Friday, 28 April 2017

Couple of simple passing drills for training

Here are a couple of very simple passing drills that you can use at training, again the focus here should be keeping your stick on the ball and ball control, as well as getting that shot away early. In addition there is an element here about widening the goal with both your post players in position ready to get deflections-

They are both very simple drills but work a treat, give them a go, let us know how you get on with them in your training.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

18 Years what a journey so far

Well this Sunday, when I step out to Coach the Capel Ladies South West League hockey game, it will mark exactly 18 years to the day since I stepped out to coach my first competitive game of hockey. Its hard to believe it has been 18 years, how time has gone by so fast, in that time I have had the great honour of coaching some brilliantly talented and gifted hockey players, along with some fantastic teams. So I thought on the eve of 18 year anniversary on Sunday, I would share with the world the following-

- My top ten best players I have coached over the last 18 years
- My best ever men's/boys team of the last 18 years
- My best ever women's/girls team of the last 18 years.

My Top Ten of best players over my 18 years

1. Reece Laycock (Swanleigh) (WA)
2. Emily Matison (Newman) (WA)
3. Laura Murray (Newman) (WA)
4. Brooke Anderson (South East Sharks) (VIC)
5. Paige Hardy (South East Sharks) (VIC)
6. Tabby Hodges (South East Sharks) (VIC)
7. Alice Arnold (South East Sharks) (VIC)
8. Bella Pettit (Queenwood) (NSW)
9. Jess Brimble (Manly) (NSW)
10. Kim Dunkin (Manly) (NSW)

My Best Ever Men's/Boys Team of my 18 years

Left Wing- Aaron Bennett (Swanleigh, WA)
Centre Forward- Brad Harrop (Swanleigh, WA)
Right Wing- Braden Bennett (Swanleigh, WA)

Left Inner- Robbie Elsom (Stirling Rangers, WA)
Right Inner- Tom Higgins (Stirling Rangers, WA)

Left Half- Ben Gorman (Swanleigh, WA)
Centre Half- Reece Laycock (Swanleigh, WA)
Right Half- Tom Mitchell (Stirling Rangers, WA)

Left Back- Rian Duncan (Swanleigh, WA)
Right Back- Cale Beard (Swanleigh, WA)
Goalie- Mitchell Chambers (Swanleigh, WA)

1. Sam Looke (Swanleigh, WA)
2. Wayne Brooks (Swanleigh, WA)
3. Tony Plain (Swanleigh, WA)

My Best ever Women's/Girls Team of my 18 years

Left Wing- Tiffany Crouch (Manly, NSW)
Centre Forward- Kim Dunkin (Manly, NSW)
Right Wing- Nat Johnson (ACT, State Team)

Left Inner- Kass Scarlett (Manly, NSW)
Right Inner- Emily Matison (Newman, WA)

Left Half- Jess Brimble (Manly, NSW)
Centre Half- Krista Morley (Manly, NSW)
Right Half- Brooke Anderson (South East Sharks, VIC)

Left Back- Paige Hardy (South East Sharks, VIC)
Right Back- Tabby Hodges (South East Sharks, VIC)
Goalie- Alice Arrnold (South East Sharks, VIC)

1. Laura Murray (Newman, WA)
2. Monika Young (South East Sharks, VIC)
3. Charley Madigan (South East Sharks, VIC)

So there we are, these have been hard to pick, there are some many I could have included that I have left out.

Like I say its been a fantastic 18 year journey so far, but it know where near over there is so much more to achieve, so watch this space, and lets bring on the next 18 years.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Breaking the game down into manageable parts.

For a long time now, I have been using a system I like to call the Two Traffic light system to break the game down during each half into manageable parts, and then talk about winning the majority of those parts or periods, thus making sure we win the game. This what I am talking about-

So how it works well very simple-

Red time (First 15 minutes of each half): That is when as a team we need to be running at our absolute best and putting in maximum effort, and being alert and focussed at all times, and make sure we are doing our basics well and following our process. The first 15 minutes of each half are some of the most dangerous times in hockey and this is why its Red Time where we must be doing our basics well and making every post a winner. This is not a period that a team can afford to lose, they must come out with either a draw or a win on the score board and in the statistics.

Amber Time (Middle 15 minutes of each half): This is where the game has settled down into a flow and both teams have settled down and the nerves are or have gone. There still needs to be a strong effort to make sure the basics are done well and the processes are followed. This is the period of the game where you perhaps can afford to come out with a draw in the statistics and a draw on the score-board without it hurting you terrible.

Red (Last 5 minutes of each half): Once again this is maximum danger time, I have seen it far to often where a team is scored on during this period because they relax and take the foot of the peddle. So once again I demand that we are alert, attacking hard and running hard at all times.

Also in hockey when either you score a goal or the opposition scores a goal, I as coach will call Red-time again why, because this is yet again danger time, if you scored the goal players have got this happy knack of relaxing taking the foot of the peddle, and bang opposition gets a fast break and score. So as soon as this happens its straight back doing well and at a urgent pass. Likewise if they score on you you should be exploiting that relax nature they are in and trying to break them open quickly.

So this is the devise I have developed and use, I really do welcome comment on it and would like to know if other coaches out there are using similar ideas or if they think there are ways to improve this. Please comment.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Innovation at Hockey Training

Today I had the opportunity to watch the Australian Men's hockey team go through training, and I once again realise how important innovation at hockey training is, that Coaches need to stop wanting to be the centre of attention, and work with there fellow coaches and their players to come up with new innovations at training, which keep training interesting and challenging, while still keep the basic principles of what we need to develop at training in place.

So what sort of innovations am I talking about-

- Shifting training to the grass from time to time, this will help to improve the players core skills, and also help them to further develop their ability to read the play and the game.

- Bringing in other similar sports, with similar skills, such as Netball, AFL, soccer to encourage your players to think outside the square.

- Drills that are not simply busy work, but have a clear purpose and are as much as possible about Game scenario's and tougher than anything that you will likely encounter in a game.

- allowing players to take on a run different aspects of training so you as the coach can step back and watch and observe, as well as be able to pull players aside and work on specific skill areas.

So innovation is crucial to training in my book as a coach. I welcome other thoughts and comments-

How do you innovate with your training?

Let us know.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Couple of Drills for training & A Decision Making Tree

Hi Everyone here are a couple of more drills for everyone to try at training-


This is a Game Scenario Drill, designed to improve focus under pressure, and help your playing to work on there scanning both when they are attacking and when they are defending. The game's start with two small games of keep it off (any number of players) and these games are two go for 2 minutes. After the 2 minutes the team that has the ball in both games becomes the attacking team and team that doesn't have the ball then works back to defend. Lets us know what you think?


This drill is yet another flow through type, but the focus on here is leading, re-leading and switching the play at the back as well as looking to widen the goal in attack.

I have been working on this for a while, its a Decision Making Tree, which lays out the keys points for each individual player of what they want to be doing when-

- They have the ball
- There opponent has the ball

It lays out 5 key points, and the idea of this is to try and keep the message as straightforward as possible for individual players so they understand what they need to focus on and what they can control.

Again I welcome comment on each, and if you use the drills at your training how did they go.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

My Top 10 Great Australia Hockey Coaches of all time & 5 Up and coming Coaches to watch for

Ok here we go, this is my top 10 great Australian Hockey Coaches of all time and I will also name the top five up and coming coaches-

1. Ric Charlesworth

There is simple know doubt in my book, who the number one Australia Hockey Coach of all time must be and that is the Great one Dr Ric Charlesworth, he is the best there has ever been in our game, and ever will be. Two Olympic Golds with the Australia Hockeryoos, along with Four World Cups, two with the Men and Two with the Women, and countless Champions Trophies and other international wins. I guess the one blot if you call that to the copy book is not getting the Olympic Gold with the Men. But in my book he is number 1 and always will be.

2. Barry Dancer

Barry Dancer without question is number 2 for me, he is the Coach who did what no one before or after him has been able to do, he lead the Australia Kookaburras to Olympic Gold, therefore he is number 2 for me.

3. Alyson Annan

So I here some saying why is the Dutch National Team Coach in an Australian top ten of all time at number three, well its simple, I believe that right now Alyson is the Greatest Australian Coach in the game, and its a shame that she is not here in Australian doing what she does best.

4. Frank Murray

For me number four is the great Frank Murray. Frank led both the Kookaburras to great success at international level, and then the hockeyroos with distinction later on.

5. Richard Aggis

I don't photo of Richard, but there is no doubt he was one of the most significant figures in the life of the Australian Men's Hockey team leading them to there first World Cup success in 1986.

6. Brian Glencross

Again I dont have a photo of Brian, but he is without question perhaps the second most significant Coach of the Australian Women's Hockey Team behind Ric Charlesworth, leading the Women to there first Olympic Gold in 1988 at the Seol Olympics.

7. Merv Adams

Again I apologise I dont have a photo of the great Merv Adams, but it was Merv who taught Australia how to win at international level and beat the sub-continent teams that is why in my book he comes in at 7 in my top ten. He also led Australia to the silver in the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

8.  Katrina Powell

So while Katrina Powell or Triny as she is often know in hockey circles, has yet to be a Head Coach at international level, I believe she makes the top ten of all time, because like Alyson she is one of the best Australia Coaches around right now and up there with the greats.

9. Paul Guidoin

The current Australian Women's Coach, and former Assistant to the Kookaburras makes it into my top ten of all time, because I believe he will be the one responsible for leading the Australian Hockeyroo's back to Olympic glory in 2020, and will be the most significant figure in Australian hockey over the next four years.

10. Mark Hager

Mark is the last one into my top ten of all time, and while he hasn't Coached Australia, what he has done with New Zealand, means in my book he makes to top 10 Australia Coaches of all time without question.

So there is my top ten, I am sure others will have other views and there are many that I left out, notable mentions you could have included are people like, Don Smart, Jim Irvine, Don McWatters to name just a few.

Now the top 5 up and coming coaches in Australian in my opinion well these are-

1. Ryan Tout (Victoria)- Ryan is in my view the next big thing in Australian hockey, and I believe it will only be a matter of time before he will be part of the National set-up in some form.

2. Warren Birmingham (NSW)- Warren has been around in Australian hockey for a while as a player and Coach but I believe that he is one of the next top coaches out there within the Australian ranks.

3. Rob Hammond (WA)- Rob did a fantastic job recently with the WA Diamonds and now finds himself as an Assistant in the Australian set-up and will I believe go on to be a great hockey coach.

4. Jamie Dwyer (Qld)- now for allot of people the jury might be out on Jamie, but its not for me, Jamie is a true thinker as a Coach and will be one of the great Coaches of the game to go with his status all ready as Australia's greatest hockey player.

5. Madonna Blyth (Qld)- now Madonna has only just retired from the game at international and just started coaching in Perth with Hale, but I believe that she makes my top 5 in 5th as one of the next generation of Coaches on the way through.

Once again there are perhaps other notable mentions here such as Travis Brooks, Jay Stacey, Kate Starre from Victoria, Megan Rivers from NSW, Jess Bingley from ACT to name a few.

In the end its hard you could choose any number in these lists and there would still be someone missed or disagreement on something. Anyway this is my list and I welcome comments on it what do you think?

Building a Coaching Team & Planning for Success

More often than not, sports clubs out there fall into the trap of looking for the Head Coach then expecting them to put in place the coaching team and structures that will take the club/organisation to the top, without any thought before doing this by the club/organisation as to where they want to go as a club both on and off the field. I call this a failure to plan becoming a plan to fail. We see this on a regular basis in my sport of hockey, where clubs/organisations fail to plan, thus set themselves up for failure.

All sporting clubs out there before appointing a new Head Coach should ask themselves the following question-

- Where do we want to be as a club/organisation on the field and off it in 2/5/10 years time?

They should also ask themselves these questions-

- What are our goals?
- What are our values?

Once they have done this, I believe only then can they truely start looking for a new Head Coach, there is unfortunately a danger that club/organisation sets its sight on finding the messiah the person who will lead them to the promise land. I have seen this in sport on countless occasions, Ron Barassi (AFL) when he went to Melbourne in 1982, Mick Malthouse (AFL) when he went to Carlton, Paul Roos (AFL) when he went to Melbourne. In each of these cases these clubs/organisations had been starved of success, and had fallen on tough times, and thought that they needed a messiah who would lead them back to glory on his shiny white stead, but they forgot that it takes much much more to achieve success, and if the club/organisation in the first place doesn't know where its going and what it stands for then success will never happen.

 From the point of view of my sport of hockey here in Australia I have seen it all to regularly, where a club/organisation as instead of planning for success has instead gone out and found a messiah coach to try and lead them to the promise land, but has ended up pointing there club/organisation and new coach towards failure.

So what should a club/organisation be looking for when appointing a New Coaching team?

Well the first step is to ask themselves those question above, then once they know that, the next step is to set out a criteria of what they are looking for in a Coaching team and not just a Head Coach, because a Head Coach is only as good as the team of Coaching and support staff around them. This teams of coaches and support staff must also complement each other and work well together, if they dont then that is going to be a real problem.

From experience when I am surrounding myself with my Coaching and support team, I am looking for people who as I say compliment me, who make up for my weaknesses in there areas of strength, I am also not looking for yes people, those who will agree with me even though they know full well I am wrong. I am constantly looking for people who challenge me to be the best I can be as a Coach, and who will offer their own opinion. I often say to other coaches when they say something to me, know I dont what to hear what you think I want to hear, I want to hear what you actually think.

Clubs and organisation should also be prepared to be challenged by there new Head Coach and Coaching team, and should never ever be afraid of constructive feed-back, if they are then all I can say is again you will end up failing.

The other thing I also say to all coaches out there when they take on a new role, is that you must and should always leave the club/organisation in better shape than when you found it, and that you should all the time be creating and developing many different people to take over as Head Coach when you move on, and as Coach you should never feel threatened by this, otherwise you need to stop coaching because you ain't to good.

So in conclusion you should always be planning for success, because if you dont then you are simply planning to fail.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

SOB: Stick on Ball Game Scenario Flow through drill

Here is another Game Scenario Drill, I designed and used tonight with my team at training, its great little drill designed to get the players working on keeping there stick on the ball, which we refer to as Stick on Ball or SOB for short.

With each pass and lead there are different skill elements which the players are working on things like-

- Stick on Ball
- Leading on the Flat stick
- Leading on the reverse
- Pushing the ball hard into the corner of the goal.
- Transfer slap hits.
- Using the pace of the ball to get control of the ball
- Rolling out.

As I say its a great little drill, I welcome comments on it and let me know how it went with your team.

I hope to bring many more of these as we go along.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

My Hockey Coaching Game Plan Principles

Over the 18 + years I have been coaching, I have slowly developed some basic game plan principles which apply to every squad I take on. An while my game plan as any quality coaches game plan should be doing, which is evolving and adapting to the situation/s that your team find themselves in at any particular time, the core basic principles that unpin this game plan will always remain the same.

So what are my core basic game plan principles-

1. Everyone can play any position on the field at any given time. (Flexibility)
2. We attack from defence and defend from attack. (Two way hockey)
3. We apply maximum pressure to the opposition at all times. (Constant Forward Press)
4. We focus on our processes and let the result take care of itself. (Process = Result)
5. We control the centre of the field. (Control Centre = Control Game)
6. Where possible we attack through the top of the circle. (Possession = Control)

So those are my six Basic or Core Game Plan Principles and when you watch any squad I coach you can pretty much see in some form each of these principles in action throughout the game in different forms.

What do you think, how do you set up your teams do you have principles that you always look to implement with every team you coach? I look forward to reading your comments and hearing from you, lets get a discussion going on this.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

First Principles of Sports Coaching

There are certain un-written first principles that all Sports Coaches should be following at all times, and these are what I call a Coaches un-written Duty of Care if you like, similar to a Doctor's oath etc.

Sports Coaches First Principles

1. A Coach shall never place any player under their charge in harms way.
2. A Coach shall always make sure that the line's between Coach and player remain clear and defined
3. A Coach shall at all times conduct themselves in an appropriate manner.
4. A Coach shall never ever use bad language in front of there players.
5. A Coach shall create a environment for there players that is safe haven at all times.
6. A Coach shall always put there players and club first.

If a Sports Coach follows these six 1st principles at all times when they are coaching they will never fail, its only when a Coach deviates from any one of these 1st principles that things will start to go wrong. In recent times we have seen this in Australia at the highest levels of elite Sport where the Coach at certain clubs or with certain elite sports organisations has forgotten that they have a duty of care to there players and as a result has dropped the ball on the 1st principles of Coaching. 

In some cases within Australian those Coaches I am referring to have actually made it all about themselves and have crossed way over the line on point six and as a result have found themselves on the Coaching scrap heap.

I say this to all the Sports Coaches I talk to particular those who Coach junior sport, you must at all times put your players first and apply 1st principles and your duty of care.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Attacking Forward Press for Hockey

These days modern hockey requires teams when they haven't got the ball to be pressing up on the opposition to do everything they can to win the ball back, and close down the passing options for the opposition.

For a while now, I have been using what I call a very aggressive forward press, at its best this press I have witnessed strangle opposing teams and force them to turn the ball over simple because it would be easy to face and attack than try to break through it. My teams started using this Press in 2013 at the Junior State Championships in Victoria, and I used it ever since with every team I have coached. I cant lay claim to coming up with the idea that belongs to a good friend of mine Mitch Dickin, but I have since tweaked it to make it even more effective.

Here below is the diagrams of what it is all about-

In each case you want the opposition to have the back pass that is fine, because with relentless pressure this back pass will gradually get shaky and the opportunity to force a turn-over to your forwards will be there. This is a very high risk strategy, but it brings very high reward if you get it right, and my premiership success in 2015 with Manly was pretty much based on this, during that season we pretty much had teams pinned back in there defensive 25 and they often struggled to move the ball even to half way without risking a turn-over.

If you have any questions on it please feel free to leaves comments and seek further information.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

A New Distribution Offence for Hockey

For a long-time now, I have watched and picked up different ideas on tactics and strategy from other sports, and tried to see if they could be adapted into my sport of field hockey. One such idea was to create a new type of distribution offence based on the Great American Basketball Coach Tex Winter's offence, which is called the Tex Winter Offence.

I have spent many hours looking over books, articles, vids about this offence to see if there is away for it to adapted with adjustments into hockey, and I now think there is. I wanted to share with you my readers the first two set-ups for this new distribution offence that I have come up with so far, (see below)-

The concept of this offence is to spread the load amongst the forward and the midfield creating multiple options to score, and confusion in the defence. For every single pass and lead made in this offence there should be another three options to go with it where possible.

As I say this is the start of my development, and I would welcome comments and further ideas on this as I move it forward. I am yet to test it in a game, but do plan to begin working on it at training to see how it goes.

All comments welcome.

Coaching Game Skills Drill: Structured flow-through

I wanted to share a Game Skills Structured Flow-through Drill which I used with my girls tonight at training with everyone out there.

Now for some of you this may just look like a bunch of line's, and squiggles on a page, but it is actually a very effective GSD, for working on the following-

- 16 yard hits
- Transfer passes from one side of the field
- Leading and re-leading in different direction both on and off the ball
- Moving the ball fast in transition form defence to attack.

This is the base drill, which you can as the players get used to each add different elements and obstacles to it.

Its set up as a full field GSD, and you run it using both sides of the field from either end's sixteen.

As a Coach I am always using my white-board to come up with different GSD's like this one to use at training. If you would like a copy of this GSD with explanation then please leave a comment with how to get it to you and I will send you a copy.

I hope to bring more of these to you in the coming months.