The Essentials of Field Hockey

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All over the world, the sport of field hockey has been taking off across all levels of play. And after Australia’s thrilling victory in the World Hockey Cup last month, more people than ever are beginning to follow the sport. Of course, the one thing that prevents people from getting engaged with field hockey is a lack of understanding of how the sport works. If you’re interested in getting on board with field hockey but don’t quite know where to begin, here are some essential facts to know.

History: Sports similar to field hockey have been played throughout the world since the beginning of civilization, but it was only during the 18th and 19th centuries that the sport took its modern form. It started out in England, whence it spread to the U.S., India, and Australia by the early 1900s. Today, it’s primarily a men’s sport on the international level, while in the U.S. it’s mostly played by girls and women. There’s no clear reason for this, but it could be because the U.S. has more popular sports such as baseball and football that draw male players away from field hockey.

Equipment: Each player has a stick with one flat side and one round side. The ball is hard and plastic, with a cork core. Goalies typically where protective clothing with heavy-duty shin guards, chest protectors, helmets, and masks.

Gameplay: As with hockey, soccer, and numerous other sports, the goal of field hockey is to but the ball through the opponent’s goal. The player with the most goals at the end of the game wins. Simple enough, but as with any sport, there are complicated rules that govern gameplay. Teams are allowed to have 11 players on the field at a time, the ball is pushed up and down the field through dribbling, hitting, and passing, and shots may only be taken from inside the striking circle within 16 yards of the goal. There are forwards, midfielders, fullbacks, and goalies.

Penalties: Some of the penalties that may be called are blocking, tripping, advancing, raised ball, obstruction, charging, pushing, and playing with the wrong side of the stick. When a foul is committed, the fouled-upon team is allowed a free hit from the point of the foul. Fouls committed within the striking circle lead to penalty corner free hits, which give the opposing team a great chance to score.

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