The 16 pitch lengths assessment is a time trial test of 1600 yards or 1462 metres.
It is a useful measure of aerobic capacity, which is vital for field hockey performance. In this article, I’ll be sharing a range of ways to improve your time in this test.
Aerobic capacity can be measured by maximal aerobic speed (MAS), the lowest speed at which VO2 max occurs (Berthoin, 1992). It has been correlated with total distances achieved in rugby players (Swaby et al., 2016), and is a key physical quality in hockey.
The 16 pitch lengths is a useful test as it is a reliable measure of aerobic capacity (Bellenger et al., 2015), and is simple and easy to administer at scale.
One of the common challenges faced by aspiring hockey players is knowing how to get better at this test.
“Do I just need to do the test regularly?”
“Is it better to start fast and just hold on?”
These are just some of the common questions I get asked by players who lack clarity around how to get better in this test.
The following 3 simple steps will help you to drastically improve your time.
The first step is to assess. This means having a baseline from which to prescribe and compare against in the future.
When completing the test, it’s important to have a clear idea of your target time. This will help with pacing, which is vital. If you set off too fast, you will simply be unable to sustain this pace and will begin to work anaerobically, and ultimately fatigue faster. Stick to a consistent pace that is sustainable and achievable. Then, once you’ve got 2 lengths to go, open it up and go all out.
Often players start off too fast and can’t sprint at the end, which is the wrong way to approach this test. Finally, think about the changes of direction as opportunities to gain time, rather than areas to lose time. They are where most of the time can get lost, so learn to change direction faster even when fatigued.
You should aim to assess yourself on this test every 8-12 weeks to measure your progress. Any more frequently and you probably won’t be able to see meaningful (statistically significant) change.
The second step is to have an individualised plan based on this information. Along with a basic assessment of speed, you can determine whether you are one of the following profiles:
- Speed profile - fast but relatively low MAS score (often forwards)
- Hybrid profile - a combination of both speed and endurance (often midfielders)
- Endurance profile - not as fast but a high MAS score (often defenders)
The nature of the sessions that you need to do can be then prescribed to you so that you are doing sessions that meet your needs.
As well as having a running profile, you should also work off individualised running distance or time targets. This means that you are working at the right intensity for a given interval.
All players should prioritise MAS intervals over regularly completing the 16 pitch lengths test, as you will be able to work harder and gain better results this way. Simply running at your MAS (100%), will not get you faster. Time above MAS is associated with improvements in it.
The final step is to have someone to coach you. This provides two major advantages:
a) It provides you with structure, support and additional motivation
b) It holds you accountable for doing those sessions that you are finding challenging
Here are just some of the ways in which coaching can help you to improve your time:
- Better running technique for more efficient running
- Motivation for doing tough interval sessions
- Improved change of direction technique for the turns where most of the speed is often lost
- Accountability for doing the sessions
- Support, guidance and reassurance when things get tough
The following are two examples of two clients who are members of the Hockey Performance Programme. They improved their 16 pitch lengths time dramatically in only a short period of time!
Olly - improved his time by 25 seconds in 6 weeks completing 3 sessions per week which were tailored to his individual needs (7% improvement overall)
Lilly - improved her time by over 30 seconds in around 8 weeks using interval training and an individualised training plan (8% improvement overall)
If you are an aspiring player and would like to improve your 16 pitch lengths for NAGs selection, apply now to join the Hockey Performance Programme.
Bellenger, C.R., Fuller, J.T., Nelson, M.J. et al. (2015) Predicting maximal aerobic speed through set distance time-trials. Eur J Appl Physiol 115, 2593–2598.
Berthoin S, Gerbeaux, M, Geurruin F, Lensel-Corbeil G and Vandendorpe F. (1992) Estimation of maximal aerobic speed. Science & Sport 7(2), 85-91.
Swaby, R., Jones, P. A., Comfort, P. (2016). Relationship between maximum aerobic speed performance and distance covered in Rugby Union games. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 30(10), 2788 – 2793.