Field hockey is primarily a girls’ and women’s game in the United States, although it’s played by men and women worldwide. Indeed, field hockey is both a men’s and women’s Olympic sport. The game’s rules, as set down by the International Hockey Federation are fairly standard. The rules establish the type of protective equipment players may wear, as well as the specifications for the ball and the players’ sticks.
Field hockey uses a hard plastic ball that’s slightly larger than a baseball used in Major League Baseball. The field hockey ball is 8 13/16 to 9 1/4 inches in circumference and weighs between 5 1/2 and 5 3/4 ounces, although younger players may use a lighter ball. The ball may contain dimples or it may feature a smooth surface. Field hockey balls are typically white, but they may be a different color as long as the ball is easily visible against the playing surface.
Field Players’ Protective Gear
Under FIH rules, shin, ankle and mouth protectors are “recommended” for field players. The plastic mouth guard protects players’ teeth, while the ankle and shin guards protect players’ legs from swinging sticks and from the ball, which is shot at speeds of up to 100 mph at higher levels of play. Shin and ankle guards are made from foam and plastic. Players may wear gloves, if they’re not thickly padded. Headgear and eyewear is illegal under FIH rules, unless a player requires protection because of a specific medical condition. In the United States, however, all high school players have been required to wear eye protection since 2011. The question of eyewear is controversial as supporters say it protects the eyes, while opponents argue that eyewear leads to more injuries, in part because it decreases players’ peripheral vision.
Goalies’ Protective Gear
Goalkeepers must wear head protection, large shin pads and “kickers,” which protect the goalie’s feet. The shin guards may be up to 11 3/4 inches wide. The FIH recommends that headgear includes a helmet plus face and throat protection. Goalies may wear gloves measuring up to 9 inches wide by 14 inches long when laid flat with the palm up. Goalkeepers may also wear padding to cover their upper body, arms, thighs and knees.
Field hockey sticks can be made from a variety of materials, but not from metal. They contain a long handle with a small curved head — shaped similar to a J or a U — and a smooth surface. The head is flat on the left side and rounded on the right for all players, regardless of whether they’re right-handed or left-handed. Players must use the head’s flat side, or an edge, to handle the ball. The sticks weigh from 12 to 28 ounces. There’s no limit on their length but sticks are typically 28 to 38 inches long. Legal sticks must be able to pass through a 2-inch-diameter ring from the head to the top of the handle.