In a squad, game how vi­tal is the start­ing XI?

The Hockey Paper - - MIDDLETON -

ROLLING sub­sti­tu­tions al­low hockey to be faster and more tac­ti­cally fluid. In­ter­na­tional teams of­ten make 70 sub­sti­tu­tions per match, so there’s an ar­gu­ment that the 11 who play to­gether for the first few min­utes isn’t that sig­nif­i­cant.

Per­haps it’s a lin­ger­ing sense from the days be­fore rolling subs or maybe it still has psy­cho­log­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions, but how im­por­tant is it to be in the start­ing team these days?

The start­ing 11 does have some re­spon­si­bil­ity on its col­lec­tive shoul­ders. A strong start doesn’t guar­an­tee a per­fect per­for­mance or re­sult, but it can help a team es­tab­lish con­trol or score a cru­cial early goal.

Having said that, start­ing a game doesn’t au­to­mat­i­cally mean you are one of the best play­ers!

I re­mem­ber a coach say­ing he would rather have his strong­est 11 on the pitch at the end of the game than at the be­gin­ning. I un­der­stand what he was get­ting at, but surely this is only valid in some sit­u­a­tions. If you need a goal or are hang­ing on, that’s dif­fer­ent to a 5-0 score­line with two min­utes left.

It can be dif­fi­cult to start on the bench. Adapting quickly to the tempo of the game and ‘slot­ting in’ when you sub on is es­sen­tial, but not al­ways easy phys­i­cally or psy­cho­log­i­cally.

At the up­com­ing Cham­pi­onship play-offs and pro­mo­tion/rel­e­ga­tion tour­na­ments, coaches will have to make some tough de­ci­sions on who plays and when.

There is lit­tle room for fair­ness at the top level when it comes to choos­ing which play­ers are phys­i­cally, men­tally and emo­tion­ally ready to make good de­ci­sions and ex­e­cute un­der pres­sure from minute one.

Ul­ti­mately, that might mean any­thing from start­ing with your ‘strong­est’ team to mak­ing tac­ti­cal choices about who is on the pitch when you’re down to ten play­ers, or who takes a shoot-out.

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