So you find yourself on a grass pitch, wearing old studs and the pitch is as level as the surface of a rice pudding. Here are some tips to play well.
Your local sports club or school takes to field hockey like a cat to water. They provide old sticks, nets, and several hard plastic balls. To make matters worse, the field, though trimmed is uneven, to say the least. It often looks like you’re playing on a 10-degree angle.
You’re used to playing a few miles away on Astroturf or a blue synthetic turf pitch with the town’s go-to field hockey club. But you like this new challenge and after all, the other players face the same grass pitch as you.
So how do I play well on grass?
How are you going to go to the head of the class and become the day’s head hockey honcho? The key factor is to get used to the pitch quickly. Run several lengths twisting and dribbling with the ball. If you’re wearing studs or cleats, practice sharply turning and sprinting. You’ll probably have to push and flick harder on a grass pitch. The ball will bounce differently and more unpredictably on an uneven grass pitch. Get up to speed quickly.
You will probably be playing at a slower speed due to drag on the ball. The ball will spin more often and nooks can change the trajectory. When the ball finally does land at your hook you’ll need to hit it harder than usual. It may be a good idea to practice some forearm weights if this pitch is going to be a common occurrence
Field Hockey on Grass vs Artificial Turf
On artificial turf, you’ll be able to think each manoeuver through, as the level playing field will be more predictable. However, if on a divoted grass pitch, it will be an old-fashioned game of rough and tumble. But persist with trying to show good quality skills. It might be that flash of excellence that you’ve learned beforehand that wins the game.
Try to hit the ball in the center to prevent forward or backspin. The grass will divert it haphazardly anyway, so any more spin than necessary will ruin your pass or shot. For players who haven’t played the game before, advise them that artificial pitches are better so they shouldn’t dislike the game.
Adjusting the way you play on grass
The ball will be easier to hit, skills will be easier to undertake and shooting
will be more predictable on artificial turf. When playing on a grass pitch, you’ll probably need to be fitter, wearing cleats to counter the drag of the grass.
The best advice is practice, practice, and practice. When you’re trying to stop a ball passed to you (or most likely banged up the pitch in the hope it gets to you) trap the ball with your stick held vertical, straight in front of your shins.
Provided you stop the ball as you hoped, then you’re doing well. If the ball jumps you are likely to deflect it sideways (like a jink steal) past the player marking you for a teammate to chase and create an attack.
However, if you’re a defender, you may miss the same type of ball and it may well hit your shin pads. But at least you’ll have stopped the attacker getting past you with the ball.
Most likely, the only time you’ll play hockey on uneven grass pitches is at school or international tours. Chances are then, that the quality of the hockey will not be the reason you’re there. Enjoy the experience, because it will be like you’re stepping back in time to a time when everyone played field hockey on uneven grass pitches.