Can You Use Both Sides of a Field Hockey Stick?

Can You Use Both Sides of a Field Hockey Stick?

Field Hockey Stick

Sports games come in all varieties, and some even have notable variations involved. One of the most famous examples of this is that of hockey and the differences between the ice and field versions.

Unlike ice hockey, you cannot legally use both sides of the stick in field hockey. One side of the stick is flat, which you can use for regular play, while the other side is deliberately curved and may not be used for contacting the ball at all. There are also other notable differences between field hockey and ice hockey.

This article delves into the details surrounding field hockey sticks and their use during the game. We also explore some of the rules, safety tips, and variations within this type of hockey.

Which Side of the Stick?

Let’s jump straight into the core of this article and look at the field hockey stick. Since players can only use this stick to interact with the ball, it plays a significant role in the overall game. If you were to study a field hockey stick, you would first notice its unique shape.

The J-shape of the stick is the first notable feature of this piece of sports equipment. Though similar to the ice hockey stick’s rough shape, it is more perpendicular to the ground, with a dramatic bend at the head, which alone sets it apart from its ice counterpart.

However, the field hockey stick has another defining feature that plays a substantial part in the way the game is played. One entire side of the stick is deliberately curved because the rules only allow you to use only one side of the stick during the game (source).

The curved side serves to reinforce the flat side and promote its use during play.

The likely reason players can only use one side of the stick is to make the game more challenging to play by making the ball harder to control. This then requires practice and the properly developed technique to improve.

Additionally, hitting with the curved side of the stick can dangerously lift the ball during play. Overall, this one-sided stick becomes quite an important factor in how you play field hockey.

The field hockey stick has traditionally been made from a hard wood; however, now it is often found with other composite materials like carbon fiber, graphite, Kevlar, and even fiberglass (source).

A strong structure is essential to these hockey sticks as players use them to hit a hard ball with significant force.

Rules of the Game

The hockey stick used in field hockey is clearly a unique piece of equipment. As you might expect, this leads to a unique set of rules for the game. A number of these are based around the use of the hockey stick.

Interestingly, field hockey does not allow left-handed sticks to be used. This is because of the increased risk of injury when players with opposite grips meet on the field. Getting hit on the follow-through of another player’s swing becomes significantly more likely (source).

This may seem like left-handed players will struggle with field hockey, but it actually might be advantageous. In the right-handed grip, the left hand traditionally sits at the top of the stick and has more influence and strength over the stick’s movement.

The right-hand serves more to guide and maneuver the stick. Having a strong left wrist can be very useful in field hockey.

Gripping the Stick

The standard grip used in field hockey is with your left hand at the top and your right hand about halfway down. As mentioned above, this allows your left hand to generate power while the right hand adds the control.
To position your hands, hold the stick in this way, with the hook pointing away from you and the curved side facing right.

Make a V-shape between your thumb and index on both hands and point them straight down the edge of the stick toward the hook. This is the primary field hockey grip, primarily used for dribbling and some stopping and hitting moves (source).

There are a variety of grip positions used throughout the game, though, so you are encouraged to explore alternatives as you play. You’re also not forced to keep two hands on the stick, and you can exploit the further reach of just a single hand.

This, of course, comes at the cost of strength on the ball and might be an advanced technique for new players.

Conduct on the Field and Scoring

In a game of field hockey, there are two teams made up of 11 players. One of these 11 usually takes up the role of the goalkeeper. A standard game’s length is 70 minutes — 35 minutes in each half — but this can vary depending on competition-specific rules (source).

To score, players must make their way to the opponent’s goals with the ball and hit it into the net while inside the scoring circle.

The scoring circle is a semi-circle that sits in front of each team’s goals, with a diameter of 16 yards measured from the center of the goal. Only once inside are players able to score goals.

However, all you need to do is make contact within this half-circle for the goal to count, so even a deflection of a ball hit by someone outside the circle will work.

Field hockey is, importantly, a noncontact sport unlike its counterpart on the ice. In fact, a majority of the rules are about avoiding injuries and reckless behaviour on the field.

This is important because there is limited protective gear for the players except for the goalkeeper. It is also another reason for such strict rules around the use of the hockey stick itself.

While there are too many extra rules to list them all out here, some of the most important may be worth mentioning for a greater picture of this game. One such rule is that players may only use their stick to manipulate the ball and never any part of their body, like their feet. This is akin to the hand-ball rule in soccer.

In fact, soccer and field hockey share a notable similarity in the overall way they playout on the field. Arguably, this similarity is greater even than field and ice hockey. Although, in field hockey, there are no offsides rules, like that of soccer.

Conduct on the Field and Scoring

Image by malte_berg via Pixabay

Alternative Indoor Hockey

While we cannot cover the full rules list of field hockey, it is worth briefly mentioning another format of the hockey experience, indoor hockey. Indoor hockey is very similar to field hockey, using most of the same rules and equipment, but instead of playing it on a field, players use a flat court (source).

Since indoor hockey allows for play indoors, players don’t have to worry about bad weather.

Perhaps the most critical difference in indoor hockey is that the teams are generally smaller — traditionally six players on each side — and there is no lifting the ball intentionally during play.

Even in field hockey, there are strict rules around lifting the ball off the ground, but it is still very much allowed. With indoor hockey, there are few instances at all where players can lift the ball. Overall, indoor hockey is probably a safer and smaller variation of field hockey.

Safety Tips

Before any discussion on hockey is appropriately complete, there needs to be a deliberate mention of safety. Playing any sport where all the players get to carry around a large stick can be a recipe for disaster, and, as such, there are certain things you need to do to mitigate some of the risks.

The first thing is to dress appropriately. Wear the necessary protective gear, including mouthguards, shin guards, and even gloves and goggles if necessary (source). These will help protect you on the field, but they are no substitute to rule-abiding and sensible play.

On the other hand, the goalkeepers should be wearing as much protective gear as they possibly can. This includes helmets, leg guards, arm guards, chest pads, and gloves. A goalkeeper has the greatest need for protection in field hockey.

Finally, it is very important to listen to the referee during any game. Like with most sports, the referee is there to make sure everyone follows the rules and plays fairly.

With every player armed with what could potentially be a weapon, following the ref’s instructions is mandatory to prevent any injuries. Referees are also allowed to issue cards and send players off for not following the rules.

Safety Tips

Image by malte_berg via Pixabay

Final Thoughts

The field hockey stick is an interesting piece of sports equipment. Only the flat side may be used to interact with the ball during a game. It is made out of wood or carbon fiber, and 22 players each swing one around during a game of field hockey.

Definitely interesting, perhaps a little odd, but overall another great reason to explore this game in more detail.