Field Hockey Shot Speed
If you’ve ever sat down to watch a field hockey game and seen a player drive the ball across the field, then you’ve probably wondered how fast that ball can go. Many sports spectators are interested in learning how quickly a ball travels in their sport. It’s one of the reasons you will find that sports broadcasters display the ball’s speed after a play.
A field hockey shot can reach speeds of up to 100 mph. The shots that result in the fastest balls are the drive and the drag flick. However, the ball’s speed will differ depending on several factors, including the type of hit and the field conditions. They are also dependent on the player knowing the correct techniques to hit the ball.
The speed of a field hockey shot is comparable to similar ball sports. However, the way it’s measured has only evolved in recent years. To begin with, we can compare field hockey to other sports. Then we can understand how the speed is measured, explore what factors influence the speed, and how players can increase the power of their shots.
Interestingly, field hockey is considered to be one of the fastest sports in the world (source).
This is because players are typically able to produce drag flicks of up to 70 mph and long dives of up to 100mph. The fastest drag flick ever recorded was by the Indian Field Hockey player, Sandeep Singh, whose ball reached a speed of 90mph.
In terms of ball speeds, field hockey holds its own. The ball speed achieved by a field hockey player is considered to be comparable with tennis and faster than cricket.
While sports like badminton can reach speeds of up to 253 mph and squash players can hit the ball as hard as 176 mph. Men’s field hockey has the fastest swing speed out of any sport, even golf or baseball, at 103 mph (source).
While ice hockey and field hockey are comparable in many ways, they are also very different. Using a puck, an ice hockey player can achieve puck speeds of 120 mph. You can explore more about these two sports and how they compare in this article about which sport is older: field hockey or ice hockey?
A ball’s speed in a sports game is most often measured using radar gun technology (source). This technology uses both radar guns and a phenomenon known as the “Doppler effect” to record the ball’s speed accurately.
In simple terms, the Doppler effect records the changes in wave frequencies between the source and the observer.
Recently, the interest in ball speeds has grown to the extent that apps have been developed, and one such app is called HockeyTracker (source).
This app allows its users to check the speed of both penalty corners as well as shots hit within the striking circle. The app uses radar technology installed behind the goal to record the speeds. The radar has a radius that extends to around 24 yards (27 meters).
The invention of this app has given both players and spectators greater insight and understanding into the power and speed of shots both at goal and at a penalty corner.
Several conditions affect the speed of a field hockey ball. One of the most significant factors is whether the ball is played on artificial turf or natural grass. Traditionally the game of field hockey was always played on the grass, but this has changed in recent years. Now field hockey is most often played on synthetic surfaces (source).
The arrival of synthetic turf in the 1960s revolutionized not only field hockey but a host of other sports, including football, tennis, and athletics. Factors such as convenience, maintenance, and safety pushed synthetic grass to the forefront of sports grounds.
“Astroturf”, as it is more traditionally known, meant that field hockey players were no longer required to use more force to hit the ball because of the resistance of grass. They could hit with the same power and send the ball even further.
Unlike the old grass-game, field hockey became much quicker and more controlled. Players were forced to adapt their playing, and some of the rules of hockey were also changed to adjust to the new faster game (source).
Eventually, Astroturf became so popular that it started to replace grass turf almost entirely. As such, the International Hockey Federation outlined seven types of suitable playing surfaces for field hockey. They listed both natural grass pitches and synthetic turf pitches as acceptable (source).
Natural grass pitches are still considered, by the purists, to be the only suitable place to play hockey. Grass pitches do mean a slower game and can be trickier to keep flat and level.
In addition to natural grass pitches, there are seven additional synthetic pitch surfaces. Each of these has a different effect on the speed of the hockey ball.
The other types of pitches include:
- Filled Surface Pitch
- Unfilled (Unwatered) Surface Pitch
- Dressed surface or water-based filled surface
- Water-based unfilled surface
- Long-pile surface
- Sand-filled Pitch
- Sand-dressed pitch
According to the FIH, Hockey players who have played on synthetic turf most often prefer a water-based or unfilled pitch. This preference is because these surfaces provide increased performance in terms of both ball speed and ball predictability. They also show less evidence of wear and are considered safer for the players.
Most synthetics turfs are now made using Polyethylene, which is one of the most common thermoplastics in the world. Polyethylene is preferred because of its smooth, weather-proof surface.
The hardness of a field hockey ball is also related to how fast it travels. If you are interested in learning more about hockey balls, take a look at our article discussing how hard field hockey balls are and how this impacts the overall game.
The quickest balls in field hockey are seen during shots at the goal and penalty corners. This is because these instances are when the most power is required, so players are required to produce fast balls.
Drives and drag flicks are considered to produce the fastest balls in field hockey. As such, players need to work on these techniques to create shots with speed.
The Saudi Journal of Sports Medicine discusses the incredible velocity of the field hockey ball created by the drive-motion. The two-handed swinging motion brings both power and force to the ball, which allows it to gain a much higher velocity (source).
Field hockey players are at an advantage because they are able to hit the ball as opposed to having to throw it (source). Proper weight transference, head position, and correct wrist action are all critical to playing with power and control.
In order to hit the ball with enough accuracy and power, a player should focus on the following techniques related to the biomechanics of field hockey.
The player must stand sideways with their left shoulder pointed towards their target. This will also support the correct weight transference. The shoulder should also then turn to be able to facilitate the greatest range of motion, also known as ROM.
To drive the ball, both of the player’s hands should be together and positioned near the top of the stick. There should be no space between the player’s hands. This grip stops the face of the hockey stick from flipping or rotating. The player’s wrists should cock just as they move into the backswing.
The stick face should always be open. Making sure that the ball makes contact with the flat face of the stick is crucial for delivering a powerful shot. If the ball makes contact with the top of the stick, the player will lose both control of the ball as well as speed.
As the player swings their stick back, the momentum should be transferred from their lower body into the top of their thighs and their stick during the downswing.
The player’s weight transference is crucial to putting the right amount of power behind the ball. This means the player should transfer all of their weight forward when driving the ball forward.
The player’s head should always remain on top of the ball. It is also vital that the player keeps their head down while playing the shot.
As one of the fastest sports in the world, it is unsurprising that the field hockey ball can reach speeds of over 100 mph. As a hockey player, being able to produce powerful shots also means needing to control them.
Learning to drive or drag-flick are the two techniques that are the most challenging to learn but are also the most rewarding. Knowing the proper biomechanics and stick positions are vital to producing the fastest shots in field hockey.