5 WAYS TO HIT A FIELD HOCKEY BALL

Five Ways of Hitting a Field Hockey ball

The game of field hockey requires many different skills and strengths. From physical prowess, tactical nous to good ball control. Each player carries a hockey stick, which they use to hit the ball in different ways. Field hockey players must learn to hit the ball in varying ways to master the sport. There are five ways of hitting a field hockey ball, these include: the drive, scoop, flick, slap shot, and push pass.

Drive

This shot is seen by many as the most difficult technique to master. It is used when taking a hard shot on goal, or by the defense when clearing a ball. 

  1. Place your feet together with the ball in front of you but forward a few feet.
  2. Grip the hockey stick about an inch from the top, with both hands close together as if you were holding a baseball bat.
  3. Bend your knees and place your weight on your back leg.
  4. Pull the stick back level with your waist with the flat face facing forward.
  5. Take a step forward to the ball and swing where the toe of the stick should hit at the lowest point of the swing.
  6. Try and keep you wrists soft, then tighten them just before you impact the ball. This will help provide a powerful shot.
  7. Follow through to the target with your stick.

A drive is a preferential shot when shooting hard at goal, along with long passes or even free hits. This is a great video with examples on how to drive a ball, along with taking a high shot at goal.

Slapping

Can be referred to as either a slap shot or a slap pass. These are quite different in their technique.

Slap Shot

Firstly, the slap shot. This can be a powerful way to shoot at goal, often catching the goalie by surprise at just how quickly you can slap the ball through the air into the back of the net. 

Technique –

  1. Let your body be perpendicular to the goal or target while you grip the stick tightly.
  2. Have your hands wide apart as if you were dribbling, with your lower hand holding the stick at the bottom of your grip tape.
  3. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart.
  4. Allow the ball to sit centrally a few feet from you.
  5. The back-swing is important. Rather than bringing the stick back along the ground, swing it back in the air.
  6. When you hit the ball, open the face of the stick a little to get some lift on the ball.
  7. For maximum power, contact the ball down near the neck of the stick.
  8. Keep low and follow-through, pointing toward the target.

Dutch Olympic medalist Jeroen Hertzberger offers some great advice on a slap shot in this clip.

Slap Pass

Whereas a slap pass is a great option for medium to long-range passing, or when an opponent is closing in. It’s quite a different technique to the slap shot, with the pass keeping the ball on the ground.

Technique –

  1. Move the ball forward of you in the direction you want to hit, so you are stepping into the ball when hitting
  2.  Slide your hands together at the end of the stick, same as if you were going to do a drive hit.
  3. Crouch down by bending your back leg
  4. The backswing needs to be flat, keeping the stick on the turd
  5. Keep the face of the stick flat. This is vital to keep the ball on the ground while extracting the maximum power out of the shot.
  6. Follow through with all of your body weight, sweeping the stick on the turf after the shot

Push Passes

Used when passing to a teammate, your stick never leaves the ball. It’s very simple. This would be considered the most accurate of all the styles in field hockey, as you don’t need a backswing to hit the ball. 

Technique – 

  1. When making this pass, both hands should be in a typical hockey grip, with the left hand at the top while the right hand is at the middle, as if shaking hands with the stick.
  2. Your body should be perpendicular to where you want the ball to go, and your chest facing the ball. 
  3.  Bend your knees and place your weight on your back leg.
  4. Allow the ball to be a few feet from your hind foot’s toes.
  5. Transfer the weight from your back leg to the front leg while dragging the ball with you.
  6. Keep low and snap your wrists while releasing the ball.

Ensure the ball’s journey starts from the middle of your body, a stick length from your feet. The wrist stroke pushes the ball very fast, though not as far as slapping. You can, however, make successive passes of between ten to fifteen meters with no backswing, which can bamboozle your opponent and ensure a rapid, accurate pass.

Scoop / Aerial Pass

Scoops are the least popular compared to the other shots or passes. As the word sounds, a scoop is a lift. It’s an aerial pass in which the player’s body faces the direction the hockey ball is being propelled. Here the ball is lifted off the ground over the opponents’ feet and hockey stick. Generally used for short distances.

Technique –

  1. Keep your hands apart, with your bottom hand close to the end of the stick grip
  2. Angle the stick so it’s parallel to your right arm, creating a 90 degree angle between your left arm and the stick
  3. Focus on where you want the ball to arrive
  4. Bend your knees, get down low to use the power of your legs as well as arms.
  5. With no backswing, step into the ball with your left leg and scoop it as you spring back up.

This style is quite useful for dodging an opponent and very important for free hits outside the circle. Watch Jeroen Hertzberger demonstrate it below.

Flick

The flick is a style that lifts the hockey ball into the air. As opposed to a scoop, a flick is used for long-distance shots, such as at goal.

From a penalty corner, there are strict rules that limit how high the hockey ball should be lifted. They clearly state that at the first shot at goal, if the shot is a hit then the ball should not be lifted above eighteen inches above the ground. However, if the shot is a flick, push or scoop then it can be launched at any height. So there are benefits to using the flick!

A flick is a very fast shot directly aimed at the goal. Normally, it’s the most complex and difficult shot for the goalie to stop since the hockey ball is flying through the air. Experienced players apply this method often when they want to dodge the defense while lifting the ball into the air using their hockey sticks.

Drag Flick

Flicks have further been categorized, the most challenging, yet effective one being the drag flick.

Technique – 

  1. The approach to the ball is vital. Practice your run-up, count the steps you will take
  2. Your left leg needs to lead ahead of the ball, so you have a longer distance to drag it before flicking. Cross over your legs as you drag the ball forward
  3. Then bend your knees so you are crouching to help you spring 
  4. With your hands spread on the stick, the ball needs to roll down to the head as you swing the stick forward. This generates the extra flick
  5. As you follow through, your shoulders should remain flat, or square, to the goals. For more power you can rotate your body, but dont drop a shoulder

The drag flick is seen as the ultimate scoring technique. You’ll find this is quite important when attacking within the penalty corner, as well as actually shooting penalties.

To give yourself the best chance of nailing awesome drag flicks, you need a low bow stick

To Summarize

New hockey players need to learn the rules and most important all the passes as field hockey is about passing and receiving the ball. Before you make any move, try and discern the pass so you know how to counter it.

In conclusion, I would say that the slap shot and slap pass, are deemed the most important way of hitting a field hockey ball. Mostly because they can be useful in passes, free hits, and shots on goal.

Note that all these styles or passes have relevant roles in the game. While some are more popular than others, all will be very important and useful at some point. In essence, all of them combined make the game the sensational sport we love.

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