Top 10 Field Hockey Skills To Master

I’m often asked which field hockey skills players should focus on but it often depends on a number of factors such as your current level, your position, your strengths, weaknesses, etc.

However, I decided to come up with a list of the top 10 field hockey skills that I think are most useful for the majority of modern day field hockey players to focus on. 

The order in which you develop these skills will depend on various factors, but I encourage you to choose just 1-2 at a time so that you start to notice an improvement.

10 Top Field Hockey Skills To Master:

#1: Hit

This is probably one of the most essential skills which a lot of players struggle to master. There are so many factors to consider such as foot position, ball position, head position, body position, what happens with your hips, the angle that you strike the ball, grip, your wrists, your follow through, etc.

This skill is useful for all positions; defenders in making hard hitting passes through presses, midfielders crossing the ball into the circle and strikers to shoot at goal.

#2: First Touch (Trapping)

Your first touch or “trapping” is a receiving skill which allows you to receive the ball under control and head in the direction of where the space is. It’s a skill Mark Knowles speaks about a lot.

You could use hard hands to receive into a space in front of you or it could be using soft hands to allow the ball across your body. Your first touch could also be to take the ball left or right, either side of your player to create more space.

#3: Leading

Every single player needs to be able to lead if they want to receive the ball. Leading well allows you to have more time on the ball and to ultimately make better decisions. There are various types of leads you can make and can vary depending upon your position.

Timing is another crucial factor to consider as a great lead is not great unless your timing is spot on. Great leading comes from understanding the player on the ball as well as your ability to anticipate what is going to happen next.

#4: Passing

Often good plays come from good passing so it is an important aspect to cover. This point could be a number of different skills and also depends on your position.

For example a defender may want to focus on their fake slapping or overheads. A midfielder may want to work on passing off the right foot. A striker may want to work on their one touch passing or lifted passes into space.

Related post: How to do an overhead

#5: Flat stick tackle

All players should be able to make a clean flat stick tackle, including forwards and even goalkeepers. Bad tackles are normally made when you get caught in a bad position or are mis-timed.

Body position, the position of your feet (i.e. being caught flat footed), committing too early are all examples of things that can lead to making bad tackles which results in free hits in dangerous positions or being carded and temporarily suspended from the game.   

#6: Jab / Poke

The jab tackle is probably one of the most under-rated skills which applies to all positions whether it is a striker or midfielder tracking back or a defender trying to break down an attack.

Jabbing is a great way to force the opposition into area’s of the field which are less dangerous and make it difficult for them to get through.

jab 1

You don’t have to always jab directly at the ball, you may even jab next to the ball to close down the space and force the opposition to go one way. It can also used to set a player up for a front stick tackle.

The aim of the jab tackle is to put the player on the ball under pressure, change the direction of the ball or show them perceived space.

#7: Tomahawk / Reverse

Defenders can use the tomahawk to clear balls down the line, midfielders could use it to cross from the left side and strikers of course shooting at goal to score from various angles. Although it can be a difficult skill to master, it is definitely a skill worth practicing. 

Related post: How to do a tomahawk

#8: V Drag 

The V drag (or dummy) is one of the most essential elimination skills and is useful for most positions, whether you’re a defender trying to get out of a tight situation under pressure, a midfielder looking to break the line to create attacking opportunities or a striker looking for a bit of space to get a shot away.

The V drag can be used to go left or right. 

#9: 3D skills

Many defenders say that one of the hardest things to defend is when players use 3D skills. Using a controlled lift is very effective to use against players who like to make flat stick tackles.

Once you use it, defenders will start to think more about how to approach you next time which could leave some doubt and indecision in their mind. There are several variations, but learning a few basics lifts and jinks should do the trick.

Related post: How to beat players using 3D Skills

#10: Deception

Although this one is not technically a skill, it is an aspect which is important to develop if you want to pull off a lot of the skills mentioned above.

If you can be deceptive about what you are going to do, it makes it harder for the opposition and will give you more space and time on the ball.

For example if you are going to do a basic V drag then simply by dropping your shoulder one way before you change direction, you are more likely to convince the player that you are going that way, causing them to step off balance.

I chose these skills based on what we feel gives you the best value for your time. 

Don’t spend too much time on the fancy skills you may never use and don’t make things more complicated than they need to be. In fact, if you can pass and receive really well you can reach the top level!

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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.

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