Hockey without ice? It's true -- it's called field hockey. Thousands
of people are showing off their stick work across artificial turf everywhere.
Hockey is probably familiar to you. Skates, ice, pucks, a little pushing.
Right? Wrong. Not in field hockey. In this type of hockey, there are no skates,
no ice, no pucks and very little contact between players. Of course, the idea
is the same -- to make a goal.
In field hockey, players dribble and pass a solid plastic ball down a field
using J-shaped sticks. To score, players must shoot the ball past the goalkeeper
and inside the goal cage. Like all sports, there are rules, including no shouldering
and no using feet to control the ball.
You can only make a goal at certain times on the playing field, and you
can only use one side of the stick to hit the ball.
Really, field hockey resembles soccer more than ice hockey, says Carolyn
Morgan. She is president of a field hockey association. Only, she says, instead
of using your feet, you control a much smaller ball with sticks. In fact,
field hockey is only second to soccer as the most-played team sport, according
to the U.S. Field Hockey Association (USFHA).
Now one of the world's most popular games, field hockey has roots
reaching far into the past. According to USFHA, evidence of games played with
a ball and stick dates back more than 4,000 years to Egypt. The Greeks, Romans,
Ethiopians and Aztecs played similar games. Field hockey appeared in the Olympics
About 100,000 people worldwide play the game both indoors and outdoors,
according to the USFHA. Outdoor fields are usually made of artificial turf.
Before artificial turf, however, short grass worked just fine and is sometimes
The game can also be played in a large gym or other flat areas indoors,
says Bill Johnson. However, he notes that, in his area, there is not a lot
of indoor field hockey. "Indoor hockey is played more often in Ontario and
other parts of Canada due to their more severe winters," he says.
Both men and women play field hockey in different leagues. In some instances,
however, men and women will play together in mixed tournaments. Every four
years, the crowning achievement, the World Cup, determines the men and women's
Junior and senior leagues are open across North America to men and women
of all ages. Morgan says she is staring 50 in the face and still hasn't
slowed down. And she is by no means the oldest. "Our oldest player in the
second division retired at the age of 83! She couldn't run anymore, but
she had a great eye for stopping the ball and a super drive that would clear
the ball away from the goal," remembers Morgan.
Although there are no age requirements, it does help to be in good physical
condition. That's according to Heather Lewis. She coaches a team at Bucknell
University. "You need to be physically fit because field hockey is a game
that combines speed and endurance over 35-minute halves," says Lewis.
That is 70 minutes of playing time. Endurance is a major factor. Beth Bozeman,
a coach of another university team, adds that if you are not physically fit,
you soon will be after a few games.
Field hockey is a great cardiovascular workout, says Johnson. He plays
at least once a week from April through November. He says hockey will also
improve balance and coordination. Perhaps the most important coordination
to master, he says, is hand-eye.
Johnson also enjoys the emotional outlet field hockey gives him. "Field
hockey allows me a distraction from daily events, a chance to blow off some
steam by focusing on the play and exercising," he says.
Even though he vents steam, Johnson is not aggressive. Field hockey is
nowhere near as violent as ice hockey, says Johnson. "Essentially, field hockey
is a non-contact sport, not even allowing the shouldering of players off the
ball prevalent in soccer," he says.
But injuries do occur. Players can be hit by the ball or by another player's
You will need to invest a little money in not only a stick, but also protective
equipment. The field hockey stick is probably one of the most expensive pieces
of equipment you will buy, says Johnson. Made of hardwood and shorter than
an ice hockey stick, a stick can cost as little as $17 or $20. But the sticks
can be as much as $100.
Other than the stick, you will also need a mouth guard, shin guards and
a good pair of shoes, either cleats or runners, recommends Johnson. While
shoes vary in cost and can be expensive, the guarding equipment is less than
$20 combined. A goalkeeper is more decked out, looking more like an ice hockey
Field hockey is becoming more popular everyday, according to the USFHA.
The number of members in the association increases every year. "This is a
great game for girls and boys of all ages, mainly because size is not important
and even very slow people can learn to stop the ball and hit it," says Morgan.
The USFHA does note, however, that field hockey is a niche sport; that
is, it is played mostly in the Northeast and in California. The sport is very
popular in Canada.
Because field hockey is played widely across Canada and the U.S., it is
fairly easy to find a place to give the sport a try. Lewis says the best way
to get involved is to check with your school or with the school district.
If your school doesn't offer field hockey, consult U.S. hockey associations.
They can direct you to the right place.
If you find you enjoy field hockey, you can become a professional player.
Or you can compete in the Olympics. Others may choose to remain in the game
by umpiring or by coaching a university or high school team. If you are accepted
on a professional team, you get the added benefit of traveling to different
countries for competition, such as Kuala Lumpur, Korea and Scotland.
U.S. Field Hockey Association
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