vital part of the half court press, like I said

The team attacking against a half court press (i.e. the team who have the hit out) will probably recognise it very quickly and any good team will just tell the person taking the hit out to self pass and take the ball as far up the pitch as possible before making any pass. This way they are already gaining almost half of the pitch in territory before they even play the ball, where normally in a full court press this original pass would have been made on their 16 metre line.

It’s a very risky strategy and something that unless every player on the team knows their role I would say would be unsuccessful. Attackers needs to always hold the line, midfielders always looking to mark the space and defenders always front marking. These are the three basic and most important points. Get those right and it’ll be great. 

Again, remember what I said about fitness. It’s a really hard going press and you’re pretty knackered quite soon into a match so plenty of subs constantly rolling every seven minutes or so is vital, especially for the attackers who are doing most of the running. And the running is sprinting because if the attackers aren’t in place by the time the hit out is taken then the whole press has broken down before it has even been set up. The attackers always need to be sprinting when shuttling across the pitch as any space in this line a good defender taking the hit out will see early on and just pass it into this space

Good communication from the back to the front is important too. The midfielders need to communicate to tell the attackers where the space is, etc. The defenders need to be talking to the midfielders, again about the spaces, the players, etc. And vitally the goalie needs to have the confidence to tell the defence when they are not front marking. The goalie is key to the half court press as it’s only really them that can see how it looks from the very back and what is going right and wrong.

There is a lot more to it than just that but I’ve tried to explain it in simple terms and obviously through experience of playing it and coaching it for four or five seasons back to back! It’s a lot of running for not a lot of possession and it’s a very very defensive strategy. I wouldn’t be playing it against a team who you think/know you’ll win against.

So there you have it…. the half court press explained. Thankyou for taking time to explain this to me (and our readers) I’ve found it to be very helpful.