Field Hockey Sticks
Field hockey sticks are unique to the players who use them. They are different lengths and weights, as suited to the size and position of the player. Field hockey sticks are made of various materials, including wood, fiberglass, graphite, carbon, and even kevlar.
Defenders and goalies can typically expect a stick to endure for four to five years. Strikers, forwards, and midfielders can expect more extensive wear, though a well-wrapped stick should last for two to three years of constant play. The type of use will really determine how long the field hockey stick actually lasts.
One of the things that set field hockey apart is the lack of equipment it requires: shin and teeth guards, good shoes, and, above all, a dependable field hockey stick. Here we will take a look at field hockey sticks, how they are made and used, and how to know when to replace them.
To a larger extent than nearly any other piece of sporting equipment, a field hockey stick may be customized to the particular player using it. As noted, a variety of different materials can be used to make the stick itself, from wood to graphite to carbon fiber (source).
Regarding the length of time a hockey stick can last, sticks made of wood, usually ash or maple, will have the shortest life expectancy — about two to three years of constant play. Wood sticks have a traditional feel and look. However, even though they are layered, they are more susceptible to fractures and wear.
Carbon fiber or composite sticks will commonly endure three or four years. Carbon is more durable than wood and has about the same weight. Over two or three seasons of daily use, scuffing will occur. Fractures are unusual if the stick is well wrapped.
Graphite sticks last indefinitely if not subjected to fractures. These sticks are very light but substantial enough to flick, loft, or fire a hockey ball. You’re more likely to lose this stick than have it rendered unplayable due to wear. These are extremely difficult to fracture.
The length of a hockey stick is also contingent upon the size requirements of the player. Unlike baseball bats measured in inches and ounces, there are no definitively set lengths and weights for field hockey sticks.
Regarding the weight of the hockey stick, the normal range is from 18 ounces to 25 ounces. Selecting an appropriate value entails giving some thought to the strength and intended positional use of the stick.
Once the player has selected a primary material and determined the right weight and length, they can prepare the stick for use by applying tape. Pliable, water-absorbing tape, like cotton or suede, is often used for the upper part of the handle where the player will grip. The material must support gripping, turning, and extending without slipping.
At the shaft’s other end, just above the blade, players frequently use tape. Lightweight plastic tape is wrapped along this portion of the stick to reinforce its strength. The tape also provides some support and protection from those inevitable blows from other sticks.
Few sports implements have a more inauspicious appearance than the field hockey stick, shaped like a walking cane turned upside down. The stick’s curved end is flat on one side and slightly rounded on the other, and the field hockey ball must always and only be struck with the stick’s flat side.
Complicating this rule, all hockey sticks are made “right-handed.” That is, they are constructed in such a way that the rounded side, the “toe,” is on the stick’s right side so that a right-handed player will feel natural in striking the ball with the flat left side of the blade.
Of course, not all field hockey players are right-handed. Neither does a player always have the opportunity to strike the ball using a right-to-left motion. Thus, to avoid using the stick’s rounded side, it must be turned backward, with the blade facing the player.
The incredible pace at which they play the game makes players lunge for the ball with their sticks. This results in a couple of different kinds of frequent fouls: players touching the ball with the rounded rather than flat side of the stick and players striking the sticks of other players (source).
The various field positions of hockey players result in them using their sticks in different ways. For instance, strikers or forwards, responsible for moving the ball forward swiftly and scoring goals, are more likely to dribble the ball and fire quick, low shots.
Defenders or sweepers, whose job is to guard their own goals against scores, will subject their sticks to hacking stops of the ball as well as lofting long passes down and across the field. Midfielders, who must alternate rapidly between offence and defence, similarly use their sticks.
Goalies are distinct from other Field Hockey players in many ways, and the design and use of their sticks reflect this. The goalie must attempt to prevent the opposing team from scoring and clear the ball safely from around the net.
To a certain extent, the goalie is permitted to have a differently sized stick. Still, the same rules regarding which side of the stick can touch the ball apply to the goalie, whose significant advantage is the freedom to wear a great deal of protective padding.
It should be noted that players must strike the ball and move it along correctly. For instance, a player must have adequate room to avoid opposing players, who must yield way to make a long, airborne pass. Most passing is at knee level or along the ground.
Extensive stick practice is required to obtain the skill needed for passing, dribbling, and shooting with the field hockey stick. As noted, improper use of the stick results in the immediate loss of the ball to the opposing team or other penalties. The ability to use the stick properly is crucial.
There are several factors to consider when determining whether or not it is time to replace a field hockey stick. Perhaps the question isn’t so much how long a hockey stick can last, but, instead, when is it best to replace it?
To be sure, there are times when a stick has to be retired. If a stick develops a wobble when contacting the ball or it makes an unusually high sound when striking the pitch (the ground), it is very likely the stick has an internal fracture and is past its usefulness.
Research has shown that using a damaged stick can lead to physical injury for players (source).
A player may likewise notice that the blade is worn or chipped and is not as effective in stopping the ball, passing, or shooting as it was previously. Technically, the stick is not broken. Still, trying to play one’s best game with a worn-out stick is like trying to run a race with a torn calf muscle.
Again, there are other reasons to retire one’s stick and turn it into a trophy. The changing abilities of a player, a change in playing position and thus altered on-field responsibilities, or the physical growth of a player can all result in the need for upgrading equipment.
Neither is it a bad idea to have more than one hockey stick. As resilient and tough as they may be, it is not unheard of for a stick to get jammed into the pitch at just the wrong angle or for it to get whacked unintentionally by another player, resulting in a crack that weakens or disables it.
The most likely time for such an accident to happen is in the middle of a game at the least desirable moment to toss aside a personally chosen, well-suited stick. Instead, the player is put in the position of finishing a critical game with a borrowed, ill-suited stick.
Given these considerations, noting that a field hockey stick is the single most crucial piece of equipment in the game, one might conclude that replacing questionable sticks is an excellent idea and having an identical backup stick is equally good.
Baseball players at competitive levels maintain more than one mitt in case one becomes unusable, as well as multiple personal bats in case one shatters at the plate. Just so, having a familiar, personalized backup is never a bad idea.
Field Hockey is a fast, dynamic game that demands mental acuity as much as physical ability. Players must learn the discipline of following many simple but demanding rules to master the game. Many of field hockey’s essential skills revolve around the use of the hockey stick.
As the hockey player’s essential tool, a stick’s quality and durability are of significant importance. Worn, chipped, or fractured sticks are subject to prompt replacement. It’s also a great idea to have a backup stick that is identically personalized.