Learning about field hockey: rules, equipment and instruction
Learn the basics about Field Hockey, one of the world's oldest and still most popular sports.
The earliest known evidence of field hockey comes from carving on Egyptian tombs, showing people playing a sport with a ball and sticks. Today, however, the game has become considerably more complex, with more rules, high-tech equipment, and a wide number of leagues and associations around the world.
Field Hockey is played on a pitch measuring 60 yards by 100 yards. The field is divided in half by a center line as well as in quarters by two 25-yard lines. A striking circle is marked 16 yards from each goal. The goals themselves are 7 feet high, 12 feet wide, and 4 feet deep. Though collegiate and youth games are often played on grass fields, all international matches are played on watered-down artificial turf.
Matches are composed of two halves, each 35 minutes long in collegiate games and 30 minutes long for female leagues and youth players. Halves are separated by a 10 minute halftime but are played continuously, with no timeouts allowed for either team. The only pauses are referee stops for injuries or game infractions.
Teams are composed of 11 players, and are arranged on the field according to position, with forwards, midfielders and defensive players, and one goalie. All players use similar equipment and sticks, with the exception of the goalkeeper, who is outfitted with heavier padding and a shorter, thicker, field hockey stick.
With the exception of the goalie, players are not allowed to touch the ball with any part of their bodies. Instead, they must use their sticks to dribble, pass, and shoot the ball into the opposing team's goal. At the end of the game, the team with the most goals scored wins. If the game ends in a tie, an overtime period is called, with two 7?-minute halves for international play and two 10-minute halves in high school play. The game ends when either team scores a goal. If the game remains tied at the end of both overtime halves, alternating penalty shots are used to determine a winner. The first team to score wins.
During the game, players may only hit the ball with the flat side of the stick and can only score from within the striking circle surrounding the goal. Goalies are allowed to touch the ball with their hands, and thus wear thick, padded gloves for catching and blocking shots.
Players may not hit or shove each other or interfere with another player's stick. Rough play is considered a foul and results in a free hit by the other team. If the foul occurs within the striking circle, the opposing team is awarded a penalty corner. If it is an intentional foul, the team gets a penalty shot, a one-on-one shootout with the goalkeeper at a distance of 7 yards.
In addition, high school rules require the use of mouth guards and shin guards and do not allow jewelry of any kind during game play. Gloves or hand protectors are also mandatory. Teams are allowed two 90-second timeouts per game.
Field Hockey sticks are generally made out of hardwood, but new synthetic materials are now also allowed in competition. No metals or metallic ingredients may be used however, limiting sticks mainly to plastics and polymers as well as traditional wood. Sticks must weigh between 12 and 28 ounces and are generally between 34 and 38 inches long. Sticks are straight-handled with a curved head for hitting the ball. The amount of curve varies by stick, but goalie sticks often have the greatest amount of curve.
The ball is made of solid plastic and is slightly larger than a baseball, with a circumference of about 9 inches. Balls are dimpled, much like golf balls, and can reach speeds of up to 100mph. Aside from the goalie, who must wear full protection, players wear only shin pads and mouth guards, so the game is considered fairly dangerous.
Goalies come equipped with a variety of other pads and equipment. Helmets with full face and neck protection are mandatory, as are leg pads and chest protectors. Additionally, goalies use catchers and blockers. These gloves are designed for catching the ball out of the air and deflecting shots, respectively. Finally, goalies are also equipped with protective footwear, allowing them to kick shots out of the way.
With such simple rules, it is fairly easy to pick up the basics of field hockey. Learning ball-handling skills and effective team play are more difficult, and thus, training and coaching are very important. There are a wide number of teams and leagues across the nation. The Field Hockey Association of America and the International Federation of Women's Hockey Associations are two such leagues. Additionally, a huge number of club and High School teams are formed, with coaches and players picking up the game basics in a friendly and fun environment.
Basic instruction begins with drills and practices designed to teach players the basic moves of the sport. Shooting drills, passing, and dribbling are important skills for all players, no matter the position. Forwards should be given additional practice on scoring techniques, while defensive players should be given specific practice time for learning to maintain a strong defense.