What is Field Hockey?

field hockey

Field hockey is a team sport played by athletes using sticks with the objective of scoring more goals than their opponent. Worldwide, field hockey is the third most popular sport behind soccer and cricket, and is primarily played in Europe and Southeast Asia. The sport is played with a small plastic ball that players hit with their sticks and dribble up the field. It is fundamentally similar rules-wise to ice hockey, but the goals are larger and the sport is played on turf or grass.


field hockey history

Field hockey is the 3rd largest team sport in the world (following soccer and cricket), played in over 100 countries. The game was established in the British Isles, and the modern game started being played in England in the mid 1800s. India, Pakistan, and Australia were early pioneers of the game as well. The first formal field hockey club, the “Blackheath Football and Hockey Club” was brought together in 1861.

Playing Surface

field hockey field

The game is played on a grass pitch. In British Columbia, field hockey is played on both grass and on artificial surfaces. While field hockey is known for just being played outdoors (11 v 11), the sport can also be played indoors (6 v 6).


field hockey equipment list

The equipment worn consists of protective gear, which helps prevent a player from becoming injured if they are hit by an opposing player, if they fall to the ground, or if they block a shot. Other equipment is used in order for players to have the appropriate gear necessary to take part in the sport. Some of the important pieces of equipment include:

  • Cleats
  • Elbow Protectors
  • Face Masks
  • Sticks
  • Balls
  • Goggles
  • Goals
  • Leg Guards
  • Mouthguards

Goalies have to wear more protective gear and buy other pieces of equipment, such as helmets and girdles.


Field Hockey Gameplay

Field hockey is played on an 100ft by 60ft grass pitch. Each team has 11 players a side, unless a penalty is committed. A player uses a stick with a rounded head, which is used to dribble, pass, and shoot the ball. An objective of a team is to score more goals than their opponent by putting the ball in the other team’s goal. Sticks vary in height and weight. An abundance of protective gear is worn by each player.

Position Roles and Responsibilities

field hockey positions
  • Offensive Striker: Must be adept at shooting and be able to move around the field quickly, typically known as a goal scorer
  • Midfield: Must be able to read a play accurately and be a solid offensive and defensive player. Must have high stamina and be able to dribble, tackle, pass, and shoot well. Helps out on the offensive and defensive ends
  • Defense: Must be able to tackle well. Must be able to focus and make quick decisions. Clears the ball from their own end to prevent the opposing team from scoring
  • Goalie: Stops balls from the opposing team. Must be flexible and possess hand-eye coordination skills. Must be brave and willing to get hit by a ball at a high speed to benefit the team as a whole

Rules and Regulations

field hockey rules and regulations

Field hockey has evolved into a major sport with many rules and regulations. These rules range from the equipment and penalties to fines and suspensions. The rules of field hockey may be different depending on the league. However, the core rules remain the same.

Here are some of the most important rules in field hockey:

  • Players may only hit the ball with the flat side of their stick.
  • Players can never use their feet to control the ball.
  • A goal can only be scored from a field goal, penalty corner, or from a penalty stroke.
  • Players may not trip, push, charge, or interfere with opponents.

Referees and Officials

field hockey referees and officials

Referees and officials in field hockey are referred to as umpires. Two to three umpires are responsible for refereeing each field hockey game. Umpires are positioned on opposite sides of the field and are responsible for ensuring that gameplay runs smoothly. Umpires are responsible for calling penalties, determining whether a team has scored, starting and stopping play, and overseeing team composition and substitutions.


field hockey skills terminology

In field hockey, there is a special language that only a field hockey player speaks in. Field hockey players sort of have their own unique lingo and terminology. An ordinary individual would not understand a lot of a field hockey player’s language, but fellow field hockey players will be on board. This lingo is used to describe a certain movement or skill set shown on the field as well.

  • Centre Pass: Pass at the start of each half to begin the game or after a goal is scored by the opposing team (similar to soccer)
  • Drag Flick: When a player moves to take legal lifted shot on goal during a penalty corner
  • Penalty Stroke: An attacker is given a free shot against he goalkeeper of the opponent team (similar to a penalty shot in soccer)
  • Scoop: A player lifts the ball off the ground by placing the head of the stick under the ball.
  • Jink: An action a player takes to get the ball over the stick of another player
  • Sweep: A player swings their stick at the ball from lower on the turf in a sweeping/slapping motion
  • Flick: A shot taken where the ball is raised on goal
  • Obstruction: A player blocks a defender from being able to gain possession of the ball
  • Free-hit: Given to a team after a penalty is committed against them


Field Hockey Coaches

A coach must have a great deal of knowledge on the game of field hockey itself. More importantly, however, a coach must know how to treat and respect their own players. The great coaches of field hockey know the strategies that must be implemented for their teams to win and improve game to game. These coaches must also know how to handle feedback and how to work with a front office when it comes to trading and drafting certain players.


Field Hockey Strategy

Teams use certain strategies within a game depending on who the opponent is that they are playing. Strategies are often developed and built open during practices throughout the course of a week leading up to gamedays. Strategies help a team feel prepared and in sync on the field at all times. Players are more likely to be where they are supposed to be and will know where their fellow teammates are positioned as well. Like soccer, teams use different tactics and strategies depending on their opponent and on the game scenario. A team may want to implement a certain offensive or defensive formation, depending on the score.


Field Hockey Drills

The great thing about field hockey drills is the fact that professionals and children work on the same drills in practice. There are hundreds of drills that each help a player or team with various aspects of their game. Common drills include different variations of how to efficiently clear the ball, which is how a team or player is able to move the ball out of their defensive half into a safe area. Other drills often include a team practicing how they will pressure an opponent’s defenseman, which is how they will ultimately be able to gain possession of the ball.

Olympic Field Hockey

olympic field hockey

Field hockey was first introduced to the Olympic games in London in 1908. It is a summer sport and played by both males and females. Twelve teams usually participate in the men’s tournament, while eight teams participate in the women’s tournament. The Netherlands holds the crown to the most Olympic field hockey gold medals.

Players and Athletes

Field Hockey Players and Athletes

When individuals think of a professional sporting league, a few famous or skilled athletes within the league itself often stick out to them. Below are five of the most prominent field hockey players to ever play the game, along with their team name. Some of these players are known for their great scoring or passing abilities, while others are known for their defensive or goaltending capabilities.

  • Ellen Hoog: Dutch National Team
  • Nicola White: England/Great Britain National Team
  • Ric Charlesworth: Australian National Team
  • Jamie Dwyer: Australian National Team
  • John-John Dohmen: Belgian National Team


Field Hockey Leagues

Currently, there are many different levels of competitive field hockey that are played all over the world. From beginners to advanced, athletes are able to stay active and play the game they love. Some popular leagues include:

NYC Women’s Field HockeyNew York CityAll Levels
North East Field Hockey AssociationNorth EastAdults who have experience competing in field hockey leagues/games
FIH Pro Hockey League9 teams from around the worldProfessionals and Olympic athletes


Field Hockey Tournaments

Youth tournaments occur all over the country at various different times throughout the year. The levels vary at each age group. After these age groups, players are forced to go onto adult, professional, or olympic field hockey. At each age level, however, players can choose to play on teams that vary in how competitive they are depending on the league and players on a specific team. Some of the bigger and more well-known tournaments are:

  • National Hockey Festival: 12U, 14U, 16U, 19U, and Adults
  • Junior Premier Outdoor Regionals: All ages and levels
  • Regional Club Championships: Best teams from the North East


Field hockey is a popular sport around the world. However, it’s probably most popular in Canada.

What are the basic rules of field hockey?

11 players per team are on the field at once. Like any sport, there are rules that must be followed. Two to three umpires will be present throughout gameplay to ensure a game does not get out of hand. A player must wear the proper equipment and use their sticks in a legal manner, not intentionally hurt an opponent, and attempt to score in a manner that is allowed.

Is field hockey dangerous?

Like any sport, field hockey can be dangerous. However, numerous pieces of equipment are worn in order to prevent athletes from injury.

Although it may be less well-known than sports like basketball, football, and baseball, field hockey is actually the 3rd most popular team sport in the world following soccer and cricket.