The World of Indoor Hockey

by Uru Sports

All images taken by Dirk Markgraf

8 photos

Images Taken by Dirk Markgraf

Following a great National Indoor Tournament in Lancaster, Pa. and Richmond, Va., we wanted to dive a bit deeper into the world of indoor hockey. Our team at Uru Sports spoke with Team USA’s Pat Harris and Aki Kappeler to learn more about their indoor field hockey experiences and gameplay, as well as the indoor landscape in the USA vs. abroad. Their experiences with both indoor and outdoor hockey overseas provide a wealth of knowledge across all aspects of the game.

Believe it or not, there are a lot of differences between indoor and outdoor hockey. Between required skill sets, training and spacing, the transition from indoor to outdoor and vice versa requires time, patience and a strong understanding of each game. Both Harris and Kappeler prefer indoor to outdoor. In terms of the game itself, both said that the game is a lot quicker and more exciting. According to Kappeler, “It’s more technical, it’s quicker, you’re more involved, you have much more influence on the game, and it’s more tactical – everything is a bit more extreme. It’s also easier to achieve something in indoor than outdoor since you need fewer good players.”

A large part of this preference is also due to the atmosphere. Harris says, “You can build more of an atmosphere around it. We would have more people coming to the indoor games. We’d have at least 500 people at the games in some cases. When I first started at Mannheimer, for example, there weren’t that many people coming to the outdoor games until later on. The hall is kind of small so when you get a lot of people in there who are excited about the game it can get pretty intense.”

Overseas, the indoor scene is quite a big deal. The atmosphere goes hand in hand with the culture surrounding field hockey. A handful of players on U.S. Men’s National Team go abroad to play hockey with club teams across top leagues. Harris and Kappeler both believe that playing abroad is a great experience for both indoor and outdoor hockey. In terms of indoor, they say that Germany has the best league in their opinion. This is mostly due to the high level of hockey but also due to the atmosphere. Both players say that the experience can be so much fun, largely due to the great crowds that come out for games. 

Many players participate in both indoor and outdoor with their club teams, as Harris and Kappeler do. It is a way to improve different skills that are applicable to both games. According to Harris, playing indoor is a way to work on hockey skills that you can apply to your outdoor game. “The biggest one to me is spatial awareness. It’s important to know which space you can run to without running into anyone, while still having the sense to know where the pressure is, who is open and where, and if I can get the pass off.” Additionally, Kappeler notes that discipline is a major skill that translates. “Tactically, in indoor, you learn it’s really important to be extremely disciplined. Indoor, there are five players on the field. If someone does something wrong, opponents notice it. You really notice how important the details are and working together. Indoor, it’s smaller details that get more important. One meter to the right or one meter to the left – it’s a lot more important. Discipline in defending is really important. You learn that.”

Both Harris and Kappeler think that the transition from one to the other is fairly similar as long as you maintain a solid base fitness level. Each game requires different aspects of fitness. Harris says, “You’re doing a lot more anaerobic work in indoor, a lot more sprints and short turns. In outdoor, you need an aerobic element to play long minutes but need an anaerobic base. That’s the tricky part.” Kappeler noted that if you have a good fit base, it takes about 2 to 3 weeks to transition into indoor shape by focusing on shorter sprints and change of direction.

We also talked to Harris and Kappeler about their relationship on the field. They have played as teammates on Team USA and as rivals in Germany. “We had a very intense rivalry between our clubs at one point which was always interesting, fun, heated and emotional,” said Harris, “It always got my blood boiling.” Both players were sure to mention their friendship through playing together. Kappeler laughed and said, “The last derby, I was marking Pat and he scored. He provoked me on the celebration, it was fun. We actually were roommates on some USA tours. Even after rivalry games, it depends on how bad the loss or the win is for one of the teams, someone could be really mad, but normally we’re able to get together and have a chat.”

USA Field Hockey will be hosting the men’s and women’s Indoor Pan American Cup this year. Harris and the rest of Team USA are looking forward to sharing the high level of hockey with the field hockey community. Both Harris and Kappeler want the field hockey fans to see how big of a game it can be, and how much the atmosphere can impact the sport. Looking ahead to the tournament, Harris said, “Since we’re hosting the [Indoor] Pan American Cup, it will be nice to share that level of hockey with the field hockey community in the United States so they can see something to strive for, and for the community to realize how cool of a game it can be. I think it has a very important role in player development.”

Hosting the Indoor Pan American Cup will certainly bring a high level of indoor hockey through various playing styles, skill sets and knowledge of the game. With the tournament being in our backyard, Uru Sports will be along for the ride - helping Team USA and the hockey community grow the game here in the United States.