Any training regime in junior sport needs to include practice games as “part and parcel” of each session. Each training session should have, at least, one to help the players understand the game and develop their game skills in a game situation.
Below I discuss three different practice game scenarios that I have used with players from age 6 years through to senior high school students. I first used Football Hockey when preparing the 1980 Queensland state secondary schoolboys team for the National Schoolboys Championships in Darwin in an effort to get the players bending down further for the football. The game all the players of different ages liked the best was the Hitting the Post game. Below is an explanation of three of the games I have used.
Boys from the northern parts of Australia play on hard grounds where the football tends to bounce higher meaning the players often don’t have great skills when picking up the football rolling along the ground. In the game of football hockey, the arms and hands of the player become the “hockey” stick.
The game is played in a small rectangle. The object of the game is to push or punch the football along the ground to your team mate and eventually get it through the goals. The goals are set up at each end of the rectangle by two witches hats about three metres apart. A player may bump or shepherd but not tackle and the football cannot be picked up. After a goal or an out of bounds situation, a ball-up occurs to restart the game at the centre or near the boundary line.
Thus Football Hockey provides players with practice at getting down to the football, calling, shepherding and practicing knocking the football on to a player in a better position. It allows players to get use to close contact of defending players and it is physically demanding helping improve fitness.
Hitting the Goal Post Games:
There are two versions of this game. They are:
• Handball aiming at goal post;
• Drop punting at post;
These drills work on the competitive nature of the boys, even at a young age. Here is how the games are staged.
Put markers a few metres in front of each of the goal and behind post.
Have the players line up about 5 metres from these markers. Begin with set handballs first and then kicks.
Then, have the players run towards the marker and the post to handball or kick to see if they can hit the post.
The aim of the exercise is to develop accuracy in each skill.
Create a competition between two or more teams to see which team scores more hits.
The players, even at high school level, love this exercise.
The game can be played in the centre square using normal rules except there is no kicking. (Adjust the field size to the age level and the number of players).
You decide how goals are scored and how and where the game is restarted.
You might put restrictions on what players can do. e.g. you might make it a non-preferred handball game.
There needs to be a restriction on how far the player may run with the ball. You may allow one bounce. It would depend on how much of the centre square you would use.
A tackle might be simply a touch.
A long handball might be awarded a mark.
The game might just be a “Keeping off” one.
The variations you can make to these games are in your imagination. Remember to stop the game to give advice on how to improve. I often would add a new rule to add “spice” to the game and test their concentration skills.