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The DNA of indoor hockey

October 28, 2021

The Men’s and Women’s FIH Indoor Hockey World Cups 2022 are taking place in Liège, Belgium in February next year. With just over three months to go before the event commences, teams are going through final selection processes and players are getting ready for the challenges ahead.

Despite sharing much DNA with the outdoor game, there are fundamental differences between indoor hockey and the outdoor version. As Ali Campbell, of the USA women’s team says: ‘The fancy 3-D stuff is fine for the outdoor game, but once you get indoors, its is all about keeping the ball on the floor and keeping close control.’

Over the border in Canada, the women’s team are preparing for their assault on the FIH Indoor World Cup. Alison Lee is another player who has represented her country at both the indoor and outdoor game and is now making waves in coaching as well. For Lee, the indoor game is an invaluable version of the game, with plenty of transferable skills.

‘Indoor hockey teaches valuable skills that can be transferred across the various formats,’ she says. ‘I have been able to bring a lot of what I learned playing indoor to my outdoor game. The indoor game is very quick and can change on the turn of a dime, so mentally it is super important to be able to stay "tuned in" to the game for the full 40 minutes because one lapse can change the game.

‘The different tools, and strategies, and tactics used across all the different formats bring a different perspective to how we play 11 v 11 outdoor.  I think playing the sport across different formats is extremely valuable. It equips us with tools that we can use across all different formats and elevates the entire game of hockey.’

Another player who has a different perspective on the game is Laurine Delforge of Belgium. Perhaps best known as the world class international umpire, Delforge is also one of Belgium’s top indoor players.

Unlike Lee, Delforge sees the two games as fundamentally different.

‘Indoor hockey is fast, really technical – which is an aspect I love about the game. And you cannot hide, there is no time to switch off, it is really exciting because you are always ‘on’.’

Delforge adds that decision-making, the use of skills in small spaces and the sense of team work are the three qualities that a good team will possess. She name-checked Germany’s Christopher Ruhr as an “impressive player, with great skills and strengths. She also praised 2018 bronze medallists Iran men for their team approach and creativity. 

For those new to indoor hockey, Delforge says the main things to note about the indoor game is that the ball cannot be lifted, unless it is a shot at goal, so 3D skills are out. Also not acceptable is hitting the ball; it must be pushed.

For the USA men’s team Aki Kaeppeler, the skills and qualities of indoor hockey are complementary to the outdoor game. ‘Indoor is not a different sport, but it is quite different. It is much more in the mind and it is much more technical. Being exposed to indoor hockey is so good for players.

‘There is a smaller group of player, so you are more together as a group. Also, with 11 on the pitch, if you have a bad game it is not so obvious. If you have a bad game at indoor, then you have nowhere to hide.’

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