Field hockey is a team sport in which players attempt to score goals by hitting the ball across the pitch with a stick. Its official name is simply hockey, and this is the common name for it in many countries. However, the name field hockey is used in countries where the word hockey is usually reserved for another form of hockey, most commonly ice hockey.
Hockey has several regular international tournaments for both men and women. These include the Olympic Games, the quadrennial Hockey World Cups, the annual Champions Trophies and World Cups for juniors.
The International Hockey Federation (FIH) is the global governing body. It organizes events such as the Hockey World Cup and Women's Hockey World Cup. The Hockey Rules Board under FIH produces rules for the sport.
Many countries have extensive club competitions for junior and senior players. Despite the large number of participants, club hockey is not a large spectator sport and few players play professionally.
In countries where winter prevents play outdoors, hockey is played indoors during the off-season. This variant, indoor field hockey, differs in a number of respects. For example, it is 6-a-side rather than 11, the field is reduced to approximately 40 m x 20 m; the shooting circles are 9m; players may not raise the ball outside the circle nor hit it. The sidelines are replaced with barriers to rebound the ball.
Games played with curved sticks and a ball have been found throughout history and the world. There are 4000-year-old drawings from Egypt. Hurling dates to before 1272BC. and there is a depiction from 500BC in Ancient Greece when the game was called "Κερητίζειν" (pronounced "kerytezin") because it was played with a horn ("κέρας" in Greek) and a ball-like object. In Inner Mongolia, China, the Daur people have been playing Beikou (a game similar to modern field hockey) for about 1,000 years. There were hockey-like games throughout Europe during the Middle Ages and the word 'hockey' was recorded in the Galway Statutes of 1527.
The modern game grew from English public schools in the early 19th century. The first club was in 1849 at Blackheath in south-east London, but the modern rules grew out of a version played by Middlesex cricket clubs for winter sport. Teddington Hockey Club formed the modern game by introducing the striking circle and changing the ball to a sphere from a rubber cube. The Hockey Association was founded in 1886. The first international took place in 1895 (Ireland 3, Wales 0) and the International Rules Board was founded in 1900. Hockey was played at the Summer Olympics in 1908 and 1920. It was dropped in 1924, leading to the foundation of the Fédération Internationale de Hockey sur Gazon (FIH) as an international governing body by seven continental European nations, and hockey was reinstated in 1928. Men's hockey united under the FIH in 1970.
The game had been taken to India by British servicemen and the first clubs formed in Calcutta in 1885. The Beighton Cup and the Aga Khan tournament commenced within ten years. Entering the Olympics in 1928, India won all five games without conceding a goal and won from 1932 until 1956 and then in 1964 and 1980. Pakistan won in 1960, 1968 and 1984.
In the early 1970s artificial turf began to be used. Synthetic pitches changed most aspects of hockey, gaining speed. New tactics and techniques such as the Indian dribble developed, followed by new rules to take account. The switch to synthetic surfaces ended Indian and Pakistani domination because artificial turf was too expensive—in comparison to the wealthier European countries—and since the 1970s Australia, The Netherlands and Germany have dominated at the Olympics.
Women's hockey was first played at British universities and schools, and the first club, Molesey Ladies, was founded in 1887. The first national association was the Irish Ladies Hockey Union in 1894, and though rebuffed by the Hockey Association, women's hockey grew rapidly around the world. This led to the International Federation of Women's Hockey Associations (IFWHA) in 1927, though this did not include many continental European countries where women played as sections of men's associations and were affiliated to the FIH. The IFWHA held conferences every three years, and tournaments associated with these were the primary IFWHA competitions. These tournaments were non-competitive until 1975.
By the early 1970s there were 22 associations with women's sections in the FIH and 36 associations in the IFWHA. Discussions started about a common rule book. The FIH introduced competitive tournaments in 1974, forcing the acceptance of the principle of competitive hockey by the IFWHA in 1973. It took until 1982 for the two bodies to merge, but this allowed the introduction of women's hockey to the Olympic games from 1980 where, as in the men's game, The Netherlands, Germany, and Australia have been consistently strong. Argentina has emerged as a team to be reckoned with since 2000, winning medals at the last two Olympics, and the world championship in 2002.
Most hockey field dimensions were originally fixed using whole numbers of imperial measures. Nevertheless, metric measurements are now the official dimensions as laid down by the International Hockey Federation (FIH) in the "Rules of Hockey 2007". It is these dimensions that are given in this article, with the imperial units in parentheses.
The game is played between two teams of 11 on a 91.40 m × 55 m (100 × 60 yard) rectangular field. At each end is a goal 2.14 m (7 feet) high and 3.66 m (12 feet) wide, and an approximately semi-circular area 14.63 m (16 yards) from the goal known as the shooting circle (or D or arc), bounded by a solid line, with a dotted line 5 m (5 yards 6 inches—this marking was not established until after metric conversion) from that, as well as lines across the field 22.90 m (25 yards) from each end-line (generally referred to as the 23 m lines) and in the center of the field. A spot, called the penalty spot or stroke mark, is placed 6.40 m (7 yards) from the center of each goal.
Traditional grass pitches are far less common in modern hockey with most hockey being played on synthetic surfaces. Since the 1970s, sand-based pitches were favoured as they dramatically speed up the pace of the game. However, in recent years there has been a massive increase in the number of "water-based" artificial turfs. Water-based astro turfs enable the ball to be transferred more quickly than on the original sand-based surfaces and it is this characteristic that has made them the surface of choice for international and national league competitions. Water-based surfaces are also less abrasive than the sand-based variety and hence reduce the level of injury to players when they come into contact with the surface. The FIH are now proposing that new surfaces being laid should be of a hybrid variety which require less watering. This is due to the negative ecological effects of the high water requirements of water-based synthetic fields.
Players are permitted to play the ball with any part of the stick other than the rounded side (back). The flat side is always on the "natural" side for a right-handed person — there are no "left-handed" hockey sticks.
Teams consist of eleven players on the field, and up to five substitutes. Substitutions are not limited but may not be made during a penalty corner. There are no set positions (even a goalkeeper is not required under the 2007 rules), but most teams arrange themselves (in a similar way to Association football teams) into fullbacks (defence), midfielders (halfback) and forwards (front line). Many teams include a single sweeper. The rules do not specify a minimum number of players for a match to take place, but most competitions have some local ruling on this, with seven players being a common minimum .
One player from each team may be designated the goalkeeper. Goalkeepers must wear a suitable helmet with full face mask and are also permitted to wear protective padding, including large leg guards, kickers and gloves. Although goalkeepers may block or deflect the ball with any part of their bodies, and propel the ball with their feet (and from 2007 any other part of their equipment in a "goal-saving action"), they must always carry a stick, and normal stick rules apply. Goalkeepers are permitted to play the ball outside their defensive circle (scoring area or "D"), but must only use the stick in this circumstance. Fully protected goalkeepers are prohibited from passing their side's defensive 23 m line during play, unless they are taking a penalty stroke.
For the purposes of the rules, all players on the team in possession of the ball are attackers, and those on the team without the ball are defenders.
The match is officiated by two field umpires. Traditionally each umpire generally controls half of the field, divided roughly diagonally. These umpires are often assisted by a technical bench including a timekeeper and record keeper.
Prior to the start of the game, a coin is tossed and the winning captain can choose a starting end or start with the ball. The game time is divided into two equal halves of 35 minutes each, with five minutes for half-time. At the start of each half, as well as after goals are scored, play is started with a pass from the centre of the field. All players must start in their defensive half, but the ball may be played in any direction along the floor. Each team starts with the ball in one half, and the team that conceded the goal has possession for the restart.
Field players may only play the ball with the face of the stick. Tackling is permitted as long as the tackler does not make contact with the attacker or his stick before playing the ball (contact after the tackle may also be penalised if the tackle was made from a position where contact was inevitable). Further, the player with the ball may not deliberately use his body to push a defender out of the way.
Field players may not play the ball with their feet, but if the ball accidentally hits the feet, and the player gains no benefit from the contact, then the contact is not penalised. Although there has been a change in the wording of this rule from 1 January 2007, the current FIH umpires' briefing instructs umpires not to change the way they interpret this rule.
Obstruction typically occurs in three circumstances - when a defender comes between the player with possession and the ball without first performing a legitimate tackle; when a defender's stick comes between the attacker's stick and the ball or makes contact with the attacker's stick; and also when (usually deliberately) blocking the opposition's passage to the ball (called third party obstruction).
When the ball passes completely over the sidelines (on the sideline is still in), it is returned to play with a sideline hit, taken by a member of the team whose players were not the last to touch the ball before crossing the sideline. The ball must be placed on the sideline, with the hit taken from the same place the ball went out of play. If it crosses the backline after last touched by an attacker, a 15 m hit. A 15 m hit is also awarded for offenses committed by the attacking side within 15 m of the end of the pitch they are attacking.
Free hits are awarded when offences are committed outside the scoring circles. The ball may be hit or pushed once in any direction by the team offended against. However, the ball must not be judged by the umpire to be intentionally raised from a free hit, or the umpire can "reverse" the decision. This means that the team who were defending are now attacking, this can lead to swift counter attacks. Opponents must move 7 m from the ball when a free hit is awarded, and for attacking free hits within 7 m of the circle all attackers other than the one taking the hit must also be 7 m away.
As mentioned above, a 15 m hit is awarded if an attacking player commits a foul forward of that line, or if the ball passes over the backline off an attacker. These hits are taken in line with where the foul was committed (taking a line parallel with the sideline between where the offence was committed, or the ball went out of play). If the attacking team commit a foul in the circle they are attacking, the defence additionally has the option to take the free hit anywhere in that circle.
A long corner is awarded if the ball goes over the backline after last being touched by a defender. Long corners are played by the attacking team and involve a free hit on the sideline 5 m from the corner of the field closest to where the ball went out of play. In some areas these are also known as long hits.
The short or penalty corner Rules of Hockey 2007. Rule 12.3 A penalty corner is awarded : (a) for an offence by a defender in the circle which does not prevent the probable scoring of a goal (b) for an intentional offence in the circle by a defender against an opponent who does not have possession of the ball or an opportunity to play the ball (c) for an intentional offence by a defender outside the circle but within the 23 metres area they are defending (d) for intentionally playing the ball over the back-line by a defender (e) when the ball becomes lodged in a player’s clothing or equipment while in the circle they are defending.
Short corners begin with five defenders (including the keeper)positioned behind the backline and at least 5m from the 'insert' position of the ball. All other players in the defending team must be beyond the centre line, that is not in their 'own' half of the pitch, until the ball is in play. Attacking players begin the play standing outside the scoring circle, except for one attacker who starts the corner by playing the ball from a mark 10 m either side of the goal (the circle has a 14.63 m radius). This player puts the ball into play by pushing or hitting the ball to the other attackers outside the circle; the ball must pass outside the circle and then put back into the circle before the attackers may make a shot at the goal from which a goal can be scored. FIH rules do not forbid a shot at goal before the ball leaves the circle after being 'inserted', nor is a shot at the goal from outside the circle prohibited, but a goal cannot be scored at all if the ball has not gone out of the circle and cannot be scored from a shot from outside the circle if it is not again played by an attacking player before it enters the goal.
For safety reasons, the first shot of a penalty corner must not exceed 460 mm high (the height of the "backboard" of the goal) at the point it crosses the goal line if it is hit. However, if the ball is deemed to be below backboard height, the ball can be subsequently deflected above this height by another player (defender or attacker), providing that this deflection does not lead to danger. Note that the "Slap Hit" or "Slap" (a hitting motion, where the stick is kept on or close to the ground when hitting the ball) is classed as a hit for short corners, and so the first shot at goal must be below backboard height for this type of shot also.
If the first shot at goal in a short corner situation is a push, flick or scoop, in particular the drag flick (which has become popular at international and national league standards) , the shot is permitted to rise above the height of the backboard, as long as the shot is not deemed dangerous to any opponent. This form of shooting was developed because it is not height restricted in the same way as the first hit shot at the goal and players with good technique are able to drag-flick with as much power as many others can hit a ball.
A penalty stroke (often referred to as a PS, a flick, or just as a stroke) is awarded when defenders commit a deliberate foul in the circle which deprives an attacker of possession or the opportunity to play the ball, when any breach prevents a probable goal, or if defenders repeatedly "break" or start to run from the backline before a penalty corner has started. This penalty pits a single attacker against the goalkeeper, and is taken from a spot 6.4 m out and directly in front of the goal. The goalkeeper must stand with heels on the goal line, and cannot move his feet until the ball is played, whilst the striker must start behind the ball and within playing distance of it (in other words he must be able to touch the ball with his stick). On the umpire's whistle, the striker may push or flick the ball at the goal, which the goalkeeper attempts to save. The attacker is not permitted to take more than one shot, to fake or dummy the shot, or to move towards or interfere with the goalkeeper once the shot is taken. Hitting or dragging the ball is also forbidden. If the shot is saved, play is restarted with a 15 m hit to the defenders; if a goal is scored, play is restarted in the normal way. If the goalkeeper commits a foul which prevents a goal being scored, a penalty goal may be awarded; for other fouls by defenders, the result is normally that the stroke is retaken. If the taker commits a foul, it is treated as if the stroke has been saved, and play recommences with a 15 m hit. If another attacker commits a foul, then if a goal is scored it is voided, and the stroke retaken.
The velocity of the ball is not mentioned in the rules concerning a dangerously played ball. A ball that hits a player above the knee may on some occasions not be penalised, this is in the umpire's discretion. A jab tackle for example, might accidentally lift the ball above knee height into an opponent from close range but at such low velocity as not to be, in the opinion of the umpire, dangerous play. In the same way a high velocity hit at very close range into an oppnent, but below knee height, could be considered to be dangerous or reckless play, especially when safer alternatives are, in the view of the umpire, open to the striker of the ball.
A ball that has been lifted high so that it will fall among close opponents may be deemed to be potentially dangerous and play stopped for that reason. A lifted ball that is falling to a player in clear space may be made potentially dangerous by the actions of an opponent closing to within 5m of the receiver before the ball has been controlled to ground - a rule which is often only loosely applied; the distance allowed is often only what might be described as playing distance, 2m - 3m, and opponents tend to be permitted to close on the ball as soon as the receiver plays it: these unofficial variations are often based on the umpire's perception of the skill of the players i.e. on the level of the game, in order to maintain game flow, which umpires are in general in both Rules and Briefing instructed to do, by not penalising when it is unnecessary to do so, this is also a matter in the umpire's discretion.
The term "falling ball" is important in what may be termed encroaching offences. It is generally only considered an offence to encroach on an opponent receiving a lifted ball that has been lifted to above head height (although the height is not specified in rule) and is falling. So, for example, a lifted shot at the goal which is still rising as it crosses the goal line (or would have been rising as it crossed the goal line) can be legitimately followed up by any of the attacking team looking for a rebound.
In general even potentially dangerous play is not penalised if an opponent is not disadvantage by it or, obviously, not injured by it so that he cannot continue. A personal penalty, that is a caution or a suspension, rather than a team penalty, such as a free ball or a penalty corner, may be (many would say should be or even must be, but again this is in the umpire's discretion) issued to the guilty party after an advantage allowed by the umpire has been played out in any situation where an offence has occurred, including dangerous play (but once advantage has been allowed the umpire cannot then call play back and award a team penalty).
It is not an offence to lift the ball over an opponent's stick (or body on the ground), provided that it is done with consideration for the safety of the opponent and not dangerously. For example, a skillful attacker may lift the ball over a defenders stick or prone body and run past them, however if the attacker lifts the ball into or at the defender's body, this would almost certainly be regarded as dangerous.
It is not against the rules to bounce the ball on the stick and even to run with it while doing so, as long as that does not lead to a potentially dangerous conflict with an opponent who is attempting to make a tackle i.e. two players trying to play at the ball in the air at the same time would probably be considered a dangerous situation and it is likely that the player who first put the ball up or who was so 'carrying' it would be penalised.
Dangerous play rules also apply to the usage of the stick when approaching the ball, making a stroke at it (replacing what was at one time referred to as the "sticks" rule, which once forbade the raising of any part of the stick above the shoulder during any play. This last restriction has been removed but the stick should still not be used in a way that endangers an opponent) or attempting to tackle, (fouls relating to tripping, impeding and obstruction). The use of the stick to strike an opponent will usually be much more severely dealt with by the umpires than offences such as barging, impeding and obstruction with the body, although these are also dealt with firmly, especially when these fouls are intentional: hockey is a non-contact sport.
Players may not play or attempt to play at the ball above their shoulders unless trying to save a shot that could go into the goal, in which case they are permitted to stop the ball or deflect it safely away. A swing, as in a hit, at a high shot at the goal (or even wide of the goal) will probably be considered dangerous play if at opponents within 5m and such a stroke would be contrary to rule in these circumstances anyway.
Hockey uses a three-tier penalty card system of warnings and suspensions:
In addition to their colours, field hockey penalty cards are often shaped differently to enable them to be recognised easily. Green cards are normally triangular, yellow cards rectangular and red cards circular.
Unlike football, a player may receive more than one green or yellow card. However they cannot receive the same card for the same offence (for example two yellows for dangerous play), and the second must always be a more serious card. In the case of a second yellow card for a different breach of the rules (for example a yellow for deliberate foot, and a second later in the game for dangerous play) the temporary suspension would be expected to be of considerably longer duration than the first. However, local playing conditions may mandate that cards are awarded only progressively, and not allow any second awards.
Umpires may also advance a free-hit by up to 10 m for dissent or other misconduct after a penalty has been awarded; or, if the free-hit would have been in the attacking 23 m area, upgrade the penalty to a penalty corner.
The teams' object is to play the ball into their attacking circle and, from there, hit, push or flick the ball into the goal, scoring a goal. The team with more goals after two 35-minute halves wins the game. The playing time may be shortened, particularly when younger players are involved, or for some tournament play.
Conditions for breaking ties are not laid down in the rules of hockey, but many associations will follow the procedure laid down in FIH tournament regulations which mandate 7.5 minutes each way of "golden goal" or "sudden death" extra time (i.e. the game ends as soon as one team scores). If scores are still level, then the game will be decided with penalty strokes, in much the same way that association football penalty shoot outs are conducted.
Other competitions may use alternative means of breaking a tie, for example, an extended period of golden goal extra time with a progressive reduction in the number of players each team can have on the field (usually termed "drop-offs"); if no goal is scored at the end of such extra time periods, again a result would be achieved using penalty strokes.
There are sometimes minor variations in rules from competition to competition; for instance, the duration of matches is often varied for junior competitions or for carnivals. Different national associations also have slightly differing rules on player equipment.
The new Euro Hockey League has made major alterations to the rules to aid television viewers, such as splitting the game into four quarters, and to try to improve player behaviour, such as a two-minute suspension for green cards. In the United States, the NCAA has its own rules for inter-collegiate competitions; high school associations similarly play to different rules, usually using the rules published by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). This article assumes FIH rules unless otherwise stated. USA Field Hockey produces an annual summary of the differences.
In the United States, the games at the junior high level consist of two 25-minute halves, while the high school level consists of two 30 minute halves. Many private American schools play 25-minute halves, and some have adopted FIH rules rather than NFHS rules. Players are required to wear mouth guards and shin guards in order to play the game. Also, there is a newer rule requiring certain types of sticks be used.
Each player carries a "stick", normally a little over 90 cm (3 ft) long and traditionally made of wood but now often made with fibreglass, kevlar and carbon fibre composites, with a rounded handle flattened on the left side and with a hook at the bottom. Metal may not be used in hockey sticks.
There was traditionally a slight curve (called the bow, or rake) from the top to bottom of the face side of the stick and another on the 'heel' edge to the top of the handle (usually made according to the angle at which the handle part was inserted into the splice of the head part of the stick), which assisted in the positioning of the stick head in relation to the ball and made striking the ball easier and more accurate.
The hook at the bottom of the stick was only recently the tight curve that we have nowadays, the older 'English' sticks had a longer bend, making it very hard to use the stick on the reverse. For this reason players now use the tight curved sticks.
It was recently discovered that increasing the depth of the face bow made it easier to get high speeds from the dragflick and made the stroke easier to execute. At first, after this feature was introduced, the Hockey Rules Board placed a limit of 50 mm on the maximum depth of bow over the length of the stick but experience quickly demonstrated this to be excessive. New rules (2006) now limit this curve to under 25 mm so as to limit the power with which the ball can be flicked.
The 2007 rulebook has seen major changes regarding goalkeepers. A fully-equipped goalkeeper must wear a helmet, leg guards and kickers. Usually they wear extensive additional protective equipment including chest guards, padded shorts, heavily padded hand protectors, groin protectors, neck guards, arm guards, and like all players, must carry a stick. However, such a player may not cross the 23 m line (although they may remove their helmet and take a penalty stroke at the other end of the field). However, if the goalkeeper elects to wear only a helmet (and a different coloured shirt), they may cross the 23 m line if they have removed their helmet (and placed it safely off the field of play). If play returns to the circle without them having opportunity to replace the helmet, this player still has "goalkeeping privileges", that is, they are not limited to using their stick to play the ball whilst it is in the circle. The helmet must be worn whilst defending penalty corners and penalty strokes.
It is now also possible for teams to have a full eleven outfield players — and no goalkeeper at all. No player may wear a helmet or other goalkeeping equipment, nor will any player be able to play the ball other than with their stick. This may be used to offer a tactical advantage, or to allow for play to commence if no goalkeeper or kit is available.
The main methods by which the ball is moved around the field by players are: the "dribble", where the player controls the ball with the stick and runs with the ball, pushing the ball along as they run; The "push", where the player uses their wrists to push at the ball; the "flick" or "scoop", similar to the push but with an additional wrist action to force the stick through at an angle and lift the ball off the ground; and the "hit", where a backlift is taken and contact with the ball is made quite forcefully. In order to produce a much stronger hit, usually for travel over long distances, the stick is raised higher and swung at the ball, sometimes known as a "drive". Tackles are made by placing the stick into the path of the ball. To increase the effectiveness of the tackle, players will often place the entire stick close to the ground horizontally, thus representing a wider barrier. To avoid the tackle, the ball carrier will either pass the ball to a teammate using any of the push, flick, or hit, or attempt to maneuver or "drag" the ball around the tackle, trying to deceive the tackler.
When passing and maneuvering between players, certain commands are used to ensure understanding of movements and plays among teammates. Although these vary depending on which country the game is in, there are a few standard calls. By calling "through" or "straight" the ball is passed straight ahead to another player. "Flat" or "square" signifies a pass made to the right or left of the player with the ball at a 90 degree angle. Passes made backward are occasionally signified by a call of "drop". A hit made forward at an angle is recognized as "up" or "through".
In recent years, the penalty corner has gained importance as a vital part of the game as a goal scoring opportunity. Particularly with the advent and popularisation of the drag flick, penalty corners are highly sought after. Some tactics or set plays used involve the aforementioned drag flick, the straight hit, deflections towards goal, and various, more complex plays, using passes before shots at goal.
At the highest level, hockey is a fast-moving, highly skilled sport, with players using fast moves with the stick, quick accurate passing, and hard hits, in attempts to keep possession and move the ball towards the goal. While physically tackling and otherwise obstructing players is not permitted, collisions are common, and the speed at which the ball travels along the ground (and sometimes through the air, which is legal if it is not judged dangerous by the umpire) requires the use of padded shin guards to prevent injury. Some of the tactics used resemble football (soccer), but with greater speed - the best players maneuver and score almost quicker than the eye can see.
One important difference in modern hockey is the absence of an offside rule. This allows attackers (often a lone attacker) to play well up the pitch, stretching the opponents' defence and using the large spaces to be found there. To counter this, defences usually keep a matching number of defenders near those attackers. This can frequently lead to formations such as 1-4-4-1 which is an adaptation of 5-4-1.
The biggest two field hockey tournaments are undoubtedly the Olympic Games tournament, and the Hockey World Cup, which is also held every 4 years. Apart from this, there is the Champions Trophy held each year for the six top-ranked teams. Field hockey has also been played at the Commonwealth Games since 1998. Amongst the men, India has won 8 Olympic golds and Pakistan have lifted the World Cup 4 times. Amongst the women, Australia has 3 Olympic golds while Netherlands has clinched the World Cup 6 times. Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament held annually in Malaysia is becoming a prominent Hockey Tournament where teams from around the world participate to win the cup.
India and Pakistan dominated men's hockey until the early 1980s, winning four of the first five world cups, but have become less prominent with Netherlands, Germany, New Zealand, Australia and Spain gaining importance since the late 1980s. Other notable men's nations include Argentina, England (who combine with other British "Home Nations" to form the Great Britain side at Olympic events) and Korea.
The Netherlands was the predominant women's team before hockey was added to Olympic events. In the early 1990s, Australia emerged as the strongest women's country although retirement of a number of players weakened the team. Other important women's teams are India, China, Korea, Argentina and Germany.