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teaching presses on free hits and 16s

Hi allI am looking for advice on how to implement processes in my girls school hockey team. processes of setting up presses, defensive structures and counter attacking thinking. I have 14 players in the team from 15 years old to 18. we train twice a week. only a few play club hockey as well. We either play a 3-1-4-2 or a 3-1-3-3.I find it difficult for example, when you want to teach a press on the opposition 16, to simulate gameplay with only 14 players (if they are all at training). I can have my halves setup for taking the 16 and then get my strikers and links to setup, but then I still want defenders to see things from the back but they are taking the 16? Also when taking the 16 they then don't have any support in the drill because everyone else is setting up a press?I know we need to work on our basics in order for the other tactics and skills and game plans to work. However I find it frustrating with this team that on counter attacks for a few reasons which I am struggling to mend;- they only head forward. No one holds up the ball to wait for support.- they run straight and don't use angles- they pass too late and get tackled - they don't have the vision to see an early pass or pass into space- players without the ball do not run into useful positions and angles and get caught out by the person with the ball who then makes a pass to no one and it runs out of play.So suggestions please for;- open, creative but simple counter attacking- teaching processes for presses on free hits and 16s- coaching how to take 16s and work your way out- coaching vision and expecting your players to be in support. RegardsMatt

Hi Mathew,

With regards to your press, I believe it is vital that your team see exactly how the press should be set with all 11 players. As long as you have 3 players that can initiate a 16 yard hit and transfer, you can practice how your press should swing across. Attached is a session which explains what I believe to be the 4 vital positions when pressing against a back line transfer. (Viewing in slideshow mode from the edit button can be quite useful to see the transitions)

I emphasise the importance of knowing where your immediate team mates should be, i.e. forwards talking to forwards, mids to mids, def to def, GK to everyone. This should come quickly, and then the deeper players can pass on slight tweaks to positioning as of what they can see. Improve this further by having players further up check their shoulders and suggest where players might want to move to.

Let me know your thoughts,


Attached Plan: 4-3-3 3/4 Press (Positioning)
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Following on to your concern on counter attacking, surely you want your team on what you are labelling a counter attack to move forward as quick as possible. Even if a player isn't supported, driving the ball into space and away from your D is vital. At this point, holding the ball up can become a consideration if there is truly no other option than taking on numerous defenders - but I certainly wouldn't attempt to remove the desire to play attacking, positive Hockey.

I've attached a Counter attack drill which should help with my comments above. You could tweak it so you as coach can dictate the likelihood of the defence getting back around the ball (maybe your coaching team feed to the balls to the attackers). Therefore your players will have think about if the counter is truly on, or whether they should come back out and retain possession.

Again, love to hear your opinion,


4 Team Counter Attack


- 4 Teams (5 or 6 usually good)
- Blue team in attack, grey team defending, red team are previous defending team team, yellow are next attacking team (see diagram).
- Full pitch counter attack in one direction, into full pitch defense of counter
- Team's waiting to attack should have one player stood on the opposite side of the goal to the ball for safety. Once a goal has been scored, next team put a ball quickly into play before defensive team can set

Coaching Points:

- Great for fitness and instilling mentality to track back
- Important that players run line to goal, both taking the shortest route to goal and cutting out any defenders who have managed to catch up with play
- If work rate is low this drill breaks down

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