Field hockey is a worldwide sport played in over 100 different countries, making it the second-largest team sport of all time. Though its origins are traceable to early civilizations, the more modern version of the game comes from the British Isles in the mid-1800s. Today, the sport is thriving in regional club structures and in competitive leagues and various tournaments by club, province or invitation.
It's popular among children, school students and adults alike. But regardless of whether you're part of a team, a coach or proud parent, there are several fundamental pieces of equipment every field hockey player needs to get started. This field hockey buying guide will take you through what you need and how to make sure you've got the right gear.
What Equipment Do You Need to Play Field Hockey?
Before you can step on the field, you have to have the right gear for practice and play. Purchasing the proper equipment means you'll be able to have fun, stay safe and play well. The list of gear for every player should include the following.
- Stick: The stick may be the most critical piece. You'll have to find one that fits your height, position, level of play and comfort. There are specific methods and recommendations for choosing the right stick for your needs.
- Electrical tape: You can modify your stick to have a little more protection from damage by wrapping the striking end with electrical tape. As a bonus, it also helps beginners with ball control.
- Grip: With regular wear and use, your stick is going to lose its grip. Luckily, it's not difficult to replace, but you will need to purchase new handle grips every now and then.
- Shoes: From grass fields to turf, you're going to need the right kind of shoes. Field hockey cleats are typically the go-to for outdoor grass fields, as they provide the best amount of control. You can also purchase turf shoes designed specifically for artificial fields. Court shoes are great for indoor games, where you'll need an additional amount of grip.
- Mouthguard: In field hockey, even though there is minimal physical contact, there is still a likelihood for accidental collisions and a run-in with a fast-moving field hockey ball. A mouthguard will help prevent injury in the event of contact or an unexpected pop-up.
- Shin guards: Because there are heavy sticks and balls involved in play, field hockey shin guards provide ankle-to-knee coverage. You can't expect the same protection from other varieties of shin guards, so be sure to purchase ones made specifically for the sport.
- Socks and rash guards: Every player wears socks to keep the shin protection together and prevent blistering. Rash guards are optional, but help reduce the possibility of irritation from the shin guards.
- Stick bag: Having a stick bag is optional, but you should have some kind of bag to bring your gear to games and practices.
- Practice ball: Naturally, you'll need a ball to practice skills with on your time. Every determined athlete has a personal ball.
- Practice clothing: All players should have practice clothing they feel comfortable running and maneuvering in. As field hockey is typically a fall sport, you'll need clothing for warm and cool weather.
Regardless of skill level, every player should have these fundamental items that are essential for practice and play. While you can choose most of this gear by sizing or preference, a lot more goes into making sure you have the proper stick.
How to Choose the Right Field Hockey Sticks
One of the most important pieces of gear is the field hockey stick. There is a broad variety of stick designs and shapes that can enhance the way you play. Most of the choice depends on what the player feels most comfortable with and which one is practical without being overkill. But there's also a science to it — with the right stick, a player can live up to their best potential.
When choosing a variety of stick, every player should take several factors into account.
While stick styles and models will help players with their skills on the field, the length is a crucial measurement. It will determine how comfortable the player is and how much control they have over the ball. If they have the wrong length, they'll have a harder time playing.
When it comes to howt to choose the size of a stick, you can use either the Dutch or U.S. method. The Dutch method uses your body as the measurement. You position the head of the stick in your armpit, and if it is the ideal length, the handle will end around the center of your kneecap. It's an easy way to quickly judge the stick length if you're shopping in a store.
The U.S. method uses your height to determine what stick would be the most suitable. Here are the recommended lengths based on height:
- Under 4' 2": 28"
- 4' 2" to 4' 4": 30"
- 4' 5" to 4' 7": 32"
- 4' 8" to 4' 10": 33"
- 4' 10 to 5' 0": 34"
- 5' 1" to 5' 4": 35"
- 5' 5" to 5' 6": 36"
- 5' 7" to 5' 8": 37"
- 5' 9" and up: 38"
You may also want to adjust slightly based on the position you play, as different lengths are advantageous in certain scenarios. In a defensive application, longer sticks provide a better range of reach and more leverage for long drives. Offensively, shorter sticks work well for improving ball control.
However you decide to go about it, the measuring tactics are mostly guidelines, and the best way to judge is by feeling it in your hands. If you've been playing, you'll know what length feels the most comfortable for you in your position.
2. Toe Design
Depending on your position, you'll want to choose a specific toe design. The toe is the curved end of the stick where you strike the ball. There are four basic forms for stick toes.
- Shorties: Offensive players typically choose shorties, the most common style of toe. They are helpful for enhancing balance, control and ball maneuvering.
- Midis: Beginners and midfield players often choose the popular midi style, which features an extra half-inch in length and a larger surface for hitting the ball. They make receiving, flicking and reverse play easier.
- Maxis: Defensive players mostly use sticks with maxi toes, which have a larger surface area to receive the ball and a midi-shaped head for power. They're one of the best suited for grass field play.
- Hooks: With a J-shaped toe and a two-piece head, hooks give players more ball control and make covering ground easier.
If you still aren't quite sure which style to choose, your coach will be able to help, or you can ask for assistance at a sporting goods store. Knowing what position you'll be playing will make the decision easier.
3. Bow Design
The bow of the stick is the curve from handle to toe, and there are three varieties for different strengths.
- Regular: The regular bow extends about 20 to 22 millimeters — the most significant level of curve — centered in the middle of the stick. It makes the stick versatile enough for all field positions while enhancing control and power.
- Control: The control bow measures from 22 to 23 millimeters, with the curve placed closer to the toe. It's ideal for more advanced players who need power when lifting or drag flicking the ball.
- Late bow: The late bow is 24 to 25 millimeters, and the entire curve is next to the toe. For elite players, it will assist with control, lift, drag flicks and aerials.
Again, this is an easier decision to make if you know what position you'll be playing in most frequently. If you consistently switch between two or three positions, it may be worth purchasing two different sticks.
While sticks used to be entirely wood, this is no longer true. Now, there are four primary types of material, of which you can choose different combinations. Each material has a purpose, and the right choice can enhance any player's performance. You'll have the choice between the following.
- Wood: Wood sticks provide an average experience that's great for beginners. The material gives a sufficient amount of control while remaining inexpensive. Most modern wood sticks have an outer fiberglass covering for additional power.
- Carbon: The higher the carbon content of a stick, the harder and more powerful it is. You can purchase sticks made from up to 90% carbon, but even close to 50% is enough for an elite player. Sticks made with carbon are heavier, less forgiving and require advanced or elite skill levels to maneuver properly.
- Fiberglass: Nearly every type of stick will contain some amount of fiberglass. It adds durability and power without increasing the weight or price range much, and is a great close alternative to carbon for beginners.
- Aramid: This material acts as a shock absorber. It lessens the vibrations whenever a player hits or fields a ball, which is a great feature for every kind of player.
Depending on which materials you choose and the percentages, some sticks are heavier or lighter than others. Lightweight sticks are designed for forwards, who need to move quickly and exhibit the best ball control. Midfielders do well with a mid-weight stick, as they shift from offense to defense mode throughout games. The heaviest varieties are for the defensemen, who need power and distance to clear the ball.
5. Level of Play
There are four different stick models for each level of expertise.
- Beginner: Beginner is the best choice for players who are 10 years old or younger, have under a year of experience and who are learning control.
- Intermediate: Intermediate models are for 10- to 13-year-olds, with one or two years of experience. These sticks still focus on enhancing control, but add more power as well.
- Expert: Expert provides a balance of control and power for players with two or more years of experience who are over 13.
- Elite: Elite models are for players who've had more than three years of play, are over 15 years old and have highly developed skills. The top level provides precision and power, and typically contains a higher percentage of carbon than other sticks.
Naturally, as you get into better sticks and those made for professional players, the prices will increase. But unless you're serious about the sport and plan to play at a collegiate level or further, you won't need to worry about spending top dollar on a stick. Success on the field is more about the skill level of the player.
How Often Should You Buy New Field Hockey Gear?
If you play long enough, purchasing replacements for field hockey gear is natural. You'll need to replace different pieces of equipment more frequently than others. While some levels of wear objectively mean it's time for a replacement, most of the timing comes down to comfort level.
Just like any other sport, shinguards and shoes will lose their luster over time. It's essential to be comfortable during the game, and that can be difficult with old cleats and guards. If either feels uncomfortable or the arches of your shoes feel flat, you may need to replace them. It's reasonable to buy a new pair of cleats or shoes every two seasons or so, while guards may last you longer if you keep them clean.
Some of the items you'll have to buy the most frequently are the smaller pieces, such as socks, grip, electrical tape and mouthguards. Socks will lose their elastic the more you play and wash them, and since they help keep the shinguard in place, they must stay tight. Grip and electrical tape see a lot of wear in gameplay and are easy enough to replace. Newer mouthguards are more sanitary and you can re-shape them to your teeth.
Your stick should be the last thing you replace. It can last a long while if you buy a quality brand, and although it may take on surface damage fairly quickly, you can easily make small repairs to the head. If you get new sticks too often, it can interrupt how you play. It's best to get used to a stick and use it for as long as possible. However, you can also keep multiple models for different positions to mitigate the damages.
Other Field Hockey Accessories You May Need
While the above list covers everything a regular field hockey player needs, there are several other pieces of equipment for the goalie. Most of them have to do with protection, which is necessary when you're in net. If you or your child will be playing goal, you'll also need the following.
- Helmet: When you're in goal, there will be heavy balls flying at you, so it's crucial to protect your face and head. The two most important factors in choosing a helmet are visibility and a comfortable fit.
- Throat protector: The International Hockey Federation requires that all goalies wear throat protectors, regardless of age or competitive level. It serves as protection against high shots.
- Chest pad: A goalie's chest pad covers their full torso for protection against shots and collision.
- Arm and elbow protection: Goalies also need to keep their arms defended from injury. You may not get hit there often, but you'll be happy to have the guards if and when you do.
- Right- and left-hand protection: Depending on which hand is your dominant one and how you hold a stick, there are two different guards. One is harder and rounded to fit with your grasp on the stick, the other is flat for stopping shots.
- Goalie girdles: Girdles provide upper leg protection, covering the thigh, hip and groin areas.
- Pelvic protector: For added protection in a sensitive area, every goalie should have a pelvic protector.
- Leg guards: Goalie pants and girdles keep your upper legs safe, but you also need padding on your lower legs. Guards cover from the top of your knees to the top of your feet, making sure your joints and shins are safe from shots on net. Leg guards typically come with kickers for shin protection, but if not, you may need to purchase them separately.
While none of these additional pieces of equipment apply to field players, they are all essentials for the goalie. Some of the protective gear is compulsory, meaning you have to wear it based on international or team rules. It's all meant to keep the player in net safe, as they are constantly in the line of fire.
What Gear Do Organizations Typically Provide?
Most players have to purchase equipment for practice and gameplay. Every person has different needs and opinion on what they find comfortable, so it's difficult to provide much as an organization. However, there are some key items coaches and clubs should have on hand.
- Nets: Whether they're fixed on a field or simple pop-up nets, teams need accurately sized goals to practice with.
- Cones: Setting up cones can be a great way to run skill tests and drills in any location. You can box off areas of the field for one-on-one practice, create obstacles for tight dribbling and help the team refine their skills.
- Balls: Coaches should always show up to the field with a stock of field hockey balls — enough for dribbling, shooting and passing practice.
- Uniforms: Naturally, players should have team uniforms. Depending on the level you play at, some organizations can only offer a jersey, while others provide socks and shorts as well, sometimes even jackets for cold weather.
- Training Equipment: While some organizations may face budgetary restrictions, they should have a sufficient amount of equipment for practice and building independent skills. For example, speed ladders are great for training leg muscles and side-to-side motion.
- Extra gear: If a player forgets to bring small items like electrical tape or grip, it's always helpful to have some on hand.
What an organization can provide for players depends on competition level and funding. On a case-by-case basis, some will be able to offer more or less. Regardless, every group should provide enough equipment for productive practices and comfortable gameplay. Players, parents and organizations alike all need to find trustworthy field hockey stores they can rely on for quality equipment and assistance.
Why You Should Purchase Gear from Schuylkill Valley Sports
With a list of equipment and an understanding of what you or your player needs for the season, it's easy to be prepared for that first practice. Make sure you're purchasing reliable gear with Schuylkill Valley Sports.
Our knowledgeable and friendly representatives will be able to help you find everything you need, in-store or online. Whether you want help sizing a stick or advice on what kind of shoes to wear, we can provide professional insight to ensure you can practice and play in comfort. We have everything from field hockey equipment packages to practice gear for coaches to individual balls and mouthguards.
Start your season on the right foot — browse our online selection of field hockey gear or use our store locator to find a Schuylkill Valley Sports near you.