The Game

A Parent’s Guide to Field Hockey

Finding the perfect sport to enroll your child in is a tough family decision — you want to make sure it right — and it needs to “work” for both of you. A Major concern is safety in this chose, however field hockey is then the sport to choose. As a non-contact sport, players can focus on building their skills without having to worry about being checked into a wall or hit by another player. Similarly, if you want a social sport where your child can make friends, field hockey’s team environment is ideal for creating long-lasting friendships. No matter what your concerns are, this sport has an avenue for both you and your child.

Safety & Equipment 
The first thing you’ll want to purchase for your child is a mouth guard. This will protect her from any accidental mouth injuries (and they are also required). Other than the mouth guard, the only other protective gear worn is shin guards and turf shoes or runners.  Most programs provide sticks in Alberta, however you’ll also want to invest in a field hockey stick, whether your child is a goalie or plays on the field.  Unfortunately most in Alberta is purchased from the internet or from local and national tournaments.

Similarities to Other Sports
A way to gain a quick understanding of field hockey is to compare it to other popular, more mainstream sports. Two sports similar are soccer and ice hockey.

Soccer uses similar positions and has the same number of players on the field (11). The object of the game is to score more goals than the other team, and the games are usually low-scoring, unlike lacrosse or basketball. The same mechanics of passing and shooting used in soccer also apply to field hockey. The main differences between the two sports are that field hockey is played with a stick and the use of the feet is not allowed!

Field hockey is also often compared to ice hockey. The two sports are similar, but possess some important differences. Both are played with a stick and an object (ball or puck). They also use similar passing and shooting techniques. Likewise, the power play in ice hockey is similar to the penalty corner (short corner) in field hockey, as both give the offensive team the advantage of having extra players. The difference, though, is quite large. Ice hockey is a contact sport played on ice, and with fewer players (six). Field hockey, on the other hand, is a non-contact sport, played on the field with five more players.

Learn the rules & language of Field hockey can be quite confusing, especially with the game constantly being stopped for fouls being called and whistles being blown — which happens a lot in youth hockey. Needless to say, understanding the rules and common language will make watching the sport much more enjoyable. 

Here are some rules to know so you have a general understanding of the game:

  • One Side of the Stick: The stick as a rounded curved side and a flat side. You can only use the flat side of the stick.
  • Penalty cornersWhen the team’s offense lines up around the shooting circle and the defensive line runs back to the center line, it’s called a “short corner.” This is basically a power play for the offensive team. Once the ball is put into play, the defensive team’s players can run back to help their teammates. 
  • Free hitsThe game will be stopped a lot in field hockey, especially at the youth level, for various fouls committed on the field. The main foul that will be called is the foot foul (when the ball hits a player’s foot). In this case, a free hit is awarded to the other team, taken from where the foul occurred.
  • ScoringThe ball has to be touched within the shooting circle to count as a goal. Parents are often surprised when the goalie steps out of the way and lets the ball hit the backboard. Again the goalie does this because the ball has to be touched within the shooting circle for it to count as a goal.
  • Goalies: They are the only players fully protected with gear, and the only player on the field that can use their feet to kick or clear the ball away.
  • Obstruction: The ball cannot be shielded or protect by using your body or the stick.  You must be moving, pass or dribble around your opponent.
  • No OFF-Side: Unlike other sports like Soccer and Ice Hockey, there is no OFF-side rule in Field Hockey
  • Raising of the ball: The ball cannot be raised, however you may lift it over a stick or raise it on net but may be whistled down if dangerous. 

If you want to learn more about the terms or rules used in field hockey, check out Rules & Regulations and information on the field hockey Canada website.

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