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Canterbury Hockey

Junior Year 7&8 Kwik Sticks

Mike Greer Homes Kwik Sticks 7-aside:

  • Winter Season
  • Predominately Year 7's with some Year 8's
  • 7-aside (Including Goal Keeper)
  • 1/2 field
  • Saturday mornings

What changed in 2021?

Hockey New Zealand recommended that associations change the playing format for the Kwik Sticks year 7&8 competition, from 11 a-side to 7 a-side.


Hockey is a late specialization sport where players grow and develop at different ages and stages. Our focus is on keeping the quality of the experience with hockey enjoyable, creating balance in sport participation and nurturing talent at the right pace. That is because we believe that people, especially young people, who receive quality experiences in sport become sport lovers for life.

Small Sticks modified games have been developed in accordance with Sport NZ’s “Athlete Characteristics and Needs” to provide participants with age-appropriate formats. It is based on worldwide evidence complied to increase the numbers of children in sport, while also assisting them to improve more rapidly, increase their enjoyment level and to ensure they continue to participate in future years.

To ensure we provide year 7&8 athletes with an age-appropriate format in line with the Small Sticks modified games framework, there is a need to change the playing format from 11 a-side to 7 a-side. 

This change is based on the belief that 7 a-side games:

  • Provide a more age and stage appropriate playing format than 11 a-side.
    • More touches on the ball – with less players on a smaller field, athletes will receive more touches of the ball, have more shots at goal and more opportunities to test out their skills in a game situation. More touches of the Ball + More Involvement = Better Skill Development
    • More time engaged in play – with less players on a smaller field, athletes will always be close to the action and have more opportunities to make decisions.
    • Better matched to athletes skill level – there is a shared belief that key steps in basic skill development are currently being missed, with athletes pushed into 11 a-side before they’ve developed a component level of basic skills, including: push passing, receiving, ball carrying, tackling and goal scoring.
    • Promotes instinctive/creative play
    • Better matched to athletes physical ability – with a smaller playing field, athletes can exert more of their energy on decision making and executing their skills and less on running long distances up and down a full sized hockey field.
    • Better matched to athletes understanding of the game – with a smaller field and less athletes the game is simplified, which gives for athletes more time to focus on developing a component understanding of basic tactical principles. This can also allow for more instinctive/creative play with less structured playing formats required in comparison to 11 a-side.
  • It is easier to coach and umpire – 7 a-side hockey is easier to coach and umpire and allows these individuals more time to develop basic coaching/umpiring competencies before moving to the 11 a-side format.
  • More efficient use of turf capacity – more 7 a-side matches mean there is less reliance on full sized turfs. When utilizing full sized turfs, it also allows for more athletes to play on a full-sized turf at once (28 athletes playing at once on 2 x half turfs compared to 22 athletes on a full turf).
  • It is more accommodating to new players – in most cases 7 a-side is an easier starting point for any new players who join the sport in the year 7 and 8 space.
  • Offers greater enjoyment – with more touches on the ball, more goals, and more involvement in the game, it is believed athletes will experience greater enjoyment in match play, which could lead to higher retention rates.

How 7 a-side Better Supports Coaches to Create a Climate of Development

Quality experiences in junior Hockey can inspire a lifelong involvement in the game.

Small Sticks is based on the belief that small-sided games:

  • Require fewer players per team and offer participants full involvement, increased touches of the ball and greater skill development
  • Are enjoyable to play for participants of both genders, of all ages and hockey abilities
  • Teach common skills and tactics to make the transition to 11v11 field hockey easier
  • Introduce development opportunities for playing, umpiring, coaching, managing and leading within hockey
  • Are not reliant on full complement hockey facilities or equipment and can be played on fields of various sizes and surfaces
  • Aligns to the Balance is Better philosophy offering greater enjoyment leading to higher retention rates.

The Facts

Emerging Evidence: Hockey NSW

From June to September 2016 Hockey NSW conducted extensive research to compare differences between Small Sided Games and Traditional 11-a-side Full Field Games.

The results are highlighted in the following statistical findings;

  • Player Touches (possessions) – 4.7: 1
  • Goal Shots – 4.5:1
  • Goals Scored – 3:1
  • Passes Made – 4.8:1
  • Metres Run – 2.5:1 (no GPS data sort for this cohort)

How will Canterbury Hockey make changes to the Kwik Sticks year 7&8 competition in 2021?

The Kwik Sticks year 7&8 winter competition will begin a transition to the 7 a-side playing format. This transition will include the majority of year 8s playing 11 a-side and year 7s playing 7 a-side (including a fully kitted goalkeeper) in 2021, before fully aligning to 7 a-side in 2022.

Further details about the 11 and 7 a-side splits are listed below:

  • Where possible, 11 a-side teams will be fully made up of year 8 athletes.
  • If a club/school does not have enough year 8s to field an 11 a-side team, a limited number of year 7s may be eligible to play 11 a-side, if it enables a club/school to field an 11 a-side team. This will require approval from the Junior Advisory Committee before the season begins.
  • Year 7s will not be able to take the place of a year 8 in an 11 a-side team.
  • If fill in players are required for an 11 a-side team, year 8s should be used over year 7s (if possible).
  • Year 8s are eligible to play 7 a-side and should be encourage to if they want to or are new to the game.

What challenges will be involved with this transition and what is being done to limit these:

Coaches: moving to the 7 a-side format will mean there will be less athletes per team, which will result in an increase in team numbers and coaches required.  

To help limit the impact of this, Canterbury Hockey will:

  • Encourage clubs/schools to review the way they ‘coach teams’. One option is for one experienced coach to oversee 2 or more teams and have less experienced coaches or parents in coach/manager roles to support training and match day delivery.
  • A Coach Developer program will be delivered to interested clubs and schools, with coaches of junior Kwik Stick and platinum grade teams being the targeted group to receive support.
  • Canterbury Hockey will publish further resource for 6/7 a-side coaches, with the purpose of supporting parents and/or beginner coaches.

Goalkeepers: with more teams and therefore more goalkeepers, clubs/schools will potentially need to purchase more goalkeeping gear.

  • Further consideration will be given to how clubs/schools can share goalkeepers gear amongst their teams after further consultation with clubs/schools.

Umpires: with more teams there will be more games and a need for more umpires.

  • Canterbury Hockey will invest additional staff resource to coordinate and develop the junior umpiring space.
  • Additional promotion will be done to engage more secondary school students and parents into junior umpiring.
  • Further umpire development resources will be created for Kwik Sticks 7 a-side umpires.
  • Further consideration will be given to how umpires are best allocated across these grades.

Community Education: it is important that parents of junior athletes and the athletes have a good understanding of the reasons for the change.

  • Canterbury Hockey staff are available to attend club/school committee meetings and/or community meetings to help explain and promote the change.

Transition to 11 a-side: in the future year 8 athletes could have limited/no 11 a-side playing experience before moving to high school.

  • In 2021, there is not an identified need to further support the transition to 11 a-side as a majority of year 8’s will be playing 11 a-side.
  • Prior to the 2022 winter season, further consideration will be given to providing 2022 year 8’s with an 11 a-side experience, through either the winter competition or an addition development program.

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