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Field Hockey Basics

field hockey player1- History & Object of the Game
2- The Essentials (Offense & Defense, Scoring, etc.)
3- Fouls
4- Field Diagram & Positions
5- Glossary of Field Hockey Terms

The Essentials

Game length:

Field hockey games are divided into two halves, each lasting between 25 and 35 minutes, depending on the level (high school varsity is 30 minutes). If the score is tied at the end of the game, some leagues allow the game to end in a draw; other leagues use one of several overtime methods. Most commonly, teams play a 10-minute sudden-death overtime period: the players are reduced from 11 to 7 players per team to create scoring opportunities, and the first team to score, wins. If neither team scores during overtime, penalty strokes determine a winner. Each team selects five players to each take one penalty stroke; the team that scores more goals, wins.

Start of the game:

Alternating at the start of each half and following each goal, one team starts play with a center pass. The two teams line up on their respective sides of the field, with the ball in one player’s possession at the center of the field. Defenders must be five yards away from the ball; when the whistle blows, the player hits the ball to start play.

Offense & Defense:


11 players on each team attempt to move the ball toward their opponent’s goal to score. Players hit the ball up the field and to teammates by dribbling, pushing, flicking, scooping, hitting, and driving the ball. Goals can only be scored when an offensive player hits the ball from within the striking circle, 16 yards from the goal. Many goals are scored during “fast breaks,” when the attacking team can gain an advantage over the opponent in number of players as both teams approach the goal. Other scoring opportunities occur when players cross the ball, or hit it towards the center of the field in front of the goal, in hopes that a teammate can deflect the ball or shoot it into the goal. A player may also take an outside shot from within the striking circle if an opponent is not guarding her closely.


Defensive players mark opponents and attempt to tackle the ball as the offense moves up the field. Since players may not touch the ball with their bodies, defenders often lower their sticks parallel to the ground to widen the area in which to stop the ball during a pass. If the defense takes possession of the ball in front of its own goal, it will attempt to clear the ball, or move it up-field away from the goal. Defenders may not contact the offense; however, all players have an equal opportunity to pursue the ball, so an offensive player cannot turn her body or use her stick to block an opponent from the ball or she will be called for obstruction.


A shot that is taken from within the striking circle and passes through the goal is worth one point.
Shots that are taken from outside the striking circle, but deflect off of an offensive player within the circle, also score a goal.


The primary equipment in field hockey is a stick and a ball. The stick has a flat side and a rounded side. Players may only hit the ball with the flat side, or the “striking surface,” of the stick. Players also wear protective equipment, including mouth guards, shin guards, and optional face protection. Uniforms consist of a jersey, a skirt or shorts, and knee-length socks. The home team usually wears a light jersey and the away team wears a dark jersey. Goalies wear a different color jersey than their teammates, as well as additional protective equipment, including goalie pads, chest protector, facemask, throat protector, and other optional padding.

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