How to Play Field Hockey

by Siraj

Nothing is more satisfying than whacking a small, hard ball, with a large, hard field hockey stick. But field hockey lets you dribble that ball, flick it, roll it, slide it around and in between people's legs, glide it, and pass it, and more. Not for the faint-hearted, or those with eggshell skulls, field hockey is a team sport which is becoming more popular every year. Give it a try, and you will sure become hooked.



Get equipment, at least a stick and a ball. There are plenty of brands; shop around and find a stick that's of a comfortable weight and height for you, not just one that's pretty. The size of the stick should come up to your waist. Shin and/or ankle guards are a good idea, too. Like in many sports, a mouth guard is usually required if you want to get into league. See stuff you need at bottom for list. Make sure to buy a beginner stick if you are just starting.


Get a grip. With your left hand, grip your stick at the top with knuckles lined up and thumb pointing down towards the hooked bit of the stick, roughly aligned with the bit that's pointing up. Hook thumb around handle if desired (people have been known to break 'em on collision). Your right hand should grip your stick at a point lower on the stick that is comfortable to you. You should be able to stand with the hooked tip grazing the ground, the flat end facing out. Let all fingers grip the stick and practice going low into a crouched stance. Make sure you keep your chest up and bend at the waist. This will allow for better vision of the field and more control.


Remember that your left hand does the guiding of the stick, your right hand is only there for support. There is no such thing as a "lefty" stick, so make sure you always use your left hand.


Take a stance. Left foot pointing front, right foot back support. Bend your knees slightly, aim for the ball, which should be in line with your left foot or slightly before it, but not ahead. It is important to remember to not bend your back so much as keep your KNEES BENT. Otherwise, you will be very sore the next day! Practice getting the edge of the flat side on the ground as a stop. The ball should be a your sticks' length away from you body.


Trap the ball. Many people put their sticks down, parallel to the ground (to maximize obstructive surface area), but with practice you'll be able to just get behind the ball. To stop the ball, as it's coming towards you, move backwards, to slow the ball before stopping it. Just keeping the stick still often means the ball will roll over the stick, and hitting the ball will often cause it to go haywire in a completely different direction. Let the ball come slightly across your body, and lean the stick in to catch the ball. Be gentle receiving the ball; pretend it is an egg and make sure you receive it lightly and carefully.


Perfect the dribble or reverse stick. When the ball is on your left, twist the stick with your left hand so that the flat side is again facing out correctly. Let go of your right hand as you twist, grip again once stick is in position. Make sure you never touch the ball with the rounded side of the stick; always use the flat side. The Indian dribble consists of tiny taps across the ball to move it forward. It is great to use to keep the ball in your possession. Don't give up! Even experienced players can have a hard time with the Indian dribble.


Hit it! Move your right hand closer to your left hand (i.e. up) (but note: this isn't golf), the ball should be in line with your forward foot. There are several different types of shots:

    • Slap-shots: Choke down your right and pretend you're playing cricket. Be careful though, sometimes the ball can go a different direction to the way you're intending it too if you're not experienced with hitting. Only hit the ball in a desperate circumstance, or when you're shooting for a goal.
    • Pushes: grip should be between that for a hit and a slap-shot; ball should be right in front of the flat side of your stick, which should be somewhere around your back foot. Transfer weight from back foot to front foot, lean into it and push. A push is often used for passing, as it is swift and easy.
    • Hook variation: place stick almost parallel to ground, hooked portion curving lovingly around the ball. Ball and hook end of stick should be behind back foot. Transfer weight from back foot to right foot, pull hard then push in one smooth motion.
    • Flicks: hands in slap-shot grip, dig edge of stick beneath ball, much as you would toe scoop a soccer ball, lift and push, transferring weight from back foot to front foot.
    • Drives: Holding both hands at the end of the grip, like a golf club, bring the field hockey stick back until about waist-height, and swing towards the ball. Don't over swing, or you can hit another player! Keep your eyes down at the ball and do not look up after hitting; just like in golf. Just remember, this is not a golf swing! Bend down at your knee, and make sure the toe of your stick is facing up. Your foot should be facing in the direction you want the ball to go.


A large part of the game is endurance. Make sure you keep in shape by running in season, especially if you are a midfielder. This will allow you to run without tiring the length of the game. Remember you are not just simply running the whole game, but running and using your stick skills which wears you out just as fast. Even defenders need to run, so make sure you are toned and fit for the game.


Get comfortable with your gear. Bounce the ball along the flat length of your stick. Dribble it down corridors. Walk it. Figure-eight it. Work on turns and pulls. Pass with a friend. Everything helps to become a great field hockey player! For help, talk to your field hockey coach or sign up for practices. Don't worry about being the greatest; even the professional players started somewhere. Remember to have fun with it! Field hockey is about growing in many different areas than sports.


Don't give up! We all know that practice makes perfect. Getting frustrated makes playing the game boring and aggravating for everyone. Have the confidence, practice the skills, and you will do just fine!

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