SINGAPORE - The Under-19 Hockey 3s League concluded on Saturday (March 6) and while Singapore Hockey Federation (SHF) president Mathavan Devadas was pleased with its success, he is already looking at other variations for upcoming local leagues.
"We started slowly and had to adapt as the league progressed. The umpires got more used to it and could see the fouls more clearly, the players and coaches also adapted their tactics as they played more games," he said.
Trials will now be held to explore different setups for the upcoming indoor and outdoor men's and women's leagues slated to start next month, he added.
Mathavan added some suggested formats include a 4v4 without substitutes and a segregated 8v8 one with no inter-mingling.
"It's a trying time but people are being innovative and creative and that's very heartening to see," he said.
The 3v3 league, held behind closed doors, kicked off on Jan 30 to provide playing opportunities after safe-distancing guidelines were relaxed to allow eight people in a group to gather.
Matches are played in an area one-eighth of a regular hockey pitch. They consist of three 10-minute periods with two five-minute breaks in between. Players can shoot at two goals and each team have one substitute player.
Schools hockey coach Nordin Manaff proposed implementing a scoring zone as players can now score from anywhere on the pitch.
"For adults who can flick the ball very hard and fast, it might hinder gameplay since they can just shoot from where they are," he said.
Some players have requested having just one bigger goalpost and a goalkeeper with three outfield players.
But Nordin, 54, noted he has seen his players improve their technical skills and said the league was a good consolation for students who are looking at two consecutive years without competing in the National School Games (NSG).
Hockey and other team sports were not included in this year's NSG though the Ministry of Education had said last December it is "working on how these sports can resume safely" this year.
The NSG was later postponed from its original February start date after a rise in the number of community cases.
Nordin said: "There are two goals posts so their vision when looking down court has widened. Their footwork is also better because they have to side-step quickly to get past defenders and they change direction quicker."
His student Sherman Tan, 17, said the league was a good opportunity for new hockey players to experience a competitive environment.
The JC2 Victoria Junior College student added that he learnt to position himself better in the smaller playing area and improved his agility and decision-making skills.
In Saturday's finals, Jansenites Kampong - three of its four players currently train with the national team - won the boys' title with an impressive 21-9 victory over Crescent C.
Jimmy Lee, 18, was pleased his team achieved their target of scoring more than 10 goals every game they played, except one that they forfeited because of injury.
"It was more challenging and more strenuous because there are two goalposts for us to defend so we have to move the ball and ourselves around a lot more.
"Being back also helps us improve our fitness so we're better prepared when we face other teams next time," said Lee, whose last tournament was the Under-19 11-a-side league in 2019.
In the girls' final, UWCSEA Dover Phoenix White narrowly beat UWCSEA Dover Phoenix Blue 9-7.
Marcus Tan, deputy chief of ActiveSG, said: "The value of bringing sports back in this current climate is a case where we can get the youths out to play Sport and compete. And I think they are raring to go.
"At this point, we are trying to find the best means of playing sport safely and competing in meaningful ways. Every sport, as long as the competition plans are within the safe distancing measures, we should be confident that they can carry on.
"We're very appreciative of NSAs who have been working hard to modify the play format for their respective sport so that they're all within guidelines; enabling youths to play safely."