7 Factors That Make a Great Striker in Field Hockey

Want to know what makes a great striker in field hockey?

Who better to ask than players who have reached the top level, including insights from Australian striker Ashleigh Nelson and GB men’s striker Sam Ward.

Other posts in this series:

Playing striker can be one of the most rewarding positions to play but it can also be frustrating at times.

Score the winning goal and you’re the team’s hero…

But, other times you can run your socks off and not get many touches of the ball or miss an open goal opportunity, urrgh!!

Here are the 7 key factors that makes a great striker in field hockey.

7 Factors That Make a Great Striker in Field Hockey

#1 – Effective Leading

Strikers need the ability to create space in which to get their shot away in the circle. This can be done with effective leading whether it’s using your body to lead off a defender or double leads to deceive the opposition.

Part of this is also about timing and recognising where the space is.

If you don’t receive the ball when you make a lead it is also very important that you re-lead, creating space for someone else to run into and drawing your defender with you. If the defender stays then you will probably be available for a pass.

#2 – Finishing in the D

One of the most important jobs of a striker is to score goals, so the ability to be clinical and composed in the D is definitely something you should work on. You should also be able to shoot of either foot and possess several different scoring techniques.

GB Men’s striker Sam Ward suggests to:

“Get the ball going at goal before the keeper is set” and

“Be low and ready at all times, the ball will often come to you when you least expect it too”

Sam Ward2

GB’s dangerous striker Sam Ward putting his body on the line

Australia’s Ashleigh Nelson says:

“It is very rare that you will get a full blooded shot on your fore-stick. Most goals are scored around the penalty stroke mark. Work on deflections at the back post (be brave), push/flick shots and up the line deflections while jumping in front of your defender.”

#3 – Change of Pace

One of the most dangerous skills in attack is speed, especially when you catch the opposite team out from a turnover. Speed is especially useful for wingers so that they get in behind the defensive lines and create an overload of players.

What is particularly effective is when players use a change of pace to deceive the opposition, forcing them to slow down before accelerating into the space ahead. This catches them off guard, especially if their feet are not pointing in the same direction that you’re heading (i.e. to goal).

#4 – Scoring mentality

If you’ve been following HPA for some time you’ll know that I speak a lot about the mental part of sport and as a striker myself I know all too well how your mindset can affect your goal tally.

Ashleigh adds that:

“Strikers will have fluctuations in their performance and scoring rate; it is an inevitable part of sport. By having a positive attitude to keep hunting for goal scoring opportunities the goals will come.”

“Great strikers always believe that they can score in every game against any defence.

Having some urgency and mental toughness to take the shot under pressure is also part of this. So many people I speak to are scared of missing the goal that they either pass it or take too long to shoot and get tackled. Don’t overthink it.

Related post: 5 Ways To Score More Goals

#5 – Awareness

With over 200 caps for Australia, the experienced Hockeyroo (Nelson) believes that strikers need to: 

“Have the knowledge of what they’re going to do next. For example where is the space to move into , where are your team mates and what is the most dangerous option?” 

“By taking in that information before you get the ball it assists in making the correct decision when under pressure.”

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Hockeyroos Ashleigh Nelson always poses a threat at goal

Part of this is also recognising space and timing. For example not taking a massive back swing when there isn’t enough space or time to do so, as that can lead to giving away possession.

In that instance it would be better to try win a short corner instead.

#6 – Receiving under pressure

To be a great striker you should develop the ability to receive the ball under pressure and stay strong on the ball to maintain possession.

This requires a good first touch to get control of the ball and then using your body to protect the ball from defenders trying to steal it off you.

#7 – 1v1 Elimination Skills

Too often players try to go right through players sticks or the goalkeepers pads, rather than going around them (drags) or over their stick (3d skills). You can also use your body for deception.

Ashleigh says that:

“As a striker you may often find yourself in a one on one situation with a goalie or the last defender. Play to your strengths to get past them.” 

For example: “Can you use your speed? Or do you have to develop multiple types of drags to wrong foot your opposition and create goal scoring opportunities?”

“Dummies and jinks/3D skills are also essential skills to develop in a strikers repertoire.”


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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.