Why You Should Play Field Hockey

Why You Should Play Field Hockey

Playing Field Hockey

If you are looking for a fun way to get fit and meet new people, then field hockey might be the sport for you. Field hockey is played in more than 100 countries around the world and is the second largest team sport across the globe. The skills are easy to learn, and the fast-paced running game will help you increase and maintain fitness levels.

You should play field hockey because it is a fantastic sport to play if you want to get fit and maintain your fitness. It is also great for improving your hand-eye coordination skills, meeting like-minded people, and making new friends when you join a club to play on a team.

Field hockey can be played by all ages and all skill levels. Even if you have never played the game before, the skills are easy to pick up and, once honed, make the game very enjoyable. This article will explore the basics of field hockey, what the game is all about, how it is played, and why you should play field hockey if you aren’t already a player.

What Is Field Hockey?

Field hockey, also known as outdoor hockey, is a game and team sport that is part of the hockey family. The term “field hockey” is primarily used in Canada and the United States to differentiate between ice hockey and field hockey.

The game is otherwise known simply as hockey in most places around the world where ice hockey isn’t as prevalent.

The aim of a field hockey game is to dribble and pass a ball between players using specialized sticks and shoot to score more goals than the opposing team. Players play with a 3.3-foot-long wooden or carbon fiber stick and play the ball with only one side of the stick.

The player can also use the head’s edges and the handle of the stick, but they’re only permitted to touch the ball with the stick. The only player that can kick the ball with their feet or touch it with their hands is the goalkeeper.

The Health Benefits of Field Hockey

Health Benefits

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Field hockey has a wealth of health benefits for those who play, from improving cardiovascular fitness to enhancing mental health. If you are thinking of starting field hockey, here is how the game can benefit your physical and mental health.

Improves Cardiovascular Function

Field hockey is a running game, and you have to be reasonably fit to play a full game of 70 minutes. Research shows that players can run up to six miles in a game, particularly midfielders, who do the most running. Even goalkeepers can move up to a mile in a game, so any position on the field requires a certain level of cardiovascular fitness (source).

Field hockey running also causes a spike in heart rate, as there is a lot of sprinting and bursts of speed, causing players to experience fairly high heart rates during the game. The more you play, the fitter you’ll get, and the better your cardiovascular function will be.

Improves Balance and Coordination

The game involves a lot of multitasking with a combination of running, reading the play, deciding on what skills to use, applying those skills, and communicating with fellow players. Thus, coordination is needed to manage all these aspects of the game.

The game also involves quick changes in direction as the ball moves between attackers and defenders, and good balance is required to make these sharp turns and directional changes. Playing and tackling leads to constantly changing positions and the need for swift reactions and control of the ball.

Hand-eye coordination skills are also significantly improved in field hockey through the constant use of stick-and-ball skills.

Enhances Mental Strength

It is a well-established fact that exercise boosts mental health as it releases endorphins and other feel-good hormones. Exercise is great for improving certain mental issues like anxiety, negative moods, and depression.

Most forms of exercise also improve brain function and are believed to help decrease depression symptoms, including low self-esteem and social withdrawal (source).

Field hockey involves participation with a team, and playing with other like-minded people with a passion for the game can go a long way towards improving your mental health and strength outside of field hockey and in your daily life.

Boosts Speed and Endurance

The back-and-forth running and bursts of quick action in a field hockey game will improve your speed and endurance, which will benefit other aspects of your life. Improved stamina leads to better concentration at work or school and enhanced performance in other sports and forms of exercise such as hiking.

You need to maintain your fitness for practicing and playing field hockey games regularly, which, in turn, makes your cardiovascular system more robust and improves agility, speed, and stamina.

Improves Overall Physical Strength

Field hockey can be a highly demanding sport that requires adequate levels of fitness and muscle strength, especially for your legs and core. Possessing a strong core is vital for field hockey as it helps you react quickly, change direction at speed, and be more agile on the field, all while preventing injury.

Good physical strength also helps you recover quickly and as smartly as possible, improving your overall athletic performance.

Promotes Communication Skills

Field hockey is a team sport. Playing on a team with ten other players requires good communication skills on all levels, from learning different non-verbal signs from other team members to discussing tactics and strategies.

Learning, improving, and perfecting communication skills, solving problems, and strategizing with a team on the hockey field will work for you outside of the sport and benefit you both in your work and personal life.

Important Skills Needed to Play Field Hockey

Skills

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Field hockey is a game of skill and speed, and you need both excellent fitness and skill levels to play a good game (source). If you are a new field hockey player, learning the necessary skills can be exciting and overwhelming at the same time; however, improvement comes quickly with practice.

Here are some of the most important basic skills to learn to improve your game.

First Touch / Trapping

First touch or “trapping” is the capacity to accept the ball under control and move into the nearest open space. You must have good first-touch skills in field hockey and be able to move the ball in the direction of available space.

An excellent first touch involves receiving the ball and moving it either right or left to indirectly create space between you and a defender. This will give you the chance to look up, scan the field, and decide on your next move.

To practice the skill of first touch or trapping, work on receiving the ball from different angles and spots on the field. You can also advance your hand-eye coordination skills by bouncing balls off both your right and left foot, as well as moving the ball into different spaces on the field.

Just remember that although you may be practicing using your feet, this is not allowed in a match.

It is crucial to practice receiving the ball from many different positions, such as static and moving, with your feet facing forward, with your back to goal, from the left and right sides. This will enable you to practice the skills you may need should you be in motion during a game when the ball is passed to you.

Leading and Positioning

Field hockey players need to be able to move into good positions if they want to receive the ball. Leading is a skill that allows you to get into a good position on the field and create space between you and the defenders. It also gives you more time on the ball to make better decisions about your next move.

Leading is also a great skill to have to understand the player on the ball and anticipate where the ball might go next. Good leading skills depend on timing. There are different types of leads you can make, each of which varies depending upon your position.

Re-leading is another skill to hone, which creates spaces for someone else. Re-leading makes it more difficult for defenders to get the ball.

Passing

Accurate passing is one of the most critical skills in field hockey. All players in the field, from attackers to defenders, need to be able to pass accurately, as this leads to crucial plays during a game. Passing involves hitting the ball with precision for it to reach your teammate.

Different positions on the hockey field require different passing skills; for example, defenders should work on fake slapping or overhead passes. Midfielders should work on passing off the right or left foot or lifted passes into spaces, and strikers should work on one-touch passes and two-versus-one passes.

Hitting

Accurate and powerful hitting is another essential skill to have when playing field hockey. A hit clears the ball from defenders and places it into an open space for midfielders or strikers to pick up and score.

There are many factors to consider when practicing and perfecting hitting skills, such as head, foot, and body positioning, hip rotation, your grip on the stick and your swing, wrist action, the position of the ball, and follow-through.

When taking a hit, it is crucial to make sure your body weight is transferring forward, your hip is rotating, and your head is on top of the ball. If these movements are done correctly, it will help your hit to be more accurate and powerful.

Different positions on the field require different hitting skills. Defenders may need to hit through a press, which requires extreme accuracy and a hard hit. Midfielders may need to cross the ball into the circle, which again needs extreme accuracy but will be slightly less hard, and strikers will generally use a hit to try and score a goal.

Flat-Stick Tackling

A clean flat-stick tackle is a skill every player on a field hockey team should have, including the goalkeeper, as it makes for a cleaner game and keeps the game moving. Lousy tackling and fouling lead to more stoppages, possible injuries, and cards, making the game less enjoyable for everyone.

A clean, flat-stick tackle involves attempting to take the ball away from a defender without placing anyone in any danger. Bad tackling stems from wrong body positioning, committing too early, mistiming, or being caught flat-footed.

The best way to ensure a clean, flat-stick tackle is to be patient, keep your stick down, and choose the right time to make your tackle. Another way to ensure a clean, flat-stick tackle is to channel a player into a less dangerous area before making a tackle.

This is done by keeping your stick down and channelling or forcing them out wide by positioning yourself on the inside, closing off the direct route to goal.

Jabbing / Poking

Jabbing or poking is when the end of the stick is used to “jab” or “poke” the ball away from the opposition. Attackers hold the stick away at arm’s length and quickly jab at the ball.

This is a tackle that is rarely used in field hockey and is a great skill to have to put the player with the ball under pressure or change the direction of the ball. It is one of the most underused skills in the game and can be used by all positions on the field, from attackers and strikers to defenders and the goalkeeper.

Jabbing not only puts pressure on the player with the ball, but it’s a great way to force the player into less dangerous areas of the field and make it difficult for them to move forward. Midfielders and strikers can use the jab to track back, and defenders can jab to try and break down an attack.

You can jab directly at the ball or jab next to the ball to close the space into which the opposition is moving and force them to move in another direction. Jabs can also be used to set a player up for a front-stick tackle.

Tomahawk / Reverse Stick

A reverse-stick pass or hit, also known as a tomahawk, is when the reverse side of the stick is used to play the ball. The stick is turned over in the hand while moving into position with the flat side of the stick facing to the ground, and the ball is hit with the edge of the stick on the reverse side.

Using your reverse stick, which is also known as a tomahawk, is a difficult skill to master, but once honed, it is a super skill to have, especially if you play on the left. It is also impressive for spectators to see when well-executed.

The tomahawk is an excellent skill to use by defenders who want to clear balls down the line. Midfielders can use the skill to cross the ball into the center for goal attempts, and strikers can use their reverse-stick skills to shoot at goal from various angles.

An alternative skill to the standard tomahawk is the reverse slide, which is not as powerful but a good option to clear the ball quickly. The reverse slide involves using a wider grip on the stick and slicing the ball on the edge of your stick using a short and low backswing.

The V-Drag / Dummy

The V-drag or the dummy is an essential elimination skill that involves pulling the ball back in a V-shaped movement to get away from a defender.

Once the ball has been taken from the defender, a short burst of forward movement at an angle to the left or right follows to beat the defender and keep the ball out of the defender’s reach.

Defenders can use the V-drag or Dummy to try and get out of a tight situation under pressure. Midfielders who want to break the line to create attacking opportunities can also use the skill or strikers wanting some space for a shot at goal.

3D Skills

The use of 3D skills, such as controlled lifting, popping, and jinking, is invaluable, especially when trying to beat a defender. A controlled lift is very effective in getting past players who like to make flat-stick tackles.

Players who have well-honed 3D skills have an advantage over other players on the field as they have an extra option of beating defenders by being able to lift the ball. It is one of the most challenging skills to defend against and can be used by all outfield positions.

Strikers can pop the ball to create space in the circle, midfielders can use 3D skills to get past attacking players, and defenders can get out of tight spaces under pressure by using controlled lifting, popping, or jinking.

Deception

Although deception in field hockey is not technically a skill, it is an aspect of the game that is important to develop if you want to develop the skills listed above. Deception involves causing the opposition to think you are going to move one way or use a particular skill, and you do the opposite.

Deception makes it harder for the opposition and will give you more space and time on the ball. An example of deception would be a quick change of direction, causing the opponent to step off balance.

Final Thoughts

Field hockey is a fun, fast-paced, and friendly outdoor game. It offers a wealth of benefits, from improving and maintaining fitness, enhancing mental health and increasing physical strength to meeting new people, making new friends, and having a great time outdoors in the fresh air.

Field hockey should be played by anyone aiming to build a healthier mind and body while connecting with like-minded people in a fun and engaging way.