1-2-1 Hockey Coaching

6 minutes reading time (1229 words)

The Cone Police

  1. Do you count out every ball, bib and cone at the start of each session?
  2. Do you always stack your cones in colour order?
  3. Do you have a piece of rope 16 yards long that you use to measure out a circle during training?
  4. Are you about to Google '16 yard rope'?

Whether the answer to these questions is a yes or a no it is always good to know that other people think the same way...and more importantly to know why? As coaches we rely on our kit; balls, bibs and cones and let's face it we are going to spend a lot of time carting it around, storing it in our car boots and using it in our session design...so I have been finding out how and why different people use it...

"I like the idea of well-organised kit...but I can never seem to get to grips with actually doing it"

Let's face it, some coaches' kitbags always have the right amount of bibs, balls, strips and markers and some coaches' kit bags are like mine. Don't get me wrong, I like the idea of order and organisation, but when it comes to kit I can never seem to get to grips with actually doing it. 

Counting cones, balls and strips in and out on a sunny afternoon in March when I can stroll off the pitch; fine. Turn that into a wet and windy evening in February as the lights are about to switch off, my hands have gone numb and the last players are longing to get home and it's a non-starter.

Now, setting out a pitch is different. I can totally get on board with the need to have lovely colour-coordinated pitch markings, the correct size Ds and evenly matches up bibs. This is an area of coaching that I appreciate is important to players; it is a way of translating ideas from inside my head onto the pitch. It is a way to deliver an environment that makes sense to the players. 

So why write this blog...Well, we all have preferences and this is a chance to find out how and why coaches use their kit on the pitch, how they look after it off the pitch and how they make that process meaningful to their players so it isn't always the coach digging balls out of the goal net after everyone else has gone home.

Does this picture give you a headache?

​Whether you love order or you're happy with a bit of chaos - it's worth thinking about each approach and reflecting on your own practice. We asked two coaches to talk about their experiences...

"Taking good care of our kit reflects our approach to training; thoughtful, considerate and self-organised"

The Cone Police.

  • The key for me as a coach is translating a  message that players understand. Rather than relying on my words to describe and explain a session I like to create an environment that is clear to all learners. If the outside of the pitch is marked with orange cones every five yards, it is clear to the players that that is the edge of the pitch. Carefully thinking about how I use kit provides clarity in training.
  • I like players to turn up to a session and see that it has been well planned, that it is focused and that it is an opportunity to learn. Part of this is having a pitch that is neatly set up so that the practice flows from one section to the next. It hasn't been thrown together in my head and the pitch hasn't been marked out on a whim. It is part of a plan.
  • Taking good care of our kit reflects our approach to training; thoughtful, considerate and self-organised. The playing group are responsible for the number of balls in the bag, for washing the bibs and for collecting everything in at the end of the session. It includes them in the planning and preparation of training and in making sure sessions run smoothly. This prompts them to consider how else they can be a part of the coaching-learning process. 
  • Because the kit has become a bigger deal we can have fun with it. The last player to wash a set of bibs chooses the next player as an ironic man of the match award. We tried training with headbands rather than bibs as a bit of fun, something we learnt from rugby. Simple ideas but taking care of our kit has become inclusive, fun and it saves us a bit of cash at the end of the season too!

"We've all played with jumpers for goalposts...and loved it"

Jumpers for Goalposts.

  • Have you ever started a session with two goals out and asked players to begin playing against each other as they arrive? It starts off 1v1 and gradually builds as people arrive and work out what is going on. The first time I tried this it was messy and the players were confused. The second time more players caught on and a few that missed week one started to catch up. By week three some funny things started happening; the whole team turned up on time; incredibly(!) In fact a few turned up and warmed up in the car park before. A week after one group of players all turned up in white t-shirts having arranged it on WhatsApp so they could play together. 
  • It's not quite jumpers for goalposts but it was a brilliant start to the session. In fact we delivered the whole evening on the same pitch with the same teams. People like playing hockey because they like playing hockey. Getting away from cones and drills has been a big focus at the club and trialling a period of one ball per session has been amazing; it has totally revolutionised session design. 
  • I also like to include a bit of chaos in my session design. We did a great bit of work on delivery into the circle. the game involved emptying the kit cupboard of every cone and obstacle we could find and spreading them at random across the 23m line. Two teams played 5v5 in the circle with a ball delivered from outside the 23m line. it was a session aimed at improving our ability to defend and attack balls crossed at pace, often with a player getting a touch outside the cirlce meaning the ball bobbles in. The session was great fun and the fact that the pitch looked like total chaos added to the quality of the practice and the players had fun setting it up and thinking about why it was important.

Jumpers for goalposts or clearly defined playing spaces...what is your preference? And should you mix it up?

So what...?

Ultimately our approach as coaches is a reflection of our experiences (what has worked well in the past) our personality (what we are comfortable with) and our judgement (what will work well with these players at this time). For some people this will look like order and control, whereas for others it is a more chaotic environment. Both approaches have implications for learning and, thanks to the two viewpoints above it is clear that they are not mutually exclusive. So here is a challenge...try a bit of both over the course of the season.

Thanks for reading. To find out more, to comment and to keep up to date then please do get in touch


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