If you want to be performing at the top of your game, then you’ll want some tips from the pros. Here are several important factors that professionals have identified as making up the ultimate hockey defender:
Passing includes both passing skills and the range of those passes. Skills include the ability to slap, hit, push and overhead as accurately as possible to team mates. The range refers to the ability to pass further distances and keep a good pace of pass too. Passing is an essential skill to work on as it will make you harder to attack and increase your options for getting out of being pressed.
- Read the game
A good defender will be able to read the game, knowing when to leave a player, intercept and when to hold behind. This ability develops over time and through experience, but to get a head start, try questioning different game scenarios and analyse what’s going on to improve your understanding of tactics and the overall game. Video analysis is helpful for this.
- Strong in 1v1
When it comes to a 1v1, a defender must be able to hold his or her own in a contest of power and will. You need to be confident that you’re going to win, be able to manipulate the opposite number and move the 1v1 into a position for you to make a better tackle. Quick footwork is an added advantage in a 1v1 defence situation too.
- Solid tackling
A defender must be able to make strong, clean tackles that are developed through training to have good timing and accurate decision-making skills.
- Stick pressure
Just your strong presence is often enough to make an attacker feel pressured and make mistakes. Knowing how to close space down quickly between you and an attacker is important to make it harder for them to pass. By keeping them pressured, you can force them to make a mistake when they look up to make a pass.
Staying calm and making quick decisions under pressure are also attributes of a good defender. Knowing the right moves to make at the right time and implementing the desired skills quickly is what helps to keep the opposition’s ball out of your goal. Keeping a cool head under pressure is a mental skill that needs to be honed over time.
- Communication skills
The ability to send clear instructions in a calm manner to your team mates is crucial. Without this, they’ll be little defensive organisation. Part of the job of a defender is to assist team mates with positioning and guidance as they can see the whole field in front of them.