“Lots of talking, yeah?”

As hockey makes its triumphant return to pitches up and down the country it’s comforting to feel like there might be a sense of normality returning very soon.

Despite the enthusiasm with which people have resumed playing, for many of us a “lack of match sharpness” is very clear to see right now. Players who before lockdown had a first touch you could bet your house on, look like they’ve never even picked up a stick right now. The main thing getting a workout during most shooting drills is the back fence, not the goalkeepers.

One aspect of the game, however has picked up exactly where it left off. No pandemic or any other worldwide disaster will ever cut out “communication” or “talking” on a hockey pitch.

Great to get back on the pitch! CREDIT: KENT SPORTS IMAGES

As I took to the field this week for the first time in months, the familiar cries from my team mates were like an old friend I hadn’t realised I had missed. And it made me think, some of the things we hear during a hockey match or training, they’re a bit weird, aren’t they? Here’s what I mean:

It’s never too long into any session before the classic phrase “great pressure!” comes out. Usually this is during any sort of game play situation. If someone’s defensive efforts cause a mistake or a turnover, it seems like a fair enough thing to shout, right? Think of this, though: How many times do we hear this one when all that’s happened is the team with the ball has spooned it off the pitch under absolutely no pressure? I’ve not crunched the numbers but I’d wager over 75% of “great pressure” shouts fall into the “no pressure whatsoever” category.

Great Pressure” has a couple of close relatives, which will also come out during a competitive fixture as well as training:

1.) “Did Enough.” This one is slightly more honest as it’s a pretty backhanded compliment. You’re pretty much saying “well you didn’t do a lot, but it worked out, I guess.”

2.) “All day.” To be shouted after the opposition player in question has missed the ball for the second or third time. A not very subtle way of letting them know that you’re onto them and you’ll be onto them for the rest of the game.

A possible reaction to a shout of “great pressure.”

Of course defensive scenarios also give rise to the inevitable shouts of “Don’t Foul” and “Don’t Dive“.

You know how it goes, you’ve probably shouted it/had it shouted at you: The attacker has the ball in a good position, they face up their opponent and every helpful soul in a three mile radius shouts one of these two at the defender.
And in some sort of weird Pavlovian response, said defender will inevitably either give away a foul, or get beaten because, you guessed it, they dived in. Bonus points if after the ball has gone dead or a penalty corner has been awarded someone angrily re-iterates “DON’T DIVE. I TOLD YOU NOT TO DIVE.”

These sorts of shouts are not just the preserve of the overworked defender, however.

Imagine your team is enjoying a spell of possession. Calmly and confidently passing the ball round the back, waiting for a space to open to spring an attack into life. Who here has heard (or shouted) either “KEEP IT” or “DON’T GET BORED“? You know who you are. Don’t deny it. As with the “Don’t Dive” example above, you will often see the ball given away within 30 seconds of one of these phrases being uttered.

If by some miracle your team manages to avoid getting bored and keeps the ball long enough to get it into an attacking position, we will often hear a variation of “win something“, “upgrade“, or “outcome.”

Ignoring the fact that whatever happens will literally be an outcome, I’m pretty sure every single attacker has a good idea of the options available to them once they get into the circle. They probably don’t need someone yelling “upgrade” at them like an over-enthusiastic mobile phone salesman.

Someone is probably shouting “don’t dive” to the defender as Lily Owsley approaches. Probably.

Another attacking shout that always tickles me is “On your nose“.

If a pass of any description goes across the goal and is not touched into the net, a forward is encouraged to “get on their nose“. This never takes into account the forward’s proximity to the cross, or the quality of the ball in. If they’d been “on their nose” you’d be a goal up. So there.

Love them or hate them, whether you find them useful or not, the return of some of hockey’s most common shouts has been a great comfort to me. Long may it continue.

What’s your favourite hockey phrase or shout? Tweet me on @TheTopoftheD and let me know. Or to put it another way, “let’s have plenty of talking, yeah?”

About thetopofthed

Columnist for The Hockey Paper and the man behind The Top of the D. Writer, podcaster, goalkeeper and BBC Sport man. Used to work for Great Britain Hockey and have covered the sport at every major tournament.
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