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Photo: Frank Uijlenbroek

The anatomy of an indoor hockey player

January 27, 2015
Just what skills and abilities does a player need to crack the indoor code?

In just over a week, some of the best indoor hockey players in the world are descending upon Leipzig, Germany, to contest the 2015 Indoor Hockey World Cup. Among the teams taking part are the regaining champions Germany, and in this article we hear from two of the stalwarts of the German men’s team. But first, a quick look at what it takes to be a good indoor hockey player.

The essential skills and abilities of an indoor hockey player mirror those of an outdoor player – speed, power, dexterity, flexibility and co-ordination. But what are the challenges of the indoor game that can sometimes catch the outdoor player unawares?

Anthony Potter, coach to the Australian women’s indoor side and a former indoor and outdoor international himself, said: “The skills of the indoor game and the outdoor game are wholly complementary, but I have to say it would be interesting if you had players who were over 160 centimetres tall.”

This point is due to the smaller playing area and the amount of quick twisting and turning that is required of the field players. An indoor pitch is a minimum of 18 metres wide by 36 metres long, which is nearly one third of the size of a regular outdoor playing field. Players need to be able to get into sprinting mode very quickly and turn sharply to avoid tackles. This is one of the reasons so many coaches see the indoor game as a great way to sharpen skills for the outdoor game.

The intensity of the game is another factor that can surprise players as they transition from one code to the other. Indoor hockey is very intensive and there are less breaks in the game, so players will find they are being asked to use their skills at a very high level, often while under intense physical pressure.

While the pitch size is smaller, so the teams have fewer players. There are four field players and a goalkeeper. The positions are less defined than in the outdoor game. Although players are classified as attack or defence, the speed of the game and the rapid turnover of possession means that no-one apart from the goalkeeper is always a defender or always an attacker. This calls for great understanding of tactics, another skill that complements the outdoor game.

Indoor hockey calls on players to develop their technical ability in skills such as pushing and deflecting the ball, and making low tackles. Once in the circle, the player can push, scoop or flick the ball – there is no hitting in the indoor game.

Captain of the German indoor team is Tobias Hauke, the FIH Player of the Year in 2013, and a player who was instrumental in Germany’s success at the 2007 Indoor Hockey World Cup. He says “Indoor hockey trains your basic skills very hard. You are under pressure to control the ball in a really small space against two or three opponents – that really helps with skill development.”

Tobias’s teammate and captain of the German outdoor team, Oliver Korn, says that indoor hockey is particularly good for developing two specific areas of the game. “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.”

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