A personal take on an overlooked sport in the world of mainstream athletics
Think of ice hockey, played on synthetic turf and with much less equipment.
For as long as I can remember, field hockey was my spring sport. I recall that the main reason I joined was to wear a skirt. A traditional field hockey uniform includes a jersey, skirt, shin guards, cleats, high socks and a mouth guard. I never enjoyed the feeling of moulding firm plastic against my teeth; I still squirm at the thought of it.
The game is simple, two teams composed of 11 players including the goalie play a game of possession, elimination and tackling for two 35-minute halves. The team that ends up with the most goals when the final whistle blows is the winner. If the game results in a tie it leads to overtime and strokes if needed. Strokes are an adapted form of a shootout.
Field hockey players use sticks made out of wood or fiberglass with a j-shaped hook at the bottom. One surface of the stick is rounded and the other is flat.
When you are first learning, it is a slow sport. The rules are tedious and the pace can be described as stop-and-go. You are not allowed any foot-to-ball contact, no swinging the stick too high in the air and no more than two people touching the ball at once. Also, the ball is extremely hard and can cause bruises, so it’s important to be aware of that as you begin to learn the game.
I am a very clumsy person and would kick the ball without even knowing it. This would cause the opposing team to gain possession. In an effort to remain calm, my coach politely recommended I become our team’s goalie.
I know I said I joined field hockey to wear the skirt but after a few games in net I was hooked. I wore so much padding I looked like the Michelin Man. My gear included a goalie mask, leg guards, kickers, chest guard, padded shorts, hand protectors, neck guard, arm guards and of course a stick. Goalies are the only players on the field that are allowed to legally kick the ball. My coach could now take a sigh of relief.
Over a span of eight years, I played almost every position on the field.
As I look back now, the aspect I enjoyed the most was playing with my team. We motivated each other, and we developed together. In high school our team started as the worst team in the league; it was upsetting because I knew we had promise. Over the course of five years we never gave up, and worked harder each year to develop our skills. Our drive and determination is what led us to the city finals in our final year. We did not win but I could not be more proud of my team.
If you are considering playing field hockey, keep in mind it’s a long process. You have to give yourself time to learn and adjust to the sport. If I quit when I was on the worst team in the league I would have never been able to look back on our accomplishments and be as proud as I am today.
If you are interested in playing, the main club is the Montreal Ambassadors, which has a team for men, women, boys and girls. The sport is played outdoors, and is great for the summer.