Scoring in Field Hockey - From Where and How?

Scoring in Field Hockey - From Where and How?

Where can you score from in field hockey?

When you view a field hockey game and are not familiar with the rules, it may sometimes seem as if a player has an open line to the goalpost but doesn’t try to score a goal. The question arises from where on the field a player may or may not attempt to score.

According to the rulebook, a goal is scored in field hockey when an attacker plays the ball within the 16-yard circle of the defending team, and the ball does not travel outside the circle before passing completely over the goal line and under the goalpost’s crossbar.

In this article, we’ll look at the different player skills needed to shoot a goal from within the 16-yard circle as the successful completion of the team’s attempt to score. We’ll then briefly discuss the penalty stroke, which is also taken from within the circle, and the only other way a team can add a goal to its score.

Finally, we’ll look at the shootout competition that determines a winner if the game has ended in a draw.

Goalpost, 16-Yards Circle, and Best Zone to Shoot From

Before looking at the player skills needed, let’s look at the goalpost, the 16-yards circle, and the informal shooting zones within this circle, all of which play a role.

Goalpost and 16-Yard Circle

To score, the ball has to go between the opponent’s goalpost on the goal line. These posts are 7 feet high and 12 feet wide. The ball must come from one of the attacking team’s players within the 16-yard shooting circle surrounding the goalpost. A goal is not awarded if the ball has been shot from outside this circle (source).

Informal Zones within the Circle

Most hockey coaches use the informal three-zone division within the 16-yard circle to teach players the best positions to shoot from.

Goal Scoring Zone

The majority of goals are scored from the so-called goal-scoring zone. This area is about 12 to 13 feet wide, stretching from just outside each post towards the top of the circle. Players are encouraged to shoot from inside this area for the highest chance of scoring success.

Far-Post Zone

There is a far-post zone bordering each side of the goal-scoring area. These zones can be described as the triangle areas formed with an imaginary line from where the goal-scoring area originates on the goal line to the top of the circle, ending on the 16-yard line the same width as the goal-scoring zone.

These two far-post zones are considered areas where a goal can be shot if you cannot get into the goal-scoring zone.

It’s best to shoot to the far post to create the opportunity for one of your team’s players near the post to shoot the ball into the goal. This is called a deflection goal. To shoot to the far post also creates a better chance of a rebound if the goalkeeper successfully stops the ball.

No-Shot Zone

The two no-shot zones are the two triangle areas between the far-post zones and the goal line. When you control the ball in these two areas, it is almost impossible to shoot a goal. You should either pass to an open player in a better goal scoring position or attempt to win a penalty corner (source).

Stick Skills to Shoot Goals

To be an expert goal-shooter, you’ll have to develop a range of different shooting skills and practice them from a variety of spots within the 16-yard circle. Let’s have a look at three of the most popular shots used in the 16-yard circle.

Lift Hit

Image by Patrick Case via Pexels


This is the most common shot used to score a goal. You bring the stick down swiftly from a backswing and strike the ball with a long follow-through. This hit is a fast and popular hard shot to try and score. Unfortunately, this is also a shot that the goalie would expect you to play and will, therefore, be prepared for it.


To play the ball with a lift requires the skill to keep the ball in contact with the stick’s head as it is lifted into the air without any backswing. Lifts are used as hard shots on the goalpost and can surprise the goalie.


The push skill is executed with your hands apart and the stick’s head in contact with the ball as it is pushed without a backswing.

The push is not often used as a shot to the goalposts, but as it is a shot allowing good control, quick movement, and accurate shooting, it is sometimes used to score a deflecting goal. The player can also use it when in the no-shot zone to pass the ball to a teammate (source).

Game Plan-Changing Skills

If you’ve mastered the skills to change the game plan when you are in the scoring circle or let the goalie and other defenders believe that you are changing the attack plan, you enhance your team’s chances to score successfully.

Work With a Teammate

Although scoring a goal is very rewarding, field hockey is a team game, and sometimes it is necessary to let a teammate score.

If it seems to the goalie and defenders that you will shoot a goal and are preparing to stop, you can confuse them by sending the ball unexpectedly to a teammate who is also in the scoring circle. This move can distract the goalie, allowing your teammate to score.


When moving in to score, try to be unpredictable. Develop the skill to confuse your opponents. An example of deception is to drop your shoulder to fake a move and then unexpectedly carry on with the same angle as before.

This can get the goalie to change the defending angle or shift balance, enabling you to score your goal. Remember, you can always move faster than the goalie, who has extra and heavy equipment.


When you’ve got a shot at goal, don’t relax. Keep your stick low to the ground and be prepared for any rebounds if the goalie successfully prevents the goal. Many goals are scored directly after a goalie has made a save.

Mindset Skills

A large part of goal scoring is a mindset — you have to be confident and believe that you will score. It would be best if you stayed focused and not panic that you might miss the goal.

To stay composed and keep a calm mind, it helps not to look directly at the goalie. Stay aware of the goalie’s position, but stay low to the ground and watch the ball on your stick. If you can also read the situation, it will help you keep composure when moving towards the goal (source).

Always remember it doesn’t matter how you score. It feels great to score by hitting the roof of the goalpost’s net with a technically perfect shot, but, in reality, you probably won’t get many perfect goal shots.

Don’t try to score the perfect goal and allow a not-so-perfect shot to distract your focus. Keep on trying to get as many attempts to the goal line as possible.


Image by Patrick Case via Pexels

Penalty Stroke and Shootout Competition

Generally, a team scores a goal after moving the ball with dribbling and passing skills into the 16-yard circle for one of their players to shoot a goal.

Sometimes a penalty corner leads to a goal, but only when the ball has been received by a player in the 16-yard circle, who then shoots the ball into the goalpost. Other than that, there are only two other ways to add to your score or determine the game’s result.

Penalty Stroke

With a successful penalty stroke, a team scores a goal. An umpire awards a penalty stroke when the defence commits a deliberate foul inside your attacking 25 yards or intentionally fouls inside the shooting circle to prevent a goal.

A single attacker takes the penalty stroke, and it is taken in the circle from a spot seven yards out, directly facing the goal. Only the goalie can try to make a save (source).

Shootout Competition

As in all team sports, the goal of a field hockey game is to win the match. The team with the highest goal count is the winner. If the score remains tied when the match time runs out, it usually results in a draw.

Since March 2013, the official FIH Tournament Regulations mandate that they no longer have overtime, and they instead go directly into a penalty shootout when a classification match ends in a tie.

However, some associations and smaller tournaments still allow two periods of 7.5 minutes each for extra time for a tie game where a tiebreaker is required. The game ends the moment either team scores. If the game is still a draw after the two periods, a penalty shootout competition starts.

Five players from each team engage in a one-on-one shootout alternately against a defender from the other team, generally the goalie. If the two teams have scored the same number of goals after five shootouts per team, a second series of five shootouts is taken with the same players.

All it takes is for one team to score a single goal more than the other team or be awarded one after the shootouts for that team to win (source).

Final Thoughts

A field hockey player can only score a goal from within the 16-yard circle. Still, players have to master various skills to be successful goal shooters. Practicing your goal-shooting skills is as vital as any other skill you have to learn and practice.

It’s always good to remember that field hockey is a team sport, and goal-scoring is never only one person’s achievement. The whole team contributes to a goal by moving the ball to the shooting circle.

Team players take the ball from the opponents, dribble, and pass it across the field, and the goal shooter concludes the movement by scoring a goal.