Field Hockey is an exciting, intense and physically demanding sport, requiring a high level of fitness. Unlike in sports like American football, football and even rugby, success in hockey is all about players ability to manipulate the hockey stick in their hands and the ball on the field.
The aim of field hockey
The objective of hockey is to hit a cork (usually white) ball with a wooden hockey stick into the opposition's goal. A goal scored is counted as a point for the team that scored. The team with the most goals at the end of the regulated match is the game's winner. Should the score be tied, the game is classed as a draw.
Field hockey is played with two teams, with those not in possession of the ball attempting to take the ball away from the side with the ball and build up play to score in the opposing team's goal. Players take up specific field roles and work together as a team to do this.
A brief history of field hockey
Dating back to the middle ages, hockey has been said to have existed some 4,000 years ago! Modern field hockey rules were introduced in the early nineteenth century with teams from Britain, Spain, Argentina, India, Germany, Pakistan and Malaysia participating events organised by the International Hockey Federation (FIH), that was formed in 1924.
Spain goalkeeper Rafael Ruiz attempts to save from India's Grahanandan Singh. 1948
Scoring in field hockey
Goals are scored when the ball crossed over the goal line and into the goal except when an infringement is called by the referee. For example, the ball must be struck with the player's hockey stick and not with any part of their body.
Goals are not only scored from open play, but they can also be scored from penalty corners and penalty strokes.
A penalty corner is where the defending side all line up along their goal line, then an attacking player in the corner passes the ball to their teammates lined along the 16-yard area. One of those players will attempt to smash the ball towards the goal in the hope of scoring.
Men's Group A match between Japan 11-0 Sri Lanka
Penalty strokes are similar to those in football, where one player places the ball on the penalty spot and then strikes the ball to hopefully score against the goalkeeper. All other players are behind the 16-yard line.
When penalty strokes as awarded you’ll notice a dedicated penalty stroke scorer replacing a player on the pitch, (hopefully) score the penalty and then is immediately returned for the player they substituted.
Rules of field hockey
Hockey teams have eleven players on the pitch consisting of goalkeepers, defenders and strikers, with five rolling substitutes. The substitutes are typically used to replace tired or injured players or to act in specific match situations like those at penalty strokes. Each position performs particular responsibilities in the match and must co-operate together to win the game.
Field hockey positionsThe goalkeeper is the most crucial player in the whole team, responsible for defending the goal and blocking the oppositions attempts to score goals.
Linus Butt (C) of Germany and goalkeeper Jacob Stockmann (L) of the Netherlands in action
The midfield positions are the team's engine room, linking play from the defenders to the attackers. Midfielders must have excellent game distribution and a high awareness of the game. Players occupy either the inside left, inside right or in the centre.
China midfield Yang Peng (10) moves the ball against Netherlands midfield Maria Verschoor (11)
Strikers are not as conventional as those employed in football. Yes, they are prolific goal scorers, yet they must also create width down the flanks maximising goal-scoring opportunities for other players in the team.
Alex Danson of England scores from the shot out during the Investec International match between England Women and Netherlands Women
Penalties in field hockeyHockey players must control, pass, push, stop or shoot the ball with only the hockey stick. Players are not permitted to use their feet or any other part of their body to control the ball.
Germany's Christopher Zeller vies for the ball with a South Korean player during the Hockey World League group match
Only the goalkeeper is permitted to use their hands and feet to block or catch the ball.
Free hits are awarded should the ball hit an opposition players body, plus players are allowed to pass to their team members by scooping up the ball high into their air and it dropping to their teammate. If the shot is deemed dangerous, for example, falling onto an opponent, the referee will call the pass as an infringement.
Infringements caused inside of the 'D' will award the attacking team a penalty stroke. When this happens, the game is paused whilst the penalty is taken.
Tobias Hauke of Germany shoots Penalty shoot out of the Men's Field Hockey Bronze Medal Match
Other infringements are for aggressive tackling fouls where players are too rough in attempting to remove the ball from their opponent's control. It is up to the referees to police the game, and should players continually commit fouls then referees will show players any one of three coloured cards.
Cards in field hockeyField hockey has three different coloured cards for warnings and suspensions:
- When a green card is shown, the player concerned has to leave the field for two minutes.
- A yellow card is shown for a suspension where the time is decided by the card issuing referee. Typically, this is for five minutes however if the offence is more severe, the time may be exceeded more than five minutes.
- A red card, as with football, is an exclusion from the remainder of the game, without substitution. Players must also leave the pitch and surrounding team areas. Usually, a player shown a red card will miss subsequent matches due to the severity of the card being shown.
Spain's Xavier Leonhart (l) and Dutch Valentin Verga (r) are pictured during a field hockey national match between Spain and the Netherlands
With this geek’s guide to field hockey, you should have enough to get started watching and betting on your first field hockey game. If you can follow the fast-paced, you'll find yourself hooked on watching speed-style matches with plenty of tactical team entertainment.
Words: David Bailey-Lauring