(Photo: FIH)

Tobias Hauke believes that indoor hockey is one of the best ways to hone your hockey skills for the outdoor game. The FIH 2013 Player of the Year is part of a hugely successful German squad that has dominated world hockey events over the past two decades and one of the medals that stands proudly alongside his collection of Olympic gold medals is the Indoor Hockey World Cup gold medal that the German team won in 2007. 

So is regular participation in indoor hockey one of the key components to Germany's ongoing success? Hauke certainly thinks it plays a role: "You train your basic skills very hard: indoor hockey is so intensive and there are less breaks in the game, so you are using your skills at a very high level. You are under pressure to control the ball in a really small space against two or three opponents – that really helps with skill development."

While the indoor version of the game is similar to it's outside cousin, Hauke points out that some skills have to be unlearnt as the players transition from one game to the other. "Although it is really good to change between the games – it keeps you really sharp and you are always looking forwards to playing the other game – there are some differences you have to think about. For example, indoor hockey does not permit you to lift the ball, so once you go outdoors you have to quickly change your skills."

Teammate, and captain of the national side, Oliver Korn agrees that the indoor game is great for developing skills that are transferable across both styles of hockey. For him, there are two specific areas that indoor hockey improves. "Because there is less space, your reaction times and anticipation improves. Also, I find that my defensive skills, particularly in one-on-one situations, are better at the end of the indoor season."

But when it comes to a choice between indoor and outdoor hockey, Oliver prefers the outdoor version. "A downside of indoor hockey is that the players sometimes struggle to fully recover, as there is not a lot of rest time between matches."

Indoor hockey has always been strong in Germany. The game became popular there from the 1950s and it quickly spread to other European nations. The indoor hockey season in Germany lasts throughout the winter, with the outdoor version of the game taking place throughout the summer months. Critics have suggested that this system may impair Germany's chances in major outdoor championships, however recent results suggest that far from impairing the German team's performance, regular indoor hockey has enhanced their performances. 

The German men's team are the reigning European indoor hockey men's champions and the German women are ranked number two in Europe.