Field Hockey - Easy to Learn Basics, Hard to Learn Skills

Field Hockey - Easy to Learn Basics, Hard to Learn Skills

Is Field Hockey Hard To Learn

As field hockey is the third most popular team game in the world, more and more young children consider playing it. Many ask before enrolling as a new player whether or not field hockey is hard to learn.

The basics of field hockey are not hard to learn, but it can be hard to develop the necessary skills. Play is based around a relatively simple concept with rules very similar to soccer. The challenging aspect is acquiring and practicing the skills required to excel.

In this article, we’ll discuss the easy-to-learn aspects of field hockey as well as those skills that are harder to learn.

Obvious Aspects of the Game

When you start playing field hockey, there are many things you must know, some of which you may know already or can easily pick up by watching others. Other aspects require a more in-depth understanding of the rulebook and a lot of hard practice. Let’s start with the obvious aspects.

The Object of the Game

The game takes place on a field that is 100 yards long and 60 yards wide with a goalpost on either side. The game’s object is to use a hockey stick to move the ball into the shooting circle near the goals and then shoot the ball into the goal net to score.

Players

The game has two teams with 11 players each. Ten of a team’s players are battling on the field to either get the ball into the goal or, as a defending team, to prevent the other team from scoring. The goalkeeper serves as the last line of defence, trying to prevent the ball from entering the goal box.

Learning About Field Markings

If you wish to avoid penalties as a new player, you need to pay close attention to the field’s markings. Field hockey has boundaries like other sports, and it also has scoring circles.

Yard Lines and Boundaries

The hockey field is 100 yards long, divided into quarters and halves, and you can only play within the field’s boundary marks. Lines demarcate the two, 25-yard lines and the 50-yard line, and the game starts in the middle of the field on this line.

The Shooting Circle

The scoring circles at each end of the field are semi-circles extending to the 16-yard line from each goal line. Players can only score goals from inside the opponent’s shooting circle, with a goal counting when the ball crosses the goal line between the goalposts.

It requires a great deal of situational awareness for a new player to remember they can only shoot a goal while inside this circle. By trying to shoot a goal from outside the circle while the other players of your team are not in a position to play the ball, your team loses control of the play. Self-control comes with practice.

Learning About Positional Play

Another straightforward aspect of learning the game would be the main positions of play — forwards, midfielders, defenders, sweepers, and goalie. Each has a specific role to play, so you’ll need to understand where you fit into the greater game plan.

For the game to start, the 11 players in each team take up their positions in their half of the field, and, throughout the game, they stay in principle in this formation. However, it may vary, depending on the coach’s strategy.

Forwards and Striker

The players forming a line nearest to the field’s 50-yard line are the forwards. There are always at least three forwards, and they are responsible for driving the team’s offence.

The center-forward, called the striker, is part of this line of forwards and must take the lead when the ball is near the other team’s striking circle and try to score. The left and right forwards are the links between the players behind them and the striker.

Midfielders

The players in the next row, behind the forwards, are the midfielders, and they have a dual role, playing both offence and defence. They play the ball back and forth from defenders to the forwards while also fighting for control against the other team’s midfielders.

Defenders, Sweeper, and Goalie

Next, you have the defenders. They are not playing with the pack but hang back to keep the ball out of their territory. A defender must be able to pass the ball quickly, read the game expertly, attack, and stay calm under pressure.

The defender playing the nearest to the team’s goalpost is called the sweeper who attempts to regain possession for the team if the attacking team has passed most of the defenders.

The goalie defends the goalposts and must have the courage not to step back from any ball coming to the goal line.

Penalties

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Learning More about Penalties

To be a good player, it’s critical to understand what you can be penalized for and how that will affect your teammates. There are three primary ways an umpire can penalize you.

Free Hit

The umpire awards a free hit to the other team for your team’s offence outside of the scoring circle. If you are the one punished, your whole team is penalized, and they have to stand a minimum of five yards from where the hit is taken and thus lose field distance.

Penalty Corner

A penalty corner is awarded to the other team if you commit a foul in the striking circle or intentionally hit the ball over the end line. Your foul can lead to a goal for the other team.

Penalty Stroke

If you commit an offence deemed to have prevented the attacking side from an almost certain goal, the umpire awards the attacking team with a penalty stroke. This often results in the attacking team scoring as only your goalkeeper can try and prevent the goal.

What to Avoid

Now that you know what penalties you can receive, let’s look at some of the fouls that can lead to these penalties. As a new player, you have to learn to avoid them.

You may not use your body or stick to prevent an opponent from reaching the ball. You must also ensure that you don’t come between a player of the other team and the ball, allowing one of your teammates to play unobstructed.

It is a foul to shove, push, or advance the ball using any part of your body or the stick’s rounded back. You also may not dangerously lift the ball or raise your stick dangerously near another player. All the fouls are described in sections 9 and 10 of the FIH’s rulebook (source).

Learning about Umpire Signals and Cards

Two umpires administer a field hockey game. Their duties are to enforce the rules as written in the current rulebook.

Hand signals

When an umpire wants to rule something, they will blow the whistle and then use hand signs to signal their ruling. As a player, you have to learn to understand all the hand signals. There are signs for penalty strokes, obstruction, restart, dangerous play, and many more.

Penalty Cards

The umpires can also use three cards — namely green, yellow, and red — to indicate the seriousness of a violation or misconduct. The green card is used as a warning, the yellow card to remove a player from the game for five minutes, and the red card disqualifies a player from the game (source).

If you are the penalized player, you must learn what you’ve done to be penalized and ensure that you don’t repeat it.

Hard-to-Learn Aspects

Because it is relatively easy for most people to follow a field hockey game, you might come under the misconception that all aspects of the game are easy to learn. However, once you get started, you may find that some of the skills required take a great deal of time and practice to develop fully.

Stick skills are essential in field hockey. The first thing you learn as a new player is what not to do, and then you start learning the necessary skills to create space, lead the game, pass and hit the ball, and execute a flat stick tackle (source). One way to gain better stick control is to use Stickhandling PRO, an interactive game that can be practiced at home.

Prohibited Actions

You can’t stop or strike the ball with anything else than the flat side of the stick. You also cannot use your stick in a way that could be dangerous for other players.

It takes practice and self-control not to lift your stick too high or hit the ball intuitively with any side of the stick when it’s coming to you at 70 mph from an opponent’s long hit or any other powerful strike.

Create Space

The next step is to learn what to do when the ball touches the stick. You’ll be taught how to decide in a split second whether to move the ball left or right to create space between you and the defender.

Passing

Then you have to learn how to execute different basic strikes. Accurate passing has a crucial influence on the game. When you are new, and the coach has not yet decided which position you will play, you’ll be taught to pass the ball from different positions.

These strikes have to be practiced over and over until you feel comfortable passing the ball.

Powerful Hit

A powerful hit is a difficult skill to master. Many factors have to be taken into quick consideration to execute a powerful and accurate hit. The position of your feet and body, as well as the ball’s position, play a role. This is a skill that has to be practiced continuously.

Flat Stick Tackle and Dribble

You will also be expected to make a clean flat stick tackle. You’ll have to practice hard not to tackle too soon or too late and always be aware of your head, feet, and body position. Another critical skill to master is dribbling to enable you to gain distance on the field.

Play on Different Surface Types

As field hockey can be played on a grass or synthetic surface, you have to prepare to play on both and practice to get accustomed to and comfortable with both surfaces.

Play Surfaces

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Final Thoughts

Field hockey can be challenging to learn if you want to be a professional or even just a good player. Still, it is relatively easy to pick up if you just want to play field hockey for your local social club. Those familiar with soccer will quickly pick up the game, and the main challenges are developing the proper stick techniques and skills, which Stickhandling PRO can help with.