How to become the second best in the world championships?

28. August 2023
Autor článku & Member of Headformers

The situation before cooperation:

  • · The U20 national ball hockey team was unstable
  • · The players didn’t know each other very well
  • · Limited opportunities for training camps (1 maximum 2 days which includes 2-3 training units).
  • · The team dynamics were minimally worked with, the meetings were focused more on the technical-tactical aspect and on the selection of players for the final nomination.

At the beginning of the cooperation we got in touch with the Coaching staff where we went through their expectations and my possibilities of what we can do before the World Championships. We set the basic things and how we would like to present ourselves at the World Championships and what the head coach expects from the team and individual players. The main goal was to make 20 players into 1 team that will work together, communicate but most importantly the players will fight for each other.

Our journey together with the U20 ball hockey team started 2 months before the U20 World Championships. My first contact with the team was at their preparatory matches at the Országh cup tournament in Zvolen. I had not worked with the team at the Országh Cup yet but I focused on observing them and did an analysis of each player and how they presented themselves throughout the day and the 4 matches. After the tournament we had a second workshop with the Coaching staff where we went over my observations and the coaches selected the final nominations for the World Championships.

The work with the team took place at their training camp in Skalica where we had two days to do our best for their successful presentation at the World Championships. It was necessary for the players to realize that they can only succeed if they move in the same direction with the same message. Therefore, it was necessary to create an identity for the team and how they wanted to present themselves.

The identity of the team was:

We are the Young men from Under the Tatras, the mighty river Váh flows in our blood and as the water washes away the banks, we will sweep away our opponents.


Together they have also defined the rules between them and how they will fulfil their responsibilities. They defined 3 concepts that guided them during training, matches and in between. The key concepts for them were:

– fighting,
– discipline
– to play with hearts.


It’s common in sport that things don’t go the way we want them to or the way we’ve prepared for them. I decided to do a workshop with the team where we don’t just talk about what we want and how we are going to operate but a workshop focused on what we are

going to do when things start to go wrong. We can also call it “damage control”. The players named different situations that happen to them in the game and they don’t like them. They were for example: goal to the dressing room, I made a mistake, I’m stressed, I can’t control my emotions or we are losing. Together we defined the “right” solution to that situation for that particular team. The players found out from each other who all had the same problem and at the same time understood that they are not alone in this. Showing weakness can make us stronger in life because if someone knows about it they can help us in that moment.

During the World Championships in Liberec, the national hockey team made it to the semi-finals where they were beaten by their opponents in the group. The players showed high mental resilience and combativeness when they did not give up. They were 3:1 down in the semi-final and managed to equalize at 3:3. Finally, they were down 5:3 again and with exactly 7 seconds left in the match, Samuel Sakal managed to equalize at 5:5 to send the match into overtime. In the overtime nobody managed to score and the game continued with shootout. Slovakia won the shootout 3:0 without any doubts and in a game where they were losing from the beginning they won the final of the U20 World Championship with their persistent work and fighting spirit.

They failed to beat Canada in the final. Canada pushed us in everything and we couldn’t find it in ourselves to change it. It’s often said that it’s nicer to win third place because you win the last game. And at the same time, coming second at the World Championships (even though the last game was a loss) is a huge achievement for our Slovak U20 national under-20 ball hockey team. And this was our way to become the second best in the world championships.

After two workshops with the players and two workshops with the Coaching staff, we managed to show how the team looks like. They were united, they didn’t give up and they showed their mental resilience despite the adversity of the game. Not once did they put their heads down, not once did they doubt themselves, not once did they point out to their teammates what they did wrong but always tried to find a common path. They understood that the team needs to move as one, on and off the field.

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