5 things I wish I knew when I was a teenage field hockey player

Like many people, I sometimes wish that I could turn back time and re-live my younger hockey days with the same passion I had then, but with more effective strategies using the knowledge and experience that I have now, 15 years later.

Below are some of the most important things which I have learn’t but also the things taht I see all the time from the hockey players that I work with. Nowadays, I develop strategies to help hockey players to be more effective and have a better chance at reaching their goals.

5 Things I Wish I knew When I was a Teenage Hockey Player:

#1. Dealing with the fear of making mistakes

I have come to learn and understand how so many people struggle with this, not just in hockey but also in life. We always seem to worry about what might happen instead of embracing the positive side of what we would like to happen.

Why do we do this? 

Because we are human and our automatic response is to thrive on the negative and look for excuses of why we won’t be successful. The good news though is that you can change this when you learn how to control your mind and your thoughts. This is something I have now dedicated my purpose to… teaching people how to focus on the things that you want to happen, through the things that you enjoy, i.e. hockey.

fear mindSeems I realised a lot of this too late on, I have since learn’t how to teach hockey players the specific strategies of taking control of your mind and your thoughts and how to focus on the things that you want to  happen. I do this through tapping into your unconscious mind using NLP techniques which is essentially  asking you some powerful questions and the way that you answer tells me what is happening in your brain  to cause these feelings of fear, worry, panic and anxiety.

My aim is to provide people with the tools to help you overcome the mental barriers and limiting beliefs that  you may have, so that you no longer hold yourself back from reaching your potential. 

Once you learn HOW to do this, you will notice a world of difference in your outcomes, whether that is to  score a goal that you would normally miss, stop the ball cleanly for once or to give that perfect pass  rather  than turning possession over. This is one of the most important life lessons that I now teach in  my  mentorship program which applies to everything in life that you do.

#2. Train your core strength, not your abs!  

I had once heard that core strength was important for hockey players so I went on a mission to get a stronger core – every day I would do 100 sit-ups. Yes 100 without fail, everyday! Until, a few injuries later and having learnt that situp’s actually are not that great for hockey players and they have very little relevance (if any) to improving your hockey.

In fact sit-up’s can be harmful to you are a hockey player.

no situps

Whenever you overwork something what happens? Yes, injury! and this happens a lot with people that decide to do extra training. So you need to be doing more specific exercises which are relative to hockey. 

I have since learn’t how strength & core training is so specific to a sport – I mean can you tell me honestly how often in a game you are lying down on the floor in hockey (as you do for a situp)? Besides that, playing hockey in an awkward bent down position promotes the shortening of your hip flexors and guess what – so do situps!

Planks are better (when you use the correct technique) but still they can be boring and too static so by adding some movement whilst maintaining a stable core position makes it a much better core exercise. There are many other core exercises especially movements that train the rotational element similar to movements in hockey like the slap, hit, dragflick, overhead, etc which have better carry over to a stronger core for hockey.

#3. How critical Recovery & Nutrition is in your development

This is one of the most overlooked mistakes that hockey players make, particularly kids. When you are young, these are not things that you really think about.

When I was 15 years old, most of the time it was a case of I need to work harder and keep pushing but sometimes you have to learn to step back and look after your body. Make sure that you have enough rest and recovery so that you are fresh and ready to go again. This applies to both the body and also the mind.

Stop trying to do so much and start working more effectively or you will burn yourself out and likely cause an injury… because you can’t play when you are injured!

  • How many times do you just grab whatever is in the fridge before training or games?
  • Do you pay attention to what you are eating and drinking and how much?
  • What do you eat after games to ensure you recover properly?
  • Are you eat enough for the amount of activity you are doing?


Or maybe it’s like “let’s go, quick, hurry you are going to be late” and you stuff your face last minute because you have not thought about what you are going to eat or maybe not eating enough time before your training/game.

Instead spend some time the day before planning or preparing what you are going to eat or wake up 15 minutes earlier to give yourself enough time to eat the right things before a game AND also after games.

Sometimes we are not faced with a lot of choice so it is important to be prepared and always have a plan B if there is nothing available. For example I was always known for carrying around snacks in my hockey bag as though it was some kind of “fear of not having food” which might be the case but I never had the problem of not having something convenient to refuel with.

Be prepared and eat the things that are going to help you perform on the field!

#4. Build a solid foundation with a hockey specific training plan

One day I decided that I was going to get stronger and this was going to give me the edge over my opposition, so I asked mum for a pair of dumbbells. I didn’t have a clue about what I should be doing other than those common exercises like bicep curls, bench presses, tricep dips that I had seen other people do. I didn’t know then that I could have been doing more effective exercises that would have been better suited for hockey.


I mean if you think about the bicep curl – when do you ever lift a weight in that motion on the hockey field, probably never, unless you are doing something seriously wrong of course! I could talk all day about the benefits of strength training, but essentially you can’t afford not to do strength training if you are serious about improving as a hockey player.

Strength training will help you to be stronger on the ball, to get faster, be able to hit, slap, overhead and dragflick the ball harder. Strength training is also imperative for the prevention of injury.

It is important that you not only understand the benefits of strength training but also how to do it properly. You need to be doing not only the right exercises but also the right amount of reps, sets, rest, frequency, tempo and following a structured fitness program throughout the year changing your plan every 4-6 weeks, each factor depends on the time of the year or where you are in your season.

A lot of people that do strength training will tend to overwork certain muscle groups which often lead to muscular imbalances. This can cause serious injuries down the line so it is important you get expert advice from someone who is qualified and also understands the demands of hockey. Anyone over the age of 12 years who is serious about hockey, should definitely be doing strength training as it WILL help you and a personalised program is the best way to go – this is something I can help you with on the Mentorship Program

#5. The importance of deceleration training

Hockey has certainly become a much faster game in recent times and speed & agility and being more athletic is certainly a large part of becoming a great hockey player nowadays.

Speed is one of the most dangerous skills to possess in field hockey particularly to beat players and to counter attack before the opposition have a chance to do anything about it.

Agility is the ability to be able to react quickly and change direction of where you are going in the most efficient way.


For example when the ball is turned over, do you react quick enough to either be at the far post for a goal opportunity or maybe in defence you want to slow your player down and put them under pressure to win the ball back, but maybe you lack pace to keep up with them.

Improving your acceleration technique is important to improve your speed in a straight line but in hockey it is even more important to understand how to decelerate properly (i.e. stop quickly) in order to change direction quickly and re-accelerate.


Working on your deceleration will help you to improve your ability to react quickly in games and so that you can move in any direction in the quickest time possible, not just in straight lines.

You must also train deceleration to prevent common injuries in teens, in particular knee problems such as ACL tears, stress fractures and many others.

 Too often teenagers (and even sometimes parents) get caught up in the now and want instant results but  forget about the bigger picture and the long term athletic development which you have to go through to get  your end result. If you are 15 years old, you still have at least 5 years of developing to do, so it doesn’t matter if you haven’t reach your peak YET!

mentorship program (ipad)If you would like to find out more about working with Lauren… then click here to learn about the 12 week Hockey Mentorship Program which has helped many hockey players around the world  reach their potential not just in hockey, but also life.

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About The Author

Lauren Penny

Lauren is a former International Hockey Player, Performance Coach & Mentor specialising in helping hockey players to be more confident, improve their fitness and perform more consistently to get noticed and reach higher teams.