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What is Field Hockey?

L. S. Wynn
By L. S. Wynn
Updated May 23, 2024
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Field hockey is a popular sport played by both men and women all over the world. The sport began in England towards the end of the 19th century. It is most similar to soccer (football), but there are some key differences.

The field measures 100 x 60 yards (approx. 91 x 55m) with goals at either end. The size of the goals is 7 x 12 feet (2.1 by 3.7m) compared to a soccer goal of 8 x 24 feet (2.44 x 7.32m). There are 11 players on each team. Along with light protective gear, such as shin guards, the only special equipment is the stick (which resembles a hockey stick) that is carried by each player.

The ball is usually made of hard plastic and measures about 3 inches (7cm) in diameter. Players may only touch or strike the ball with the flat part of the stick and are not allowed to strike the ball with any part of their bodies.

One of the 11 players on each team is designated as the goalkeeper who wears heavily protective gear including helmets, padded gloves and body armor. Unlike the other players, the goalkeeper is allowed to touch the ball with any part of the body.

The teams attempt to advance the ball to their opponent's side and score goals. The team with the most points after two 35 minute halves is the winner. Play resembles soccer, but it is often much faster. Tackling is not allowed but unintentional collisions are common. At the highest levels, including the Olympic games, field hockey involves complex tactics, agile maneuvers and very fast play.

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