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Field Hockey Basics

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Did You Know?

The game of field hockey is played by men and women in more than 130 countries worldwide and is second in popularity only to soccer as a team sport throughout the world?


Field Hockey, as we know it, was first played in the 19th century in London. It’s played by men and women all over the world. It holds tournaments such as the World Cup, World League, Champions Trophy, Junior World Cup and participates in the Olympics. There is also an annual Disney Junior Field Hockey Classic Tournament held at Disney World! Locally, there is also a 4Goals Cup tournament held at Brown University in Providence.

In the US, it is more popular among women than men. However, internationally, it is more popular with men than women. Also becoming a popular sport option is indoor field hockey, which has similar principles to field hockey but is played 5-a-side variant since the field size is smaller.


Field Hockey is played with 11 players on each team, including the goalie. Games are played on a pitch, which is either grass or turf. The pitch is bound by white lines to determine when the ball is out of play. The semi-circular area surrounding the goal is known as the shooting or scoring circle.


Field Hockey sticks are curved and only the flat, inner side of the stick (the face side) is allowed to touch the ball while it’s in play. This is a natural fit for righties. Left-handed sticks are not permitted. Dribbling is rotating the stick from left to right and hitting the ball in a forehand motion. Penalties can be awarded for lifting the stick or ball too high, where it may endanger an opponent by hitting them in the face.


There are no official fixed positions, but team formation is similar to soccer. There are defenders, midfielders, offenders and the goalie. Goalies are the only positions allowed to touch the ball with any part of their body. But in doing so, goalies need to stay inside the scoring circle. 


There should be no bodily contact with the opponent or their stick. This would result in a penalty. If a penalty occurs outside the shooting circle, a free hit is awarded. If a penalty occurs inside the shooting circle, then a penalty corner is awarded. The attackers from the opposing team are lined up along the semi-circle, and another member hits form the corner sideline. Five defenders are positioned behind the backline bordering the goal, and run out to defend once the ball is in play. All other defenders must be at the center line of the pitch.


When defenders commit deliberate fouls in the shooting circle, a penalty stroke can be given to the opposing team, in which a single attacker has a chance on goal.


Some famous field hockey players:

Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, future Queen

Madeleine Albright, US Secretary of State (1997 - 2001) (played field hockey at Wellesley College)

Emma Watson, actress plays Hermione Granger in Harry Potter

Rachel McAdams, actress

Bridget Moynahan, actress

Erin Burnett, CNN anchor (played both field hockey & lacrosse at Williams College)

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