‘Juniors need to play with a scoreboard more’ – An Englishman abroad’s hockey takeaways

Coaching Lab founder Jack Rolfe speaks to The Hockey Paper on his experiences coaching in Australia

The influence of growing up on grass does impact players, there is a high priority focus on how players trap the ball and share the ball over long distance.

The challenge then becomes the transition phase to turf. You see teams trying to play the same type of game on turf as they do on grass which just isn’t possible. Similarly where there are some high order skills as a byproduct of grass there are also some essential skills missing which take time to develop.

What I absolutely love about what I see more often than not is, clubs, coaches, state academy programmes wanting the best for each individual. There is a strong competitive desire to drive performance of each player with playing opportunities and development.

Something that we don’t get in European countries as much is the diversity of players, with many players coming from the ‘country’, they possess an exciting and playful skill-set that some metropolitans may not have acquired yet.

These players would often be playing more hockey and certainly more senior hockey a lot earlier than most, playing against people a lot bigger and more skilful. Powerful, full of speed and variety of elimination skills!

In what is the most isolated city at the best of times but even more so during Covid, players of Perth are in a fortunate enough position to be learning the game from some of the world’s best, you have Ric Charlesworth coaching a school side, to Jamie Dywer, World Cup winner David Bell, specialist coach Trid Woodhouse and recent Kookaburra Aaron Kleinschmidt working with the junior and senior players. It is a hockey gold mine, literally!

My three takeways from hockey in Australia

There is a clear understanding of the game demands and what players need to be successful; naturally this influences the delivery of training and the clarity of messaging shared with players. The game is king!

Play with a scoreboard more! I don’t think there is a turf in Perth without a clock and scoreboard meaning from a young age players are use to playing against the clock to beat the game, driving those competitive behaviours we see so evidently at the senior international level.

Know what world class looks and feels like! I have watched more hockey in the past six months than ever before and I don’t go to take a game without my pocket notebook. You take something from every game, how a Blake Govers receives the ball in the circle or how Steph Kershaw moves through deep defence to find an opening, it all adds up to influence your thinking.

Jack Rolfe is the founder of The Coaching Lab

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