Practice Design

How do hockey coaches approach and structure field-goal shooting practice?

There is an array of literature, text books and opinions on what constitutes good coaching practice. Nevertheless, there is a common push for all coaching practices to align with the performance context.

Ross Pinder and colleagues introduced the representative learning design concept to ensure that learning tasks are representative simulations of the performance environment. More specifically, in team sports, coaches require a sound understanding of the sporting constraints in order to design training structures that replicate key perceptual and movement skills required in the competitive arena.

The Study

The study by Dennis Slade looked at how international hockey coaches approached and structured field-goal shooting practices. The question posed was; are the coaches’ game centred learning approach to field-goal shooting practice representative to competition? To answer this question, the following methodological procedures were adopted:

  • Observing a minimum of two practice sessions per team (eight teams in total);
  • Recording and analysing all 24 matches of the 2011 FIH Champions Trophey tournament; and,
  • Interviewing seven out of the eight coaches participating in the Champions tournament on how their structured their field-goal shooting practice.

Key Findings

  • field-goal shooting practice hockey has moved away from drill-based tasks to small-sided game centred practice;
  • Video analysis of the 24 Champion tournament matches supported coaches’ interpretation of the coupling of a player’s  perception and action  process; and,
  • The field-goal shooting practice represented game scenarios of the players leading up to taking a field-goal shot.

Take Home Message

The small-sided game scenarios mirrored what happens in field hockey matches which demonstrated the use of the representative learning design concept. While technique and skill development are important, field hockey coaches acknowledged the importance of practicing what happens in the game setting.


Pinder, R., Davids, K., Renshaw, I., & Araújo, D. (2011). Representative learning design and functionality of research and practice in sport. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 33(1), 146-155.

Slade, D. G., Button, C., & Cochrane, D. (2015). Do the Structures Used by International Hockey Coaches for Practising Field-Goal Shooting Reflect Game Centred Learning Within a Representative Learning Design? International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 10(4), 655-668.

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