Think a second about Indoor Hockey.
Done? What comes to mind, especially when you compared it with field version?
Well this is what comes to mine:
An intense and thrilling game, with shorter number of players (now still in a very polemic 5X5 format, after this Leipzig WC will return to the normal 6X6), less playing time, a lot of goal occasions and action in both D’s, cheaper playing material (sticks and shoes), indifferent to weather conditions, cheaper construction and maintenance costs than a half a million outdoor water-based pitch (find an abandoned warehouse and plug some reasonable indoor floor on it…) with a big ‘school sport’ potential, easier from an event organization and broadcasting perspective, less rules and with core techniques that are way more simplified and easier to learn than in the outdoor version.
Similar to that kind of ‘game’ we saw during the last Youth Olympics of 5X5 but not so ridiculous and with real tactical and technical demands. At least this outdoor 5X5 format was tested during an event that nobody was really paying attention…Funnily enough, the same competition where Zambia thrashed Germany by 8-1…
Anyway and back to the topic, when you think about the sum of all game and logistical elements mentioned above you tend to believe that Indoor hockey is not only a sport with a considerable growth potential but and most importantly seems to fulfill the proclaimed needs (and/or desires) of the international government bodies.
As a big enthusiast, either as coach and ‘fan’ of this modality I believe Indoor can provide an extremely valuable background for a hockey player as I state in this older post or as Swedish Johan Björkman confirmed with his fantastic story the urban myth that an exceptional indoor player can more easily become a good outdoor player than the other way around.
From a coaching perspective is equally important, as requires quicker decisions, a sharp tactical understanding of the game and as a trainer takes you back to the technical core fundamentals. It is almost that being an expert or a simply enthusiast of indoor hockey nowadays seems almost as being an artisan of a vanishing craftsmanship.
So you wonder… What an interesting paradox that the sport of the ‘future’ is apparently ‘doomed’ as it’s declining popularity and interest goes…
This always sounds romantical, maybe because it is only that, but I still don’t like the idea of hockey ‘selling his soul’, becoming a low-cost, ‘fast-food’ sport…
Where does Indoor Hockey currently stays?
Hockey has somehow paradoxal nature and maybe that is what makes this game so engaging.
It struggles between amateurism and professionalism, players that pay to play against players that get paid to play, 2nd league clubs hiring some of the best (and most expansive) international players in the world, different countries have different rules, major international events overlap in year calendar, blablabla…
In the middle of this also lays Indoor ambiguity; is it a Field Hockey variant or should be considered as an ‘independent’ sport itself?
Let’s make one point clear, I will take Germany out of my ramblings here, they know how to play the game, they know how to promote it, how to calendarize it, how to train it and very important, they know also how to properly umpire it and trust me, this makes a huge difference in the player technical development and approach to the game – basically Germany is ‘the indoor hockey’, everyone else in this regard is landscape with some honorable exceptions. Talking about honor mention, one goes for the way England Hockey is promoting their ‘Hockey 5’s’, a well structured entity in what concerns promoting and developing the game.
Check this video about England Hockey 5’s finals in Wembley:
Now, some random facts about current state of indoor:
- There is no Indoor U21 World Cup
- Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Spain, England don’t even compete in junior international indoor competitions – Below a screenshot of the last European standings (Men and Women) of the junior (U21) competition:
- Due to a overcharged international outdoor calendar the winter/indoor period is also an important training time, for what the majority of the international players cannot even compete in indoor competitions. At this moment we have an overlap between Hockey India League, National teams training stages and Indoor World Cup in Leipzig.
- Global game? If everything goes ’normal’ both men and women top5 in this Leipzig World Cup will be only from (Central and Eastern) European countries.
- This 2015 Indoor World Cup has 24 teams (12 Men’s and 12 Women’s) performing 8 high intensity matches in only 5 days, having matches starting at 22h45 is just absurd and totally not ‘broadcast-friendly’…
- Netherlands, the country that is supposed to be ‘Hockey Meccah’ has an indoor competition that is far below expected in what regards calendarization, competition structure, training facilities availability, umpiring level and ultimately coaching and playing level – an illustrative example: the 1st men’s team of Orange Zwart (professional squad), one of the strongest clubs in the country and with a very rich indoor history just dropped out the 1st division ‘playouts’ and was directly relegated to the 2nd indoor division as they ‘were not able’ to present a team to compete on that weekend due to international commitments…
In the end, what is the future for indoor hockey?
A) Non, It is a doomed modality, a burden for some federations and nothing but a waste of time and money during the winter period, sooner than later will disappear.
B) It will survive as a Central and Eastern European countries sport!
C) It will thrive, it will be seen as an important technical background for hockey players and will found its place as a sustainable and spectacular sport by the governing bodies.
All images rights reserved to EHF / FIH