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Question about playing 3-3-3-1

Can you please assist me, I am coaching the 1st school team (0/18). we are playing 3-3-3-1 but there is a big gap between the forwards and links and also between the links and the backs. How can I change that. Is there any excercises that I can do with them or must we rather change the system??

Hello Mariana,

You are not alone with the problem you outline. All Hockey coaches are essentially struggling with three issues:-

  1. Using the space afforded by no offside
  2. Retaining the width of play
  3. Avoiding being stung out defensively and isolated on a counter attack

Formations as such, are useful only as a means of communicating with players. Essentially you are telling them where you want them to operate in the length and width of the pitch. If you press the ‘Pause button’ on a piece of game footage you can ascribe any number of different formations to a team depending where you stop the action.

In using a 1:3:3:3 formation; you are setting up in their minds, three lines of three players. If your deepest player is on your defensive 25yd line and your forwards are operating on their 25 yard line you have your lines 25 yards apart. Players will struggle to connect over these distances and what you will find is that all is well, provided you can beat opponents in a one versus one contest. When you play a really competitive match this will not be the case and the side with the better combinations will prevail.

If you watch FC Barcelona or Real Madrid in particular, you will note that they retain closer links between their players, (sometimes too close for hockey because of our reach with the stick), but there are very positive lessons to learn. Logically, if you want your players spread through 60 yards of depth, at 15m intervals that means, you need at least four lines rather than three. A forward can operate in a withdrawn position creating a diamond in midfield.

One of your back four can advance to provide a link (Centre Back) or width and depth (Right Back or left Back). One (or both of the remaining) forwards can operate higher having the freedom to work across the width of the pitch and at different depths.

So, how to coach this:-

  1. Place your team on the pitch without opposition
  2. Stipulate that passes may only be played over 15m or less
  3. Create a star shape round the ball carrier
  4. Only one player must be 15m directly ahead of the ball (in direction of the goal)
  5. One 15m behind play
  6. One to the right and one to the left (except on side line)
  7. When the ball is passed, create a new star shape where the ball has been passed to
  8. Explain to players that the ball can travel through 15m to 30m to 45m to 60m in a series of passes – they don’t all have to be 15m away from the ball

There are times when longer passes are better: by using the steps above you will create those opportunities. Try and work out why this could be?

A lot to mull over - look forward to hear other coach's suggestions too.
The Sportplan Team

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  • search our library of 1000+ hockey drills
  • create your own professional coaching plans
  • or access our tried and tested plans