With team sports still limited to groups of eight, Singapore hockey launches 3v3 competitions

Trial game for a 3v3 hockey league by members of Oldham club on Jan 17, 2021, at Sengkang Hockey stadium. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - Hockey player Hannah van Regteren has been itching for action since her last competition - the Singapore Hockey Federation (SHF) Women's Indoor League - ended prematurely last February because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

After nearly a year, her wait will be over on Saturday with the launch of the SHF's Under-19 3v3 League at Sengkang Hockey Stadium.

The 17-year-old, who plays for the Singapore Cricket Club (SCC) said: "We can still train but playing in a competition is different and I've really missed it. It's hard to get back into the fitness routine but I'm very nervous and excited to get back into the rhythm and to win."

With team sports in Singapore still largely restricted to group sessions with a maximum of eight participants, the SHF has had to come up with a creative format to keep its athletes engaged.

Besides the U-19 competition, a men's and women's league is also slated to start in March at the same time as an indoor one, SHF president Mathavan Devadas told The Straits Times.

Oldham club player Mohamad Fahrul Saaid is looking forward to playing a competitive match again after a gap of nearly two years.

The 31-year-old said: "This is a good step forward to opening up again and it gives players good exposure to come back and play the game.

"I've missed playing hockey and I've missed playing with friends so I'm looking forward to doing that again and forging more friendships on the pitch."

Mathavan decided to go ahead with the U-19 league after its recent weekend Knock-Around sessions enjoyed good attendance.

He said: "It's clear that people want to play, so we have to create the platform for them."

The U-19 league is also an opportunity for school players to compete after hockey and other team sports such as football, netball and rugby were left off the calendar for this year's National School Games (NSG).

Mathavan said: "There are also many school kids who won't get the chance to play in school so this was important for us as these kids are also stakeholders and part of the fraternity."

The NSG, which was cancelled for the first time in its 61-year history last year owing to the pandemic, will now be delayed this year following a rise in the number of community cases.

Useful skills to learn

Members of the Oldham Hockey Club participating in a trial game for an upcoming 3v3 league, at Sengkang Hockey Stadium on Jan 17, 2021. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

The 3v3 format is played in a square that is one-eighth the size of a regular hockey pitch and players can shoot at two smaller goals. Each game consists of three periods of 10 minutes and two five-minute breaks.

Mathavan added that while the format is very different from the 11-a-side game, it still presents a challenge for players as it helps them build spatial awareness and train their decision-making.

"With two goals, players cannot just use a linear format, they have to change direction quickly and it's continuous running for them," he said.

SCC coach Kanan Packrisamy also believes that players can improve by taking part in a 3v3 contest, noting that skills picked up in this format, commonly used as a training drill, can also be transferred to the regular version later on.

"In an 11-a-side game, there are many 3v3 or 3v2 situations, so this is a great time for them to pick up winning small games. They can understand that winning these small games will help them progress in the big game so it's a great way to play," he explained.

"They also get a lot of touches of the ball because it's continuous play and I can already see a lot of players have improved their ball skills."

The U-19 girls' league will have 16 teams while the boys' league has 12 teams. The teams will be split into two groups and each group plays a single round-robin. The top two teams of each group will advance to the semi-finals.

German Julian Reitmaier, 15, who will represent the United World College of South East Asia (Dover) in the league, added: "In the regular game, not everyone gets the ball all the time. But here, the roles are not defined so you will be switching positions around all the time.

"Everyone gets to play in every position and we all get to understand the game from a different viewpoint the whole time."

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