PLAYER TIPS: How understanding the characteristics of a skilled hockey player can help improve your performance

Kookaburra Matthew Swann

One of the main aims of the analysis of a player’s hockey performance is to improve performance. A skilled player has learnt how to achieve a particular performance goal at almost every attempt, and to do so with minimal waste of physical and mental energy, or time. A number of perceptual abilities and physical attributes have been identified by sports scientists to explain differences between skilled and unskilled players, and to explain individual variations in the acquisition of skills.


The purpose of the following researched information is for serious hockey players who have an established goal which is to improve their performance. By understanding the characteristics of a skilled player and then analysing your own performance using the determined skilled player criteria you can establish self-goals for future improvement.

Skilled players are usually stronger and more flexible, have better body coordination and whole body balance, and have better stamina than do unskilled performers.

Luciana Aymar, eight-time FIH Player of the Year Award, is considered as the best female hockey player of all time.

In addition, with respect to perceptual motor abilities, skilled players perform better in the following areas compared with unskilled players:


  1. kinaesthetic awareness and proprioception—skilled athletes have an ability to utilise the sensory information gained from within their body concerning body position and limb awareness anticipation of


  • what might happen next and appropriate response to it—skilled players rely on external environmental information, memory and ‘feel’ during the performance
  • timing
  • responses—skilled players have quick and efficient responses (reactions and movements), making them appear to have ‘all the time in the world’


  1. consistency of performance, i.e.,


  • skilled players make very few errors during an activity technique
  • skilled players maintain correct technique despite fatigue or the game situation response to cues
  • skilled players are able to respond to many cues and recognise and respond only to those cues that are relevant


  1. mental attitude, i.e.,


  • skilled players are more aggressive, competitive, ambitious, self-assured, adventurous, confident, determined and committed; have better concentration; are able to self-regulate anxiety and arousal; and can understand and use complex skills and patterns.


A skilled player is able to perceive, decide and act in a manner that is efficient in terms of both energy and time. The skilled players faster and more accurate and has greater consistency than unskilled players. Through experience and practice, skilled players develop special attributes, such as anticipation and relevant cue recognition.


In addition, the skilled player:

  • appears to be smooth and effortless•
  • has composure
  • is able to adjust to changes in plans•
  • is relatively unaffected by the competitive environment•
  • is able to regulate personal effort levels
  • is able to overcome physical demands and pain
  • is able to cope with poor officiating
  • can handle the pressure in the final stages of a contest.


There are thus many important observable and measurable characteristics of skilled performance and skilled performers. It is suggested you now watch elite players and hockey games through a new lens, that of understanding the characteristics of a skilled player.


Source: various

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