Strokes – Strategy and Practice

There are many effective approaches to taking a
penalty stroke. To be successful you should find a
technique that focuses on aspects that are in your
control – and will make you a high-percentage

Here are some keys to success:

  • Determine a simple routine for addressing the ball
    and preparing to take the stroke.

  • Focus on this routine and you will eliminate
    distractions under pressure.

  • Pick a point in the goal that you are going to
    shoot at – don’t change your mind after you have
    started your final preparation for the stroke.

  • Shoot for either of the bottom corners. Shooting
    high means you can shoot over the goal you can’t
    shoot under.

  • Aim for the back post (the corner of the sideboard
    and backboard). This gives you a few inches of room
    on the outside.

  • Shoot a few inches in the air. The shot along the
    ground (on the GK’s stick side) is easier for the
    keeper to stop with his stick.


  • Place cones on the goal line, one stick-length from
    the goalpost on either side. Aim inside the cones
    on either side to score.

  • Simulate game-pressure situations in practice:
    Rewards for scoring, “punishments” for missing.

  • If you follow these principles and shoot low, hard
    into the corners, you will score most of the time.

Zonal Defence

A game of hockey can be separated into 2 phases,
Firstly when your team has possession, and secondly
when the opposition has possession. To be a
successful team you must be able to control the game
in both phases. When the opposition have the ball the
objective is to win the ball back without allowing
them to create goal-scoring opportunities. In the
past the method of defence used, was assigning
players to an opposition number in that particular
area of the field, who they were then to mark as
tightly as possible.

This is “man-to man” marking and requires a lot of
pointless running, and the problem arises when a man
is beaten by his opposing number, and now there is
no-one to meet the ball carrier as everyone else is
marking. These situations are always arising and when
a player steps off his man to meet, there is now an
easy passing option available to the ball carrier,
i.e.: the free man. The trend in modern hockey is to
employ a zonal system of defence. This system is
generally used when you have the opposition in their
own half, and preferably on one of the sides of the
field. E.g.: 16 yard hit.

In employing a zonal system, the entire defensive
team aligns itself according to where the ball is in
relation to the most dangerous pass, which could be
available to the opposition. Normally this would be a
pass directly into the middle of the field, which
allows the opposition to then dictate the play. The
zonal system should allow the opposition a square or
backwards pass, but once this pass has been made the
defence should quickly realign them selves with the
new dangerous pass options available to the
opposition. Is crucial that all 10 defensive players
are away of their roles at all times, as any gap in
the “wall” could have disastrous consequences.
If this system is done correctly, the defending team
can push forward as a unit with little concern as to
the opposition strikers movements behind them, as a
ball should not be able to find its way through.


The biggest key to a successful zonal system is
communication, and this starts with the keeper. The
players behind call the players in front into the
correct lines. The centre back and centre midfield
are pivotal roles in this communication system. The
players up front are under the obligation to place
the ball carrier under immense pressure, thus
resulting in an ineffective or unsuccessful pass. If
these players up front try to actually win the ball
in a tackle, they will more than likely give away a
free hit, and the whole process must start again,
whereas if the ball carrier is made to pass the ball
under pressure, there is a strong likelihood that it
will be intercepted by the midfield who are waiting

From here the counter attack can be sprung. This
system brings about opportunities for many attacks,
as you win the ball in positions higher up in the
field. The opposition will also be stretched
defensively as they try to find a way out of the
The key to a successful side is to attack using the
full pitch and defend in as small a space as
possible. By closing the oppositions’ space when they
are in possession, closes down the angles and options
they have available to them. If they try to carry the
ball out of this position, it is important that we
try to channel the ball carrier onto a second
defenders stick to make the tackle. If the first
defender dives in, it is very likely that the ball
carrier will win the hit and thus obtain the space
and time he was looking for. It is crucial that both
defenders know that they are looking for this double
defence and work accordingly.

Reasons for the Zonal Defence

  • To place the opposition in areas of the pitch with
    very few options.

  • Be able to win the ball higher in the pitch.

  • Avoid the defenders chasing needlessly after
    opposition forwards.

A coach once told me that by using a small amount of
mental energy, you save yourself a huge amount of
physical energy. I.e.: More you think the less you
have to run, thus saving yourself energy for when it
is actually needed. The system does take time to
perfect, and the keys are to communicate well, and
react quickly to situations.I call this an “Allplay”,
as all 11 players are involved, and if 1 person is
not aware or fails in his role then the opposition
can find a way out of the pressurized situation.
There is no place for man-to-man marking in this
system, except if the attackers near the defensive
25-yard line. Here a lot of teams will now change to
the man-to-man system, as before communication is the
critical part of the equation to ensure a successful

Leave a Reply

Scroll To Top