Rink-hockey, also known as roller hockey or hardball hockey, is a team sport that involves quick actions and precise movements according to the required physical, technical, and tactical game demands (Yagüe et al., 2013). Like in other sports, the increasing professionalization in recent years resulted in an increase of studies related to variables affecting game effectiveness. Performance analysis, defined as the analysis of behavior in competitive sports, appears to be widely accepted by coaches, sports scientists, and players as a relevant procedure to analyze and improve performance (Drust, 2010; Liu et al., 2016). Rink-hockey is no exception and like other team sports, it seems necessary to identify the relevant performance indicators for this sport discipline.

Rink-hockey is a very successful and popular team-sport in Spain. Its national team is the current European champion and it is also the most successful team with a total of 17 World Championships. However, scientific literature about performance analysis in this sport is scarce. Of the few studies published on match variables, the most considered is the “home advantage” (HA) effect (Arboix-Alió and Aguilera-Castells, 2019; Arboix-Alió et al., 2020; Gómez et al., 2011) showing an approximate value of 60%, similar to other team sports. Other studies have analyzed variables such as the fact of “scoring the first goal of the match” (Arboix-Alió and Aguilera-Castells, 2018), goalkeepers’ performance (Sousa et al., 2020; Trabal et al., 2019a, 2020), the winning halftime effect or the context’s influence in free direct hits (Trabal et al., 2020).

Among the different rink hockey game variables which can influence the match result, individual set-pieces such as a penalty (PEN) or a free direct hit (FDH) are much related to scoring. Like in many team sports, goals are one of the most difficult and attractive aspects due to the permanent expectation they create, as a single goal can have a decisive impact on the match outcome (Casali et al., 2014). For this reason, set-pieces have become decisive for the match outcome in team sports. In futsal, it is reported that 27% of the total goals are achieved from total set-pieces actions (Sarmento et al., 2016). More specifically, in handball 10% of goals (Ferrarri et al., 2020; Panagiotiset al., 2020) are scored from penalty actions. Despite the lack of specific data in rink hockey, these two specific actions (FDH and PEN) have a non-negligible importance, and many times the match result can be decided by the effectiveness of these set-piece actions (Massari, 2017).

Additionally, this kind of action tends to happen in higher frequency since the 2009-10 season, when the Rink Hockey Committee implemented a new regulation (Rink Hockey Committee, 2009). These regulation changes, such as 45 s ball possession per attack, the backcourt violation and the temporary numerical inferiority when a player is sanctioned with a blue card, were significant modifications that aimed to achieve a more offensive style. Anyway, the most influential change probably was penalizing teams with a FDH when they accumulate 10 fouls.

Given the gap in scientific literature, further research is warranted to establish the relationship between individual set-pieces success and team performance. Furthermore, and to the authors’ knowledge, such studies in rink hockey players do not exist to date. Therefore, the main objective of this study was to analyze the set-pieces (FDH and PEN) influence on the final ranking in the First Spanish Division (Ok Liga). Given the paucity of available data assessing the relationship between the set-pieces success and ranking team performance, it was hypothesized that teams with higher effectiveness in set-pieces would be associated with a better final ranking.



In total, 6,920 set-pieces actions (4,332 FDH and 2,588 PEN) from 1,680 rink hockey Spanish league (OkLiga) games corresponding to 7 seasons (2012/2013 to 2018/2019) were analyzed.

Design and Procedures

Data were collected by professional technicians of the league. To assess data reliability 100 individual set-pieces were selected and two different observations were performed to assess intra- and inter-rater reliability. The consensus surpassed 90% on all criteria and categories (intra-observer k = 0.992; inter-observer k = 0.984). In addition, generalizability analysis was carried out (Cronbach et al., 1972), using SAGT software, version 1.0 (Hernández-Mendo et al., 2016) (Table 1). Following suggestions from Blanco-Villaseñor et al. (2014), two measurements were made to assess: a) the results of generalizability (number of individual set-pieces that made up the sampling) and b) the observation instrument’s validity; a) the generalizability coefficient (relative and absolute = 0.996) corresponding to the measurement plan [Categories] / [set-pieces] establishes that with the number of set-pieces analyzed, you obtain high reliability of generalization precision; b) regarding the measurement plan [set-pieces] / [Categories], the generalizability coefficient (relative and absolute = 0.000) guarantees, in the theoretical framework of the Theory of Generalizability, the validity of the observation instrument designed (Blanco-Villaseñor et al., 2014; Blanco-Villaseñor and Escolano-Pérez, 2017).

Table 1

Results corresponding to the generalizability design [Categories] [Set-pieces].

SCdfMean squareRandomMixtCorrected%Standard error
[set- pieces][cat]2284.621165360.1380.1380.1380.13869.3550.002

The recorded variables were the following for each team per each season: total points, FDH attempted, FDH scored, PEN attempted, PEN scored, total goals scored, FDH received, goals received from FDH, PEN received, goals received from PEN, total goals received. The team quality and total points variables were used as independent variables comparing the other six factors described previously. The team quality variable was derived from the final ranking in the competition. From this analysis, four groups of teams were obtained: 1) Euroleague group: the first four (1-4) teams classified to play the Euroleague competition; 2) WS Euro Cup group: from the fifth to the eighth (5-8) team classified for the WS Europe Cup competition; 3) Permanency group: from the ninth to the twelfth (9-12) team that achieved permanence, and 4) Relegation group: from the thirteenth to the sixteenth (13-16) team which composed the group of teams which lost the category.

The individual set-pieces (FDH and PEN) sequences were downloaded from the platform of the Royal Spanish Skating Federation and viewed using Kinovea v. 0.8 (17) software. Excel 13 was used to generate the records. Finally, the data were processed using SPSS (Version 20 for Windows; SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL, USA) software.

Statistical analyses

The descriptive analysis included the calculations of mean and standard deviation. The distribution of data was assessed using the Shapiro-Wilk test, which identified a normal distribution of the data set. The one-way ANOVA with Bonferroni correction post-hoc tests were carried out to establish comparisons between the groups. Moreover, effect-sizes (ES) were calculated using the partial eta squared (ηp2), to show the magnitude of the effects, and their interpretation was based on the following criteria: 0.01 ≤ small, 0.06 ≤ medium, 0.14 ≤ large effect (Cohen, 1988).

The relationship between total points and the set-pieces variables (penalty attempts, penalties scored, free direct hit attempts, free direct hits scored, total goals scored) were analyzed using Pearson’s correlations (r). Statistical significance was established at p ≤ 0.05. Correlations’ magnitudes were evaluated using Hopkins’ scale and interpreted as follows: trivial (0.00–0.09), small (0.10–0.29), moderate (0.30– 0.49), large (0.50–0.69), very large (0.70–0.89), nearly perfect (0.90–0.99), and perfect (1.00) (Hopkins et al., 2009).


It was found that 21.08% of the goals in rink hockey were scored by individual set-pieces. Specifically, from FDH (11.58%) and PEN (9.49%).

The main effect was observed for the ranking team groups in the offensive set-pieces variables of FDH goals, FDH effectiveness (%), PEN goals, set-pieces goals and set-pieces effectiveness (%) (F(3,108) = 10.428 p = 0.000, ηp2 = 0.225; F(3, 108) = 4.505 p = 0.005, ηp2 = 0.111; F(3, 108) = 2.961 p = 0.035, ηp2 = 0.076 ; F(3, 108) = 9.974 p = 0.000, ηp2 = 0.217; F(3, 108) = 5.687 p = 0.001, ηp2 = 0.136, respectively).

Likewise, significant differences were found between team ranking groups in all defensive set-pieces variables (F(3, 108) = 3.529 p = 0.022, ηp2 = 0.194; F(3, 108) = 5.896 p = 0.002, ηp2 = 0.287; F(3, 108) = 3.294 p = 0.029, ηp2 = 0.183; F(3, 108) = 4.817 p = 0.005, ηp2 = 0.247; F(3, 108) = 5.653 p = 0.002, ηp2 = 0.278; F(3, 108) = 9.313 p = 0.000, ηp2 = 0.388; F(3, 108) = 2.779 p = 0.052, ηp2 = 0.159).

Table 2 shows the pairwise comparison between the ranking team groups and the set-pieces variables.

Table 2

Descriptive analysis of set-pieces goal actions according to team groups. The data are shown as mean ± SD.

Euroleague groupWS Europe Cup groupPermanency groupRelegation group
FDH goals14.68 ± 5.5110.61 ± 3.91*9.89 ± 3.37*8.75 ± 3.81*
FDH effectiveness (%)32.37 ± 8.8927.97 ± 7.3427.19 ± 6.5324.97 ± 8.01*
PEN goals10.79 ± 4.368.82 ± 3.758.86 ± 4.497.54 ± 3.83*
PEN effectiveness (%)41.67 ± 11.0738.48 ± 8.0741.55 ± 13.4334.39 ± 11.95
OFFENSIVE SET-PIECESSet-pieces goals25.46 ± 8.0819.43 ± 5.39*18.75 ± 5.94*16.29 ± 6.38*
Set-(%) pieces effectiveness35.91 ± 7.8632.31 ± 5.0932.28 ± 6.5328.54 ± 6.94*
Goals set-pieces percentage from20.39 ± 6.5722.46 ± 9.4924.82 ± 12.7127.32 ± 19.93
Goals received from11.42 ± 3.7711.83 ± 4.1710.42 ± 4.0515.25 ± 3.44 §
FDH Effectiveness received (%) FDH22.27 ± 4.8728.54 ± 8.3628.14 ± 6.5934.26 ± 7.63*
Goals received from PEN9.67 ± 2.4910.25 ± 2.6313.00 ± 5.6413.58 ± 3.26*
DEFENSIVE SET-PIECESEffectiveness received (%) PEN36.04 ± 7.6932.37 ± 5.8441.25 ± 11.13 †43.64 ± 6.34 †
Goals pieces received from set-21.08 ± 4.7922.08 ± 4.8523.42 ± 6.1528.83 ± 5.73 *†§
Effectiveness received (%) set-pieces27.19 ± 4.3330.33 ± 4.1534.78 ± 6.69*38.23 ± 6.41*†
Received goals
percentage from set-pieces25.64 ± 7.8221.25 ± 3.5919.87 ± 3.93*21.57 ± 4.14

[i] *_Statistically different than the Euroleague group; †_Statistically different than the WS Europe Cup group; §_Statistically different than the Permanency group

Table 3 shows the correlation matrix between the ranking team performance, expressed as total season points per team, and their offensive set-pieces variables. Significant correlations for FDH effectiveness, PEN goals and set-pieces effectiveness with moderate magnitude (r = 0.30 to 0.47; p < 0.01) and for FDH goals and set-pieces goals with large magnitude (r = 0.54 to 0.57; p < 0.01) were found. Conversely, no significant correlations were found either with the effectiveness of penalties or with the total goals percentage from set-pieces.

Table 3

Pearson’s correlation between team season points and offensive set-pieces variables.

FDH goalsFDH effectivenessPEN goalsPEN effectivenessSet-pieces goalsSet-pieces effectivenessGoals percentage from set-pieces
Team season points0.566**0.442**0.302**0.2500.544**0.467**-0.175

[i] * (p < 0.05); ** (p < 0.01).

Table 4 shows the correlations between the ranking team performance with defensive set-pieces variables. Significant negative correlations with a moderate to large magnitude were found for all variables (r = - 0.33 to - 0.55; p < 0.05) except “goals received from FDH”. Furthermore, a significant correlation was found between the team season points and the percentage of total goals received from set-pieces (r = 0.54; p < 0.01).

Table 4

Pearson’s correlation between team season points and defensive set-pieces variables.

Goals received from FDHEffectiveness FDH received (%)Goals received from PENEffectiveness PEN received (%)Set-pieces goals receivedEffectiveness set-pieces received (%)percentage Goals received from set-pieces
Team points season-0.215-0.450**-0.396**-0.330*-0.432**-0.550**0.543**

[i] * (p < 0.05); ** (p < 0.01).


The main purpose of this research was to analyze the individual set-pieces (FDH and PEN) influence on the teams’ final ranking in rink hockey. The main findings were that teams classified in a better position achieved higher effectiveness in individual set-pieces and their goalkeepers were more effective in defending the FDH and PEN. Additionally, results showed significant correlations between team season points and better performance in many individual set-pieces variables.

The first finding of the present study indicates that in rink hockey, 21.08% of the goals are scored by FDH and PEN (11.58% and 9.49% respectively). These data reinforce the importance of these two specific actions in the final outcome. To the best of our knowledge, no previous rink hockey studies are available to compare, however, these findings are consistent with other team sports where attacking set-pieces play an increasing role as a destabilizing factor in the offensive phase (Fernández-Hermógenes et al., 2017). In this vein, Ramos and Oliveira (2008) and Pérez and Fonseca (2015) reported that the number of goals scored in a soccer season from set-pieces accounts for between 31-37% of the total goals scored. Furthermore, Sarmento et al. (2016) reported that 27% of the total goals were achieved from set-pieces in futsal, highlighting the importance of these actions which represents 25.75% of the total shots (Leite, 2012). With regard to penalties, Ferrarri et al. (2020) and Panagiotiset al. (2020) reported values around 10% in handball, very close to those reported in the present study in rink hockey. The court dimensions, the number of players and the dynamics of the game of rink hockey and those both sports could explain the similar values.

One of the main findings of this study was that when comparing set-pieces effectiveness according to the final teams’ success (end-season ranking), the best teams achieved higher effectiveness in both total set-pieces goals and effectiveness. Teams classified in the Euroleague group achieved a higher significant average of goals from FDH than the other teams. Additionally, this effectiveness was higher indicating better performance in this kind of actions. This fact could be explained by two reasons. The first one is that best teams tend to have more ball possession and generate more goal opportunities forcing their opponents to longer defence phases and to produce fouls in order to avoid goal chances. This increase in the number of fouls when a team is losing, occurs in other team sports such as waterpolo (Lupo et al., 2014; Mirvić et al., 2011) and handball (Ćeleš et al., 2014). Furthermore, considering the new rink hockey regulation which penalizes teams with a FDH when accumulating 10 fouls or when one player is sanctioned with a blue card, the differences in the number of total FDH attempts during a season have risen between better and worse classified teams. Regarding the differences in FDH goal effectiveness, it could be explained by the higher technical quality of players in their squads. Thus, considering that FDH is probably the most technical action in this sport (Trabal et al., 2019a, 2020), having specialist shooters can be determinant. However, this difference in performance between ranking-teams was non-significant for PEN shots. This could be explained because the PEN is a less technical and direct shot, while in FDH the player can progress towards the goal enabling higher variability of options.

Concerning the percentage of total goals from set-pieces actions, although there are no significant differences according to the team rank, the worst classified teams obtain a higher percentage of total goals from individual set-pieces actions. According to other team sports, worst classified teams produce less goal opportunities than their counterparts during the game (Campos et al., 2015; Gómez et al., 2014; Lago-Peñas et al., 2010, 2011). This could explain the relationship between the low final goal percentage from set-pieces and the low team ranking.

With regard to the set-pieces actions received, there were also significant differences in goalkeeper performance between teams according to their final ranking. Results showed that goalkeepers from the Euroleague group teams had a significantly higher percentage of goals from set-pieces (27.19%) than Permanency or Relegation group teams (34.78% and 38.23%, respectively). This was observed by Trabal et al. (2019b) in the OkLiga, showing that the best teams had the best goalkeepers in set-pieces actions.

Regarding the correlation between team season points and offensive set-pieces variables, significant correlations for FDH effectiveness, PEN goals and set-pieces effectiveness with moderate magnitude (r = 0.30 to 0.47; p < 0.01) and for FDH goals and set-pieces goals with large magnitude (r = 0.54 to 0.57; p < 0.01) were found. Conversely, no significant correlations were observed either with PEN effectiveness or with the goals percentage from set-pieces. Analyzing the defensive actions, negative significant correlations were found for all variables (r = - 0.33 to - 0.55; p < 0.05) except “goals received from FDH”, reinforcing that goalkeepers from best teams reached higher performance. Furthermore, a significant correlation was found between the team season points and the percentage of total goals received from set-pieces (r = 0.54; p < 0.01).

Despite the usefulness of these findings, the present study has some limitations which must be acknowledged. Firstly, the lack of studies about rink hockey to establish comparisons reduces the possibility to identify some tendencies between findings. In addition, the technical actions of players have not been analyzed. The strength of our study lies in the number of set-pieces actions analyzed during a seven-year period from one of the most prestigious rink hockey leagues, which is a comprehensive study on a minority sport over time. Future research should also consider the contextual variables’ influence on set-pieces actions success. The study of other rink hockey competitive contexts like the female hockey league, other championships (i.e., Italian league, Portuguese league, international championships) or lower levels of competition (grassroots sport or minor leagues) would be interesting.

Conclusions and Practical implications

In conclusion, the current study indicates that effectiveness in set-pieces actions, especially FDH is related to better team performance. Moreover, the goalkeepers from high-ranked teams achieved higher success in defending set-pieces.

In light of these results, rink hockey coaches should be encouraged to include the systematic practice of FDH and PEN shots in their training programs. Designing the individual set-pieces actions practice needs to be innovative in order to recreate the levels of anxiety, distraction and perceptions of control raised by such high-pressure situations (Jordet et al., 2007; Wood et al., 2015). Additionally, these findings suggest the necessity for teams to have specialist players in this kind of action. Considering the rink hockey regulation which allows the substitution of players with no limits during the game, it could be decisive for a team to have a specialist goalkeeper for FDH or a PEN shooter that participates only in this specific match moments.