1-2-1 Hockey Coaching
Train with Intensity
What? For me, training intensity means playing hockey at a pace that matches or exceeds the level required to be successful in a match. If sessions are going to deliver meaningful improvement then the content of those sessions should replicate the conditions that players are likely to experience in a match.
How? But how do you replicate the competitiveness and meaning that a match naturally generates? And how do you replicate game specific situations when the size of a training group might only be nine or ten players? And even more importantly how do you deliver all of that whilst also following coaching's Golden Thread?
"By using the principles of The Golden Thread coaches can create environments which deliver a high intensity.Dan Fox
The answer lies in the question. By using the principles of The Golden Thread coaches can create environments which deliver a high intensity and here are 6 examples of how it can be done...
Competition. Incorporating competition into practice design makes training meaningful. Whether it is a forfeit or a prize having a reason why gives players something to aim for and it's fun. At Hampstead and Westminster the losers bought the winners a post-match drink in the club house. At Holcombe the losing side collected in the kit.
Time. Short exercises allow players to deliver intensity. Tuesday morning Great Britain training consisted of a round robin of 5 aside matches with rolling subs to allow both teams to play flat out. Regular breaks also generate opportunities for feedback and discussion. Avoid a thirty minute games at the end of a session.
Pitch size and player numbers. These round robin sessions were on a 40x40 metre pitch. On small pitches players get loads of touches of the ball and are prompted into constantly making decisions. They are always involved. They can't drift through a practice.
Scenarios. Particularly in game-play, asking players to plan for a scenario (i.e. 1-0 down with five minutes to go) makes training feel something like the game. It adds urgency and makes players engage tactically as well as physically with a practice.
Restarts. A massive part of being a coach is delivering continuity between exercises and making sure each exercise on its own has a flow. Flow means reducing the time when players are able to switch off. For example, having a pile of balls ready to feed into a small sided game replicates the rapid transitions that happen in hockey matches with self-passing and quick free-hits.
Session length. England rugby sessions are reportedly 40 minutes long because that is a realistic length of time during which players can deliver match like intensity. I'm sure many of you would agree that driving to training for only a forty minute session wouldn't be popular (except, perhaps, on a really cold night) but designing practices to have periods of high and low intensity is definitely worth considering. Would players benefit if you gave them twenty minutes 'free swim' time where they can work on a skill of their own choosing and at their own pace? Could you mix game play with time for more deliberate technical practice and discovery learning that offers stretch?
Inevitably training intensity will fluctuate during the season just as match performances do. Some of the reasons are totally beyond our control as coaches (The British weather, somebody forgot the bag of balls, a deflating defeat on Saturday) but far from undermining the effectiveness of a coach, these factors reinforce the need for high quality coaching that delivers match-like intensity through the principles of the Golden Thread.