Field hockey is basically a combination of hockey and soccer. Like soccer, there are 11 players on each side, including a goalkeeper, and you play on an outdoor field. According to USA Field Hockey rules, a standard field is 91.4 meters long and 55 meters wide, or about 300 by 180 feet. As in hockey, players use sticks to propel an object -- in this case, a ball -- into a fairly small net. As a result, field hockey provides an excellent cardiovascular workout as you run up and down the field and helps improve a number of physical skills.
You Must Learn Control
Controlling the ball as you move on the field, typically called “dribbling” or “carrying” the ball, and passing to teammates are key building blocks to offensive success. You can move the ball by tapping it lightly in the direction you’re advancing or simply push the ball forward and run after it, particularly when you’re advancing quickly and aren’t closely defended. You must also learn a variety of passes, such as rolling the ball to stationary teammates, passing to a teammate in motion by directing the ball ahead of her or flicking the ball in the air to pass it over a defender’s stick.
You Can’t Score if You Don’t Shoot
Shooting is a key skill that every beginner should learn, and it becomes particularly important if you play forward. Shoot with the forehand side of your stick’s blade, which is flat, rather than the curved backhand side. Advanced players will also learn to shoot with the blade's edge. Shoot the ball quickly by flicking your wrists when the ball is on your stick. If you have more time, perform a quick hit by taking a short backswing, in which your hands rise to about hip height. Shift your weight forward and swing through the ball, finishing in a follow-through directed at the target.
Keep Moving if You Want the Ball
To succeed offensively, moving without the ball is just as important as moving when the ball is on your stick. This skill must be learned by experience. In general, however, try to move into positions that allow a teammate to pass the ball to you. Watch the defenders’ movements, and run to open areas that provide a clear passing lane between you and the potential passer. If you’re within the 16-yard shooting circle, position your body so you can accept a pass and immediately shoot at the net. Quick shots will often catch goalkeepers out of position.
Don’t Forget the Defensive End
Defending isn’t the glamor skill of field hockey, but preventing a goal is just as important to your team as scoring one. As with many other field hockey skills, you need agility and balance to defend well and quick hands to tackle, which involves poking the ball off an opponent’s stick. Positioning is also important. Try to keep attackers as far from the net and the middle of the shooting circle as possible. For example, if an attacker enters the left side of the circle, stay in front of her left foot and angle your right shoulder forward a bit to force the attacker to go wide, which is a more difficult shooting angle. If your team plays zone defense, watch the positioning of your nearby teammates, and make sure large gaps don’t open that attackers may exploit.
- Rules of Field Hockey; USA Field Hockey
- Field Hockey Canada: Core Skills
- iSport: Field Hockey Glossary
- Field Hockey: Steps to Success; Elizabeth Anders and Susan Myers