Field hockey facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Field hockey
A game of field hockey.
Hockey field
Playing Field


Field Hockey is a well-liked sport for both men and women. It is played in many countries all around the world.

The game is played between two teams and each team is made up of 11 players, and in 15-minute quarters with 15 minutes break at halftime, 2 minutes after 1st and 3rd periods.

Field hockey is played with a ball on natural grass, or on sand-based or water based artificial turfs with a small hard ball.

The field played on is rectangular and has a goal at each end. A semi-circle about 15 meters from the goal is known as the shooting circle. Goals can only be scored when the ball is in the shooting circle. The hockey stick that is used is a J shape and made out of wood, glass and fibre. The stick has a curve hook at the end.

The positions are similar to the game soccer; in which they have fullbacks, halfbacks and forwards. Each team has a selected person who plays the goalkeeper. The goalkeepers try and stop the opposition team from scoring goals.

Each player has to wear shin guards and a mouth guard, to protect their shins and protect their teeth.

General play

London 1908 Hockey
A game of hockey being played between Germany and Scotland at the 1908 London Olympics
UVA field hockey
A Virginia Cavaliers field player passing the ball

For the purposes of the rules, all players on the team in possession of the ball are attackers, and those on the team without the ball are defenders, yet throughout the game being played you are always "defending" your goal and "attacking" the opposite goal.

Brenda256
Sideline hit in a match Standard Athletic Club vs. British School of Paris (1996)

The match is officiated by two field umpires. Traditionally each umpire generally controls half of the field, divided roughly diagonally. These umpires are often assisted by a technical bench including a timekeeper and record keeper.

Prior to the start of the game, a coin is tossed and the winning captain can choose a starting end or whether to start with the ball. Since 2017 the game consists of four periods of 15 minutes with a 2-minute break after every period, and a 15-minute break at half time before changing ends. At the start of each period, as well as after goals are scored, play is started with a pass from the centre of the field. All players must start in their defensive half (apart from the player making the pass), but the ball may be played in any direction along the floor. Each team starts with the ball in one half, and the team that conceded the goal has possession for the restart. Teams trade sides at halftime.

Field players may only play the ball with the face of the stick. If the back side of the stick is used, it is a penalty and the other team will get the ball back. Tackling is permitted as long as the tackler does not make contact with the attacker or the other persons stick before playing the ball (contact after the tackle may also be penalized if the tackle was made from a position where contact was inevitable). Further, the player with the ball may not deliberately use his body to push a defender out of the way.

Field players may not play the ball with their feet, but if the ball accidentally hits the feet, and the player gains no benefit from the contact, then the contact is not penalized. Although there has been a change in the wording of this rule from 1 January 2007, the current FIH umpires' briefing instructs umpires not to change the way they interpret this rule.

Obstruction typically occurs in three circumstances – when a defender comes between the player with possession and the ball in order to prevent them tackling; when a defender's stick comes between the attacker's stick and the ball or makes contact with the attacker's stick or body; and also when blocking the opposition's attempt to tackle a teammate with the ball (called third party obstruction).

When the ball passes completely over the sidelines (on the sideline is still in), it is returned to play with a sideline hit, taken by a member of the team whose players were not the last to touch the ball before crossing the sideline. The ball must be placed on the sideline, with the hit taken from as near the place the ball went out of play as possible. If it crosses the back line after last touched by an attacker, a 15 m (16 yd) hit is awarded. A 15 m hit is also awarded for offences committed by the attacking side within 15 m of the end of the pitch they are attacking.

Tactics

Fieldhockey shortcorner defense
A group of five defenders, including the goalkeeper, prepare on the back line for a short corner.

The basic tactic in field hockey, as in association football and many other team games, is to outnumber the opponent in a particular area of the field at a moment in time. When in possession of the ball this temporary numerical superiority can be used to pass the ball around opponents so that they cannot effect a tackle because they cannot get within playing reach of the ball and to further use this numerical advantage to gain time and create clear space for making scoring shots on the opponent's goal. When not in possession of the ball numerical superiority is used to isolate and channel an opponent in possession and 'mark out' any passing options so that an interception or a tackle may be made to gain possession. Highly skillful players can sometimes get the better of more than one opponent and retain the ball and successfully pass or shoot but this tends to use more energy than quick early passing.

Every player has a role depending on their relationship to the ball if the team communicates throughout the play of the game. There will be players on the ball (offensively - ball carriers; defensively - pressure, support players, and movement players.

The main methods by which the ball is moved around the field by players are a) passing b) pushing the ball and running with it controlled to the front or right of the body and c) "dribbling"; where the player controls the ball with the stick and moves in various directions with it to elude opponents. To make a pass the ball may be propelled with a pushing stroke, where the player uses their wrists to push the stick head through the ball while the stick head is in contact with it; the "flick" or "scoop", similar to the push but with an additional arm and leg and rotational actions to lift the ball off the ground; and the "hit", where a swing at ball is taken and contact with it is often made very forcefully, causing the ball to be propelled at velocities in excess of 70 mph (110 km/h). In order to produce a powerful hit, usually for travel over long distances or shooting at the goal, the stick is raised higher and swung with maximum power at the ball, a stroke sometimes known as a "drive".

Tackles are made by placing the stick into the path of the ball or playing the stick head or shaft directly at the ball. To increase the effectiveness of the tackle, players will often place the entire stick close to the ground horizontally, thus representing a wider barrier. To avoid the tackle, the ball carrier will either pass the ball to a teammate using any of the push, flick, or hit strokes, or attempt to maneuver or "drag" the ball around the tackle, trying to deceive the tackler.

In recent years, the penalty corner has gained importance as a goal scoring opportunity. Particularly with the technical development of the drag flick. Tactics at penalty corners to set up time for a shot with a drag flick or a hit shot at the goal involve various complex plays, including multiple passes before a deflections towards the goal is made but the most common method of shooting is the direct flick or hit at the goal.

At the highest level, field hockey is a fast moving, highly skilled game, with players using fast moves with the stick, quick accurate passing, and hard hits, in attempts to keep possession and move the ball towards the goal. Tackling with physical contact and otherwise physically obstructing players is not permitted. Some of the tactics used resemble football (soccer), but with greater ball speed.

Equipment

Field hockey stick

Splice Handle Head
Naming parts of stick

Each player carries a "stick" that normally measures between 80–95 cm (31–38"); shorter or longer sticks are available. Sticks were traditionally made of wood, but are now often made also with fibreglass, kevlar or carbon fibre composites. Metal is forbidden from use in field hockey sticks, due to the risk of injury from sharp edges if the stick were to break. The stick has a rounded handle, has a J-shaped hook at the bottom, and is flattened on the left side (when looking down the handle with the hook facing upwards). All sticks must be right handed; left-handed ones are prohibited.

There was traditionally a slight curve (called the bow, or rake) from the top to bottom of the face side of the stick and another on the 'heel' edge to the top of the handle (usually made according to the angle at which the handle part was inserted into the splice of the head part of the stick), which assisted in the positioning of the stick head in relation to the ball and made striking the ball easier and more accurate.

The hook at the bottom of the stick was only recently the tight curve (Indian style) that we have nowadays. The older 'English' sticks had a longer bend, making it very hard to use the stick on the reverse. For this reason players now use the tight curved sticks.

The handle makes up about the top third of the stick. It is wrapped in a grip similar to that used on tennis racket. The grip may be made of a variety of materials, including chamois leather, which many players think improves grip in the wet.

It was recently discovered that increasing the depth of the face bow made it easier to get high speeds from the dragflick and made the stroke easier to execute. At first, after this feature was introduced, the Hockey Rules Board placed a limit of 50 mm on the maximum depth of bow over the length of the stick but experience quickly demonstrated this to be excessive. New rules now limit this curve to under 25 mm so as to limit the power with which the ball can be flicked.

Field hockey ball

Balle de hockey sur gazon avec pièce de 5 francs
A field hockey ball with a 5 franc coin

Standard field hockey balls are hard spherical balls, made of plastic (sometimes over a cork core), and are usually white, although they can be any colour as long as they contrast with the playing surface. The balls have a diameter of 71.3–74.8 mm (2.81–2.94 in) and a mass of 156–163 g (5.5–5.7 oz). The ball is often covered with indentations to reduce aquaplaning that can cause an inconsistent ball speed on wet surfaces.

HockyBallsPuck
An assembly of field hockey balls and a roller hockey puck

Goalkeeping equipment

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A goalkeeper makes a glove save. Equipment worn here is typical gear for a field hockey goalkeeper.

The 2007 rulebook has seen major changes regarding goalkeepers. A fully equipped goalkeeper must wear a helmet, leg guards and kickers. Usually the field hockey goalkeepers must wear extensive additional protective equipment including chest guards, padded shorts, heavily padded hand protectors, groin protectors, neck guards, arm guards, and like all players, they must carry a stick. A goalie may not cross the 23 m line, the sole exception to this being if the goalkeeper is to take a penalty stroke at the other end of the field, when the clock is stopped. The goalkeeper can also remove their helmet for this action. However, if the goalkeeper elects to wear only a helmet (and a different colored shirt), they may cross the 23 m line if they have removed their helmet (and placed it safely off the field of play). If play returns to the circle without them having opportunity to replace the helmet, this player still has "goalkeeping privileges", that is, they are not limited to using their stick to play the ball whilst it is in the circle, and the helmet must be worn whilst defending penalty corners and penalty strokes but the best thing to do would be to wear it at all times. While goaltenders are allowed to use their feet and hands to clear the ball, they too are only allowed to use one side of their stick. Slide tackling is permitted as long as it is with the intention of clearing the ball, not aimed at a player.

It is now also even possible for teams to have a full eleven outfield players and no goalkeeper at all. No player may wear a helmet or other goalkeeping equipment, neither will any player be able to play the ball with any other part of the body than with their stick. This may be used to offer a tactical advantage, or to allow for play to commence if no goalkeeper or kit is available.

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Field hockey Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.