Team tactics are normally called positional play. Not much time is being spent on this section since as described in the introduction, basic skills are initially most important. Once the basic skills exist it is up to the team and the coach to work on perfecting the team play to suit their own style.
The primary object of team play is to ensure that there is always at least one player in control of, or committing the puck, and at least one player to back up or support that player. Put in another way Team Tactics should describe the action the team takes to GET POSSESSION of the puck, and the action taken while IN POSSESSION of the puck.
The whole team needs a good understanding of the team tactics for the team to reach its potential. When teaching positional play actions speak louder than words. It is well worth walking through team play in a field or large room. This gives the players a better sense of position than diagrams or words. When correctly understood, every player knows where to go and what to do in any situation. This will include:
Much of team play is putting together the basic building blocks already discussed:
Initially positional play or formations are simply a matter of common sense and understanding. As teams become better they develop a style and understanding which becomes their own. Some factors are common to most formations. Examples are shown below. Two player images are shown: the one with left arm stretched sideways represents a player on the surface, the left arm by the side represents a player underwater.
THE STRIKE or CENTRE FIELD FORMATION
ATTACKING UP THE SIDE
DEFENDING ON THE SIDE
Similarly some golden rules apply to playing in any formation:
There are two common formations worth considering for beginners. These are 2-2-2 and 2-1-2-1.
This formation consists of pairs of players - two forwards, two midfields and two defenders.
The FORWARDS work as a pair. Generally they will be positioned at the front or sides of the formation. If play is at a side then the forward on that side will be just in front of the puck while the other forward will be level with the puck within a passing distance - normally about 3 metres.
The BACKS work as a pair one in front and one always supporting diagonally behind the other. When the front player comes up the back one will be down moving forwards to take his/her place.
The MIDFIELDS act as the link between the forwards and between the backs and the forwards. They may receive passes from anyone and pass to anyone (though normally to the forwards or the other midfield).
This pairing can be useful for beginners. They can be partnered up and told to always look for their partner and go down together. Since most beginners have difficulty getting down and anticipating puck movement operating in pairs can help. In addition most beginners cannot pass and so have to swim the puck to one another. 2-2-2 can be a very compact formation with strength in vertical lines - strong therefore in a swimming type game.
The 2-2-2 formation is designed to be flexible. When played properly midfields sometimes act as defenders or attackers (forwards or backs). As soon as players acquire some skill this flexibility can make the formation confusing to play. 2-2-2 is also more difficult to play in a passing game. As players' passing improves the formation begins to limit the options that the passing should create.
2-1-2-1 is by far the most common formation presently used in New Zealand. One of the main reasons is its rigidity. In this formation players are given clearly defined roles for each position.
There are two forwards who would more accurately be called WINGS. They are linked with each other but their primary linking is really the BACK on their side. On defence the winds expect passes from their back. On attack the backs support their wings.
There is a specialist MIDFIELD who acts as the link between the wings and between the backs and the wings. The role of this player may vary from being a controlling one or a spoiling one depending on the team and the player's abilities.
There are two BACKS who link with the wings as described above. The backs are crucial to the success of the team in this formation as they are the main source of puck for the attack.
Finally there is a GOALIE who is not the last line of defence but acts as the link and backup for the backs, and controls the area behind the midfield.
The defined roles mean that an individual player may concentrate more on his or her performance. Passing is made easier because each player knows where to be positioned relative to the others.
The formation is more suited to a larger pool and a passing game because it is more spread out across the pool than the 2-2-2 formation. The game may become open or closed depending on the ability of the team and its players.
The rigidity of the formation may be regarded as a disadvantage.
The formation is sometimes seen as weak in the midfield - it does require a strong midfield player and a set of capable, confident backs.
To play well the team needs a higher level of ability than 2-2-2.
Generally players will choose a position for themselves, and usually this will be the correct choice. However it is still worth discussing the types of players who end up in each position.
Traditionally the fast players become forwards. Also traditionally the newer, less experienced players become forwards. Generally forwards should be fast, have a high work rate, and the best have a hunger to score goals. The reason new players become forwards is probably because forwards are always being fed the puck by the backs who have to get the puck. Hence experience and skill is necessary for backs while playing as a forward can be a way to gain experience and skill.
Backs are the cornerstone of the team. Since normally it is the backs who get the puck and feed it to the rest of the team, their quality is important to the whole team. Good backs are experienced, fast, confident and skilled - especially in turns (tackling) and passing. Stubborn and determined not to let goals in. A good set of backs requires confidence in each other which requires a good understanding. This comes from playing games and talking about situations and options.
Good midfields are tireless workers - they should always be able to be on the bottom when needed. They need to be fast enough to support/link with their wings, and have a good pass to be able to set up wings or backs. They need a good understanding of the game and good peripheral vision to be able to see gaps or unmarked players and set them up. This implies a high degree of stick skill as their eyes should be looking for options - not at the puck.
The goalie can be regarded as one of the backs or perhaps like a midfield. The goalie is really a pivot or link player. It depends on the team formation how this position would be played. In 2-1-2-1 the goalie is important as the link behind the midfield. He or she therefore needs confidence, timing and speed in order to control and dominate play there. Confidence is important as the player cannot afford to be defensive or hesitant - otherwise too much pressure is brought on the team.