As hockey players, we would all like to know (if you don't already!) what makes a great defender and what makes a great overall backline defence. Well, hopefully, this blog will help with that!
According to top international hockey players Mark Knowles, Dan Fox and Rhett Halkett, the following elements make a great defender:
1. Passing - range and skill
Having high-quality passing skills makes it more difficult for the attack to press. Having higher-level passing skills, such as aerials, also helps to relieve the pressure when outletting from the backline.
2. Strength in 1v1s
Defenders need to be strong and confident to win 1v1 battles with their counterpart opponents. They also need to be able to manipulate situations in order to lead the opposition into zones where it makes for better tackling.
3. Effective reading of the game
Being able to read the game means knowing when to make decisions between leaving the player, making an interception or holding behind. A great way to work on this skill to move it along is to watch video analysis of hockey matches. This gives you a real insight into different hockey defensive decisions. This also allows you to gain a better understanding of the game as a whole.
Good, clean tackles are essential for gaining possession of the ball. This skill requires good timing and decision making, while also having full control over your stick! Dan Fox suggests keeping both hands on your stick for as long as possible. This means you will win the ball more cleanly and more often. It also forces you to move your feet quicker in order to get into a good position.
Good pressure on an attacker will often force them into making silly mistakes and force more panic-based decisions on their part. According to Dan Fox, by closing down the attacker quickly, it makes it easier for your teammates to defend narrow channels. It's all about teamwork!!
Staying calm under pressure is vital for any defender; for any hockey player for that fact. But for a defender, one mistake can lead to letting in a goal, so keeping a level head in pressurised situations is key. This is a mental skill which you can develop and is just as important as the physical skills, even more so, some might say.
Communication can make or break a team. Sending clear and calm information to your teammates is essential for a successful defence, and a successful team! As the defenders have a great clear view of the whole pitch, they can communicate and inform the rest of the team to help with positioning.
I hope you have found these top tips useful and check back soon for your next BHC blog instalment!