Team sports such as field hockey are characterised by the intensity variable with which sustained efforts such as running or walking occur, interspersed with intermittent actions such as accelerations, decelerations, changes in direction, jumping, etc. The recent introduction of the Global Positioning System (GPS) technology into the world of sports enables us to gain specific information about the speeds reached or distances travelled during training and competition, thus it is considered to be the most reliable and useful way to monitor players’ movements.
Studying the physical requirements of competition is essential in order to efficiently plan training strategies, as it will provide coaches and physical trainers with the relevant information needed to optimise the player’s preparation based on the demands that are found. Even so, we often see that low-intensity actions predominate during training sessions, with moderate or high-intensity actions occurring less frequently than they do during competitive matches (Gabbett, 2010).
Women’s field hockey study
A recent study (Morencos et al., 2019) in which members of the F.C. Barcelona Medical Department took part, analysed the kinematic demands of international field hockey players during official competition matches using a GPS, taking into account the player’s position, match quarters and the number of minutes played. Sixteen players from the Spanish field hockey team were monitored over the course of five matches during the 2017 European Championship held in the Netherlands. The participants were grouped according to their specific positions in the field (defenders, n = 4, midfielders, n = 6, and strikers, n = 6). In accordance with the most recent update from the International Federation for international competitions, each match lasted 60 minutes and was divided into 4 quarters lasting 15 minutes each (Q1, Q2, Q3 and Q4).
The primary results of the study, observed differences between player positions for all of the analysed variables, where defenders demonstrated less activity at high-intensity (distance, speeds, accelerations and decelerations) than midfielders, and midfielders demonstrated less than strikers. Furthermore, the latter covered a total travelling distance that was 9% higher than the average and 19% higher than defenders. In terms of the quarter analysis, the study showed that during Q4 the activity (distance relative to time played, distance travelled at high-intensity, number of accelerations and decelerations/min. completed) was higher for all positions. Lastly, an analysis was carried out based on minutes played, which showed that players who played for less than 45 minutes per match covered more sprint distance and more distance at high-intensity (> 15 km/h) per minute played compared to players who played for longer than 45 minutes. Additionally, those who played less than 32 minutes per game covered a greater relative distance than players who played more than 32 minutes (13% and 20% more than those who played between 32-45 minutes and more than 45 minutes per game, respectively).
Although we must be cautious when comparing these results with those of other studies, mainly due to the differing methodologies used when analysing player positions and differences in the GPS devices used, previous studies support these results. Thus, Vescovi & Frayne (2015) found fewer high-speed movements and sprints among defenders, while Macutkiewicz & Sunderland (2011) noted that strikers spend more time performing high-intensity movements (8% of total time) compared to midfielders and defenders (6% and 5%, respectively).
We can conclude, therefore, that the different kinematic demands noted during competition based on the specific positions of the players on the field, highlight the importance of individualised training programmes in order to meet the specific demands of the various positions. According to the training principle of specificity, you must train in the same way you compete, or as closely as possible. This is why the popular saying “compete the way you train” is particularly relevant.
The Barça Innovation Hub team
Gabbett, T. (2010). GPS analysis of elite women’s field hockey training and competition. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 24(5), 1321-1325.
Macutkiewicz, D., & Sunderland, C. (2011). The use of GPS to evaluate activity profiles of elite women hockey players during match-play. Journal of Sports Sciences, 29(9), 967-973.
Morencos, E., Casamichana, D., Torres, L., Romero-Moraleda, B., Haro, X., & Rodas, G. (2019). Demandas cinemáticas de competición internacional en el hockey sobre hierba femenino. Apunts. Educación Física y Deportes, 137, 56-70.
Vescovi, J., & Frayne, D. (2015). Motion characteristics of division I college field hockey: Female athletes in motion (FAiM) study. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 10(4), 476- 481.