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How to Become a Great Field Hockey Player

By Alison Andrews

Conquering a new sport can be a daunting task for even the most seasoned athlete. With the right coaching, lots of practice and by attacking your goal with vigor, you can become a great field hockey player. Look at the challenge as a series of small steps. Organize your field hockey workouts by stages and implement logical planning. By following small incremental steps, you can build on the skills and knowledge needed to achieve your goal of becoming a great field hockey player.

Work on proper stick positioning right away. Your right hand should be at least half way down the stick (about where the tape meets the label). Grip the stick with the flat side out and pointed away from you. Your left hand should grip the top of the stick. Though your left hand is wrapped around the stick, your palm will be pointed in the direction you are going. Your left elbow should be pointing out and forward. Bend at the knees and position your body as low as you can manage. This is the position you will need to begin learning how to dribble down the field.

Learn how to dribble and "push." To dribble, you will push the ball down the field by tapping it. Move the ball about a foot at a time to maintain control over the ball. When you are sprinting, your dribble will become longer (approximately three feet). Keep the ball close enough to keep control of it and out of the hands of your opponents. Alternatively, to "push" the ball, you essentially drag the ball like you are raking the ball all the way upfield. The ball never leaves your stick as you run with it upfield. "Pushing" the ball keeps it closer to you and makes it less likely that it will be picked by your opponents.

Get in shape. You will exert an enormous amount of energy throughout the game. You will be running, sprinting for close to two hours. You can be the most talented player on the field, but if you can't keep up the pace, the other players will have the advantage. Run a minimum of three miles three times a week. In addition, you should perform sprints and other speed drills to increase your stamina.

Work on stick techniques. Start with the simple back and forth drill, moving the ball (knees bent and body low) from your left foot to the other side of your right foot and back again. Make sure you use only the flat side of the stick. Continuously push the ball back and forth, in long strokes, from one side of your body to the other. Increase your speed gradually. To move the ball to the right, use your left hand to rotate the stick over and onto its toe. Use your right hand to turn the stick over. With the flat side and the stick facing down, push the ball back to the right and rotate your stick back to the original position. For this drill the ball should be on your stick as you move it.

Learn to pass. Start first by passing in place. Similar to passing drills in soccer, "push pass" the ball to a partner, who should be approximately 25 feet away. While remaining low, push the ball smoothly and quickly to your partner. The ball may bounce a little, but technically it shouldn't leave the ground. After mastering basic passing, move on to passing horizontally to your partner (called passing "flat") while you and your partner are both running. Then try passing to your partner while she is in front of you, running toward the goal. This is called passing "through". You will want to pass so that the ball ends up a little ahead of your partner. Ideally, your pass will allow her to keep running, seamlessly pick up the ball and head to the goal, without missing a beat.

Learn to shoot. Though very few players end up shooting on goal, it is imperative that you sharpen your shooting skills in case your team needs you. Practice several slap shots on goal by placing your right hand even lower on the stick than normal. Your left hand will move down as well to compensate. A slap shot is done exactly as ice hockey players shoot on goal. You pull your stick back to gain momentum and strike the ball in the direction of the goal.

Stand out from other players with precise hand-eye coordination. Have a friend roll or hit balls from the left side of the field, across the cage. Trace the ball with your eyes as it comes closer and closer to passing you. By never taking your eye off the ball, you can slow the ball down and connect your stick with the ball. Just one tap will send the ball soaring into the goal. Guide the ball with your stick as it crosses your body, but do not touch it. As the ball comes just across your left foot, start pivoting to your right side. When it gets right past your right foot, shoot. Only the greatest players can react fast enough. However, practice and master this trick and you will be able to score in the most difficult of circumstances.

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