Field hockey, also known as outdoor hockey, is a game and team sport that is part of the hockey family. The term “field hockey” is primarily used in Canada and the United States to differentiate between ice hockey and field hockey. The game is otherwise known simply as hockey in most places around the world.
Field hockey is played in more than 100 countries around the world and is the second largest team sport in the world. Field hockey can be played by all ages and all skill levels and even if you have never played the game before, the skills are easy to pick up and once honed, make the game very enjoyable.
It’s a fantastic sport to play if you want to get fit and maintain your fitness, improve your hand-eye coordination skills, and meet like-minded people and make new friends when you join a club to play in a team.
Field hockey is a fantastic sport to play if you want to get fit.
How is Field Hockey Played?
A field hockey game aims to dribble and pass a ball between players with sticks and shoot to score more goals than the opposing team. Field hockey rules are very similar to those of soccer except players use sticks instead of their feet to move the ball.
A field hockey team has 11 players, 10 of which are field players and one a goalkeeper. These 10 players are made up of defenders, midfielders, attackers, all of which use different strategies and tactics to move the ball towards the goal to score. The game is played on a 299 x 180-foot pitch.
Players play with a 3.3-foot-long wooden or carbon fiber stick and play the ball with the flat or the ‘face side’ of the stick. The player can also use the edges of the head, and the handle of the stick, but is only allowed to touch the ball with the stick. The only player that can kick the ball with their feet or touch it with their hands is the goalkeeper.
A field hockey team has 11 players, 10 of which are field players and one a goalkeeper.
How to Choose the Best Field Hockey Stick
There is a wide range of field hockey sticks on the market for all skill levels. Field hockey sticks are made from a variety of materials from wood to carbon fiber and graphite and the material that the stick is manufactured is important when it comes to handling and durability.
There are several things to consider when purchasing a field hockey stick, including:
- Bow (Bend)
- Your Skill Level
A well-chosen field hockey stick will complement your skills and elevate your game.
The length of a hockey stick is vitally important as it can influence the way you play when making passes and tackles and it is essential to have the correct size stick to execute both basic and advanced skills. Defensive players tend to select slightly longer sticks to drive the ball further up the field, while offensive players go for shorter sticks for better ball control and tackling.
The way to measure a hockey stick is to place it against your leg and the top of the stick should come up to your hip bone. Sticks can range from 28 inches to 37.5 inches or more.
It is essential to have the correct size stick to execute both basic and advanced skills.
The weight of the hockey stick is another important factor as a lighter stick allows for easier ball-handling skills and quicker wrist movements, while a heavier stick adds more power to hits and is generally more durable. Field hockey sticks range in weight from 535 grams to 560 grams.
Field hockey sticks are made from a range of different materials, the most popular of which are carbon, fiberglass, aramid, and wood. Carbon hockey sticks offer a greater stiffness to the stick and power output. Fiberglass is mainly used as a reinforcing material combined with carbon to add durability and strength to the stick, as well as an element of power.
Aramid or kevlar sticks are designed to absorb vibrations and are easy to use. These sticks are ideal for defenders with powerful hits. Wooden sticks aren’t as strong as carbon fiber
sticks, however, are flexible and are perfect for beginner field hockey players.
The bow of a field hockey stick is a slight bend in the stick that runs from the handle to the toe and typically ranges from 20mm – 25mm. The bow is used for making aerial or lifted shots and drag-flicks. Field hockey sticks with deep bows are generally used by more advanced or elite players.
The bow is used for making aerial or lifted shots and drag-flicks.
Best Field Hockey Stick
We hit the hockey field and tested a range of field hockey sticks and came up with a list of the best field hockey sticks on the market.
Best Overall: Malik Gaucho Dribble Curve Field Hockey Stick
The Malik Gaucho Dribble Curve Field Hockey Stick is the best overall field hockey stick for all positions on the field. This lightweight stick only weighs just over one pound and is available in either 36.5-inch or 37.5-inch lengths.
The Malik Gaucho has a great grip for ball control and a VEGA head shape for super-quick shots at goal. Made from 90% carbon, this field hockey stick is very strong and durable and has a low bow curve and a thin hook for better dribbling and ball control. The Malik Gaucho Dribble Curve Field Hockey Stick is a great stick for all levels of field hockey players.
- Excellent grip for ball control
- VEGA head shape for quick shots
- Lightweight and easy to handle
- Low bow curve
- Paint finish chips easily
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Best for Goalkeepers: Kookaburra Field Hockey Stick
The Kookaburra Field Hockey Stick is a high-performance field hockey stick designed particularly for goalkeepers that is great for players of any skill level. Made from carbon fiberglass material with a duo core, the stick is durable and lightweight and offers excellent balance, stability, and stick control.
The G-shaped hook of this elite stick has a tailored head and a large stopping area, making it perfect for players looking to stop a ball.
- G-hook-shaped head with large stopping area
- Duo core construction
- Lightweight and easy to handle
- Excellent balance and stability
- Great for players of all levels
- Designed for goalkeepers only
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Best for Budget: Grays GX1000 Composite Field Hockey Stick
The Grays GX1000 Composite Field Hockey Stick is a fantastic option if you are on a budget. Made from a combination of composite and fiberglass, this stick offers enough stiffness and strength for good hitting power with minimal vibration.
The GX1000 is lightweight and easy to maneuver and is an excellent stick for beginner to intermediate players and those players that want to work on transitioning from the fundamentals of field hockey to learning the more technical skills of advanced hockey players.
- Carbon and fiberglass combination
- Reduced vibration and better ball control
- Increased stiffness and strength
- Ideal for drag flicks and reverse stick control
- Hook tow for better receiving
- Not suitable for advanced/elite players
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Best for Junior Players: Grays SURF 500 Junior Field Hockey Stick
The Grays SURF 500 Junior Field Hockey Stick is a great stick for junior field hockey players. Constructed from a wood composition, the Grays SURF 500 is very flexible and has a built-in grip. It features Maxi toe technology, which provides a balance of hitting power and surface area and has a very soft touch.
- Flexible wood composition
- Lightweight construction
- Reinforced with fiberglass for strength
- Soft-touch for beginner players
- Not suitable for adult players
- Does have much power for hard shots
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Best for Accuracy: STX Field Hockey Surgeon XT
The STX Field Hockey Surgeon XT is a great stick for advanced players who want excellent accuracy and precision. Made from 70% carbon, the stick is super lightweight and balanced and has a very low bow that is ideal for 3D skills and enhanced ability. It also has a tapered heel and toe for speed skills and is ideal for players who have lightning-quick reflexes and speed.
- Very low bow shape for extreme accuracy and precision
- Lightweight and balanced
- Tapered heel and toe for speed skills
- Best for intermediate to advanced players
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Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can you use both sides of the hockey stick?
A field hockey stick has two sides – a rounded side and a flat side. One of the rules of field hockey is that players may only touch the ball with the flat side of the stick. So both sides of the hockey stick in field hockey cannot be used.
One of the basic fouls in field hockey is known as the back stick foul, which occurs when a player strikes the ball with the rounded back of the hockey stick. This type of foul is usually punished by giving the non-offending team a free hit if it has occurred outside the circle.
If a defensive player hits the ball with the rounded back of the hockey stick in the circle, it is a foul and a penalty corner is awarded to the non-offending or attacking team. If a defensive player hits the ball with the rounded side of the hockey stick and prevents an imminent goal, a penalty stroke is awarded to the non-offending or attacking team.
2. How long do field hockey sticks last?
A field hockey stick can last up a lifetime if it is looked after correctly. Traditionally hockey sticks were made of various types of wood such as ash, hickory, and mulberry wood and did not have a very long lifespan as they tended to break.
Today, field hockey sticks are still made with wood, but higher-grade sticks are now made with
manufactured from composite materials that contain a combination of fiberglass, aramid fiber, and carbon fiber in varying proportions.
Field hockey sticks are manufactured according to a range of characteristics that may be required by players such as flexibility; resistance to impact and abrasion, and stiffness. These stronger sticks have much longer lifespans and can last many years if played correctly.
3. What are the important skills needed to play field hockey?
Field hockey is a game of skill and speed and you need both good fitness and skill levels to play a good game. If you are a new field hockey player, learning the basic skills can be exciting and overwhelming at the same time, however, improvement comes quickly with practice.
Here are some of the most important basic skills to learn to improve your game.
i) First Touch / Trap
First touch or “trapping” is the ability to receive the ball under control and move into the nearest open space. You must have good first touch skills in field hockey and be able to move the ball in the direction of where space is available.
A good touch would involve receiving the ball and moving it either right or left to indirectly create space between you and a defender. This will give you the chance to look up, scan the field, and decide on your next move.
To practice the skill of first touch or trapping, work on receiving the ball from different angles and spots on the field, as well as bouncing balls off both your right and left foot and balls into space (upright reverse).
It is important to practice receiving the ball from many different positions such as both static and moving, with your feet facing forward, with your back to goal, from the left side, and the right side.
ii) Leading and Positioning
Field hockey players need to be able to move into good positions if they want to receive the ball. Leading is a skill that allows you to get into a good position on the field and create space between you and the defenders. It also gives you more time on the ball to make better decisions about your next move.
Leading is also a great skill to have to understand the player on the ball and anticipate where the ball might go next. Good leading skills depend on timing. There are different types of leads you can make, each of which varies depending upon your position.
Re-leading is another skill to hone, which creates spaces for someone else. Re-leading makes it more difficult for defenders to get the ball.
Accurate passing is one of the most important skills in field hockey. All players in the field from attackers to defenders need to be able to pass accurately as this leads to crucial plays during a game.
Different positions on the field hockey field require different passing skills, for example, defenders should work on fake slapping or overhead passes; midfielders should work on passing off the right or left foot or lifted passes into spaces, and strikers should work on one-touch passes, and two-versus-one passes.
Accurate and powerful hitting is another essential skill to have when playing field hockey. A great hit can clear the ball from defenders and place it into an open space for midfielders or strikers to pick up and score.
There are many factors to consider when practicing and perfecting hitting skills, such as head, foot, and body positioning, hip rotation, your grip on the stick and your swing, wrist action, the position of the ball, and follow-through.
When taking a hit, it is important to make sure your body weight is transferring forward, your hip is rotating, and your head is on top of the ball. If these movements are done correctly, it will help your hit to be more accurate and powerful.
Different positions on the field require different hitting skills. Defenders may need to hit through a press, which requires extreme accuracy and a hard hit. Midfielders may need to cross the ball into the circle, which again needs extreme accuracy, but slightly less hard, and strikers will generally use a hit to try and score a goal.
v) Flat Stick Tackling
A clean flat stick tackle is a skill every player on a field hockey team should have, including the goalkeeper, as it makes for a cleaner game and keeps the game moving. Bad tackling and fouling lead to more stoppages, possible injuries, and cards, making the game less enjoyable.
A clean, flat-stick tackle involves attempting to take the ball away from a defender without causing any danger. Bad tackling stems from bad body positioning, committing too early, mistiming, or being caught flat-footed.
The best way to ensure a clean, flat-stick tackle is to be patient, keep your stick down, and choose the right time to make your tackle. Another way to ensure a clean, flat-stick tackle is to channel a player into a less dangerous area before making a tackle.
This is done by keeping your stick down and channeling or forcing them out wide by positioning yourself on the inside closing off the direct route to the goal.
vi) Jabbing / Poking
Jabbing or poking is a tackle that is rarely used in field hockey and is a great skill to have to put the player on the ball under pressure or change the direction of the ball. It is one of the most underused skills in the game and can be used by all positions on the field from attackers and strikers to defenders and the goalkeeper.
Jabbing not only puts pressure on the player with the ball, but it’s a great way to force the player into less dangerous areas of the field and make it difficult for them to move forward. Midfielders and strikers can use the jab to track back and defenders can jab to try and break down an attack.
You can jab directly at the ball or jab next to the ball to close the space into which the opposition is moving and force them to move in another direction. Jabs can also be used to set a player up for a front stick tackle.
vii) Tomahawk / Reverse Stick
Using your reverse stick, which is also known as a tomahawk, is a difficult skill to master, but once honed, it is a super skill to have, especially if you play on the left. It is also amazing to see when well executed.
The tomahawk is a good skill to use by defenders who want to clear balls down the line. Midfielders can use the skill to cross the ball into the center for goal attempts, and strikers can use their reverse stick skills to shoot at the goal from various angles.
An alternative skill to the standard tomahawk is the reverse slide, which is not as powerful, but a good option to clear the ball quickly. The reverse slide involves using a wider grip on the stick and slicing the ball on the edge of your stick using a short and low backswing.
viii) The V-Drag / Dummy
The V-drag or the dummy is a vitally important skill to learn for all positions of field hockey players. It is an essential elimination skill that involves pulling the ball back in a V-shaped movement to get away from a defender.
Once the ball has been taken from the defender, a short burst of forward movement at an angle to the left or right follows to beat the defender and keep the ball out of the defender’s reach.
Defenders can use the V-drag or dummy to try and get out of a tight situation under pressure; midfielders who want to break the line to create attacking opportunities can use the skill, or strikers wanting some space for a shot at goal can use the V-drag or dummy.
ix) 3D skills
The use of 3D skills such as controlled lifting, popping, and jinking is invaluable, especially when trying to beat a defender. A controlled lift is very effective in getting past players who like to make flat stick tackles.
Players who have well-honed 3D skills have an advantage over other players on the field as they have an extra option of beating defenders by being able to lift the ball. It is one of the hardest skills to defend against and can be used by all outfield positions.
Strikers can pop or jink the ball to create space in the circle; midfielders can use 3D skills to get past attacking players; and defenders can get out of tight spaces under pressure by using controlled lifting, popping, or jinking.
Although deception in field hockey is not technically a skill, it is an aspect of the game that is important to develop if you want to develop the skills listed above. Deception involves causing the opposition to think you are going to move one way or use a certain skill, and you do the opposite.
Deception makes it harder for the opposition and will give you more space and time on the ball. An example of deception would be a quick change of direction, causing the opposition to step off balance.
Field hockey is a game of skill and speed and you need both good fitness and skill levels to play a good game.
3. What are the health benefits of field hockey?
Field hockey has a wealth of health benefits for those who play from improving cardiovascular fitness to enhancing mental health. If you are thinking of starting to play field hockey, here is how the game can benefit your physical and mental health.
Improves Cardiovascular Function
Field hockey is a running game, and you have to be fairly fit to play a full game of 70 minutes. Research shows that players can run up to six miles in a game, particularly midfielders, who do the most running. Even goalkeepers can move up to a mile in a game, so any position on the field requires a certain level of cardiovascular fitness. (source).
Field hockey running also causes a spike in heart rate as there is a lot of sprinting and bursts of speed, causing players to experience fairly high heart rates during the game.
Improves Balance and Coordination
Field hockey is a game that involves multitasking with a combination of running, reading the game, deciding on what skills to use, applying those skills, and communicating with fellow players. Thus, coordination is needed to manage all these aspects of the game.
The game also involves quick changes in direction as the ball moves between attackers and defenders and good balance is required to make these quick turns and directional changes. Playing and tackling lead to constantly changing positions, and the need for swift reactions and control of the ball.
Hand-eye coordination skills are also greatly improved in field hockey through the constant use of stick-and-ball skills.
Enhances Mental Strength
It is a well-known fact that exercise boosts mental health as it releases endorphins and other feel-good hormones. Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative moods. It also improves cognitive function and has been found to alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal (source).
Field hockey involves playing with a team and playing with other like-minded people with a passion for the game can go a long way towards improving your mental health and strength outside of the game and in your daily life.
Boosts Speed and Endurance
Running back and forth and bursts of speed in a field hockey game will improve your speed and endurance, which will benefit other aspects of your life. Improved stamina leads to better concentration at work, and enhanced performance in other sports and forms of exercise such as hiking.
Improves Overall Physical Strength
Field hockey is a highly demanding sport that requires good levels of fitness, and muscle strength, especially in the legs and the core. Having a strong core is vital for field hockey as it helps you to react quickly, change direction at speed, and be more agile on the field all while preventing injury.
Good physical strength also helps you to recover quickly and as smartly as possible, which improves your overall athletic performance as well.
Promotes Communication Skills
Field hockey is a team sport and playing in a team with 10 other players requires good communication skills on all levels from learning different signs from other team members to discussing tactics and strategies.
Learning, improving, and perfecting communication skills, solving problems, and strategizing with a team on the hockey field will work for you outside of the sport and will benefit you in both your work and personal spaces.
Jacky has a degree in Sports Science and is a Certified Sports and Conditioning Coach. He has also worked with clients around the world as a personal trainer.
He has been fortunate enough to work with a wide range of people from very different ends of the fitness spectrum. Through promoting positive health changes with diet and exercise, he has helped patients recover from aging-related and other otherwise debilitating diseases.
He spends most of his time these days writing fitness-related content of some form or another. He still likes to work with people on a one-to-one basis – he just doesn’t get up at 5am to see clients anymore.