For a team of individuals, good communication is essential to work together effectively. This applies to the players on the field in practice and game situations, but also to coaches and support staff. With fast-paced game situations and continuous player and ball movement requiring split-second decision-making, clear and quick communication can help a group of players to create structure, organization and direction from chaotic situations.
Players must be able to use a combination of verbal and visual signals to communicate effectively, and this mainly depends on whether the team is in possession of the ball.
DEFENDING - Verbal Communication (some Visual)
Communication for the defending team tends to be more Verbal than Visual. As the attacking team moves the ball; defending players continually make adjustments in all
areas of the field. These adjustments help to cover passing lanes, and to pressure the opponent into a desired area. The players who can see the most are those players furthest from the ball. So they communicate with teammates closer to the ball (much of the communication happens (GK>Backs>Midfielders>Forwards). This must happen verbally, because the players receiving the information closer to the ball cannot constantly turn their heads to see what is happening behind them.
In a defensive double-team situation, there is usually one player closer to the ball carrier, applying pressure. If the second player is approaching from behind, it is helpful
for him to communicate timing and position/angle with the (on-ball) pressuring defender, so that the two defenders are working together effectively. For example, the second defender could communicate to the on-ball defender: “Force right... force right... double!” This simple communication provides some clarity and will help defenders work as a unit.
ATTACKING - Visual Communication (some Verbal)
Communication on the attacking team is more visual. For example, an open player on the attacking team who wants to receive a pass will signal with his stick or hand that he is open for a pass. Verbal signals can inadvertently draw the attention of defending players.
Off-ball movement: teams often have patterns for off-ball attacking movement, but all off-ball attacking movements require some visual communication to be effective. Two attacking players may be able to make eye contact to initiate a rotation, switch or other movement. This is much more effective and subtle than communicating the same thing verbally.
In different countries (even in different regions and leagues), players and coaches use different terminology for skills, commands, and parts of the game of field hockey. It is important to have a common language for your team and program, so that players can understand each other clearly. This should be simply laid out by the coach and
discussed by players, so that everyone knows what each command means. This is especially important in our Canadian field hockey community, with so many different
international influences on our coaching and playing styles - as well as coaches who have backgrounds in other sports (hockey, soccer, basketball, etc.).
As a team works together over time through the experience of training and games, athletes and coaches learn to communicate with each other in a more sophisticated
manner. Timing and common understanding develop “connections” on the field between athletes to the point where, based on the situation, Player A can anticipate what Player B is going to do before he does it. This is more advanced communication that has takes time to evolve. Certain players naturally have complementary styles, and should be developed together, encouraging verbal, visual and instinctive communication for these players to work as a unit. It is important for a coach to recognize these combinations and take advantage of them in line-ups and rotations.