Field Hockey is a team sport that requires a good level of fitness, ball skills, and a solid understanding of the rules. These are the necessary items you will need before taking to the field:
- hockey stick
- shin guards
- hockey shoes
- gum shield
Plus, a good knowledge of the rules, helps you grasp the finer details of the sport before joining your teammates on the pitch.
First you'll need a Hockey Stick
A hockey stick is not just a hockey stick. Find a fancy new one, which is quite technologically advanced, or you could pick up a simple wooden starter stick. One thing is for sure though, you can’t play field hockey without one!
A beginner’s stick will be more affordable and simpler to use so you can hone your basic skills. More advanced sticks for more experienced players contain hi-tech composites, such as graphene and graphite. Often more advanced field hockey sticks have bow shapes designed for advanced players that allow them to use 3D skills – a skill set a learner won’t be able to grasp just yet.
Here at Hockey hooked, we’ve found some great options depending on your skill level and budget.
Much like football and rugby, field hockey is played with one ball. Proper hockey balls are constructed from cork or other advanced composites. A ball that’s too hard won’t be fun to play with, and can damage your stick in the long run.
You'll need Protective gear to play Field Hockey
The right protection is vital when playing field hockey. I’ve written a detailed article about protection here. The main items you need are as follows.
Shin Guards protect your shins and ankles from fast-paced balls and swinging hockey sticks, that can travel at up to 100 mph. It’s important that your shin guards fit properly, stretching from the base of the knee right down to the foot, and if possible offering ankle padding too.
Here is our full list of the best field hockey shin guards on the market.
Teeth and gum protection is highly recommended by most experts; a hook of a hockey stick or a flying ball can do serious damage to players mouths and jaws. The good news is, gum shields are very affordable these days and are easy to mold to shape inside your mouth using hot water.
Field hockey goggles were mandatory for American field hockey college players until recently. Now the term used by the USA sports association is ‘recommended.’ They recommend players wear protective goggles when running out on the hockey field. Protective goggles from leading manufacturers like STX protect eyes and eye sockets from hard blows which can be made by flying sticks and hockey balls. They also help give you more confidence to attack the ball.
You'll Need Field Hockey Shoes
The right pair of Field Hockey Shoes will prove to be an asset, along with offering protection when playing hockey. This is what you need to consider when looking for some field hockey shoes.
- Raised toes – to protect feet from balls skimming across the floor
- Padding – on the top, plus the heels to protect your feet from hard-hitting sticks
- Waterproof – nowadays, many field hockey playing surfaces are water-based
Consider what type of surface you will be playing on. Your shoes will need to be specifically designed for the playing surface.
- Grass – when playing on grass, you will need shoes with larger cleats/studs
- Turf – astroturf requires excellent grip, but not the long studs like grass shoes
- Indoor – hockey played indoors need a different style of grip, with a more dense pattern. They also don’t need to have the same water-resistant qualities as the other types.
The most common style of hockey shoe comes with smaller studs/cleats, designed for water-based synthetic grass that most field hockey is played on nowadays. Check with your club or college which type of field you’ll be playing most games on, before choosing your hockey shoes (unless you plan on buying a few styles).
In colder climates, consider wearing well-padded hockey gloves. These add to your warmth and protect your knuckles from nasty clashes.
The Rules of Field Hockey
The minutiae of the rules will change from season to season, but the fundamentals stay the same.
- You may only use the flat side of the stick (there are no left-handed sticks)
- There are 11 players including a goalie on each side.
- You must be properly attired (see above)
- The field hockey game lasts for two 30 minute halves.
- The ball cannot hit your feet.
- You cannot raise your hockey stick above your waist during regular play.
If you are taking a free hit, it is up to the discretion of the ref.
- You cannot tackle from behind and no third party may join in the tackle.
- Obstruction: when your back is turned to another player and you are shielding the ball and that player.
- During a penalty corner, the ball is placed on the goal line at least 10 yards from the nearest goal post. One attacking player hits the ball to a teammate just outside of the striking circle line. No shot on goal may be taken until the ball is stopped.
- 16-Yard Hits – when the attacking team plays the ball over the back-line, the defense receives a 16-yard hit. The free hit is taken 16 yards from the spot where the ball crossed the back-line.
- The Push-In/Hit-In is awarded to the opposition if a player hits the ball completely over the sideline. All other players and their hockey sticks must be at least 5 yards away from the spot where the ball is put into play.
- A goal can only be scored from inside the shooting circle – a semi-circular area in front of the opponents’ goal. Goals scored from outside this area are disallowed.
- Last but not least, this is one of the most important rules: Each goal is worth one point
Field Hockey Famous Quote of the day:
It’s odd, that’s why I don’t like telling people I played field hockey. It’s real big in Australia for guys. But I say I played in America, and everybody goes, ‘Oh, you girl!’ — Heath Ledger
Fitness required to play Field Hockey
Earlier I touched on fitness. Like any team sport, a good level of fitness can improve your game and benefit the team. In hockey (or other team sports such as football) professionals will run approximately eight to eleven miles in a game. For hockey (as there’s less time in a game), it’s usually the former. For this reason, it’s advisable to go on a mid-week run, covering a similar distance to keep your fitness levels high before the game. Like most things in life, preparation is key.
Field Hockey skills to improve your game
You only have to look at the world’s best players to see how their superior skills separate them from the average player. Luciana Aymar was one of the world’s best, who often showcased mesmerizing skills. The Argentinian’s 3D skills were learned over many years. The way she dribbled was a delight to see. Her tricks such as chipping the ball over an opponent’s stick were learned from plenty of practice. We have a great selection of tips and guides for all skill levels, including advanced skills in our Hockey Tips section.
All said, practice is the key to fine-tuning your game while fitness is your bread and butter.
Simple Skills to help you Play Field Hockey
Advanced skills that international players use may seem light-years away for most of us, but there are some basic skills that can set you on your way to advancing in the game and being team-worthy.
1. Dribbling. By dribbling, a player can run towards the opposite goal, bring the ball out of defense, evade markers, and distribute cleverly to a teammate. The mazy run, controlling the ball is important to learn if you’re going to become a good player. Here is a guide on dribbling.
2. Slap pass. A slap pass, also known as a slap shot is great for passing over a middle distance to a teammate, or for shooting towards goal. Stronger and faster than a push pass, played correctly it can be a useful technique for changing passages of play from flank to flank.
3. Drive. For many field hockey players, the drive is the toughest shot to get licked. It’s primarily employed when taking a hard shot on goal, or by the defense when they’re aiming to clear a ball without hesitancy. You can find a detailed description of how to hit a drive here.
Famous Quote About Field Hockey
“ Field hockey is my strongest sport, and if I lose a game, I take a long, hot bath and moan about it. ” Emma Watson.
Importance of the Hockey Playing Surface
I have touched on the importance of hockey shoes above. Without a good hockey field, the game won’t get very far. Balls will jump chaotically and will be hard to hit. Find out what type of playing surface you’ll be playing on for the hockey season. If you’re playing on Astroturf, you won’t want to be equipped with large cleats (studs) or you will have trouble with grip.