Backyard Field Hockey 101 – The Basics And The Benefits

Looking for a fun way to spend some time outdoors without having to go far from home? Backyard Field Hockey is a great way to get moderate exercise, spend time bonding with friends and family, and have a fun in a playfully competitive environment. Casual Backyard Field Hockey is easy to play and doesn’t require large amounts of heavy-duty equipment. Engaging in this sport with loved ones can bring you closer as a group, improve your cooperative communication skills, and keep everyone active and healthy!


Field Hockey is an extremely old sport that dates back centuries. Various predecessors of modern-day hockey have been discovered in Ancient Arabian, Greek, Persian, Aztec, and Roman civilizations. The term “hockey” is most likely derived from the French word for a shepherd’s stave used in the Middle Ages; “hoquet“. It wasn’t until the late 1800s that modern-day Ice Hockey emerged as a variant of the original sport in Canada.

Field Hockey started to gain popularity in the mid 1800s when it first appeared as a common game in English schoolyards. During the mid-1870s, players in England began to draw up official rules associated with the game, and the Hockey Association in London was founded in 1886. Field Hockey would then go on to continually gain popularity throughout the British Empire which, at the time, included much of Canada, Africa, South Asia, and Australia. Field Hockey first appeared as an official sport in the Olympic Games in 1908 at London, and has continually gained popularity since.

The Basics


In order to play field hockey, there are a few key pieces of equipment that you will need:

Field Hockey Sticks:In order to start playing any type of Field Hockey, the first thing that you will need is the proper Field Hockey sticks. Field Hockey sticks are not the same as Ice Hockey sticks; while an Ice Hockey stick ends in a flat L-shape, Field Hockey sticks end in a sharp hook shape that curves upwards, much like a shepherd’s stave. Each type of stick is specifically created to perform best in their intended environments, and therefore it is not recommended to use them outside of their respective sports. Using an Ice Hockey stick in Field Hockey could potential result in injury or damage to the stick itself.

Most Field Hockey sticks are lighter than their Ice Hockey counterparts and usually range anywhere from 89-105 cm. Finding the “correct” field hockey stick length can be slightly tricky; some players prefer a slightly longer stick, while others may prefer it slightly shorter.

The easies way to select a size is to go off of the height of your hip. You don’t want to have to bend too far to grip the stick, but you also shouldn’t be handling it while standing perfectly upright. To gauge approximately what size stick you will need before ordering online, consider taking something like a long piece of wood to try different lengths. Hold the stick at certain points, give a few practice swings, and try some basic dribbling; see what height works best for you. When properly handling a Field Hockey stick, your non-dominate hand should be right before the top of the stick, with your opposite hand a little less than halfway down the stick’s entire length. Most Field Hockey sticks are right- handed, but can also be used by left-handed players.

A Ball:Unlike Ice Hockey, Field Hockey uses hard balls made of solid plastic. Weighing between 5.5 and 5.7 oz. and measuring anywhere between 71.3 and 74.8 mm., these compact balls are going to hurt if they hit you. If you’re worried about possible injuries, there are other options available for purchase made of foam or rubber.

A Goal/Net: In order to keep track of score and determine when a goal is scored, you’re going to need some kind of net. Regulation Field Hockey Nets are 3.66 m. wide x 2.14 m. tall, and are at least 0.9 m. deep. If you don’t use a full net, some type of post or marker will be needed to map out the farthest reaches of each team’s goal. However, as there is no real way to measure height without a crossbar, if you plan on enjoying Field Hockey as a regular activity, it would be wise to invest in a complete net.

Shoes/Cleats:While it is technically okay to wear regular sneakers when playing Field Hockey, cleats will improve your performance and keep your feet comfortable throughout the entire game. The series of dull spikes that can be found on the bottom of a pair of cleats improve grip and reduce the possibility of slipping, which can potentially result in serious injury. Many cleats can also offer moderate ankle support, greatly reducing the chances of rolling or otherwise injuring your ankles during gameplay.

Protective Gear: In order to keep all players safe during gameplay, it would also be wise to invest in proper protective equipment. Gloves, shin guards, goggles, and mouth guards can all help prevent serious injury on the field. Goalies should also additionally sport a caged helmet, chest pads, and leg pads, as balls may regularly strike their faces and bodies. For male players, a protective cup is also recommended.

The Field

Field Hockey can be played anywhere that has enough space, hence why it is such a popular backyard sport! A standard Field Hockey field is 100- 150 yd, long x 60 yd. wide, and is shaped like a massive rectangle. The long edges of the field are known as the sidelines, the shorter edges are known as the back lines, and the space in between the goal posts are known as the goal lines. There is a large semioval that surrounds each goal known as a penalty circle. In order to score a goal, an offensive player must kick the ball from within this penalty circle. Furthermore, goalies can only handle balls if they are in the penalty circle. Penalty circles are not perfectly semicircle in shape, an are slightly more long than they are deep. Generally, they are approximately 15 m. deep x 25-30 m. wide.

The field is split halfway down by the appropriately named half-way line, and this line serves to mark the boundary between each team’s defensive and offensive sides. Each half is then split in half again by a 25 yard line. Defensive players who are not involved at the penalty corner are supposed to stay behind this line, and this line can also be used to resume play if the ball goes over the back line. However, for basic backyard Field Hockey, it is unnecessary to worry too much about incorporating penalty corners.

In playing basic Backyard Field Hockey, you obviously don’t have to follow regulation measurements; work with the space that you have! Just make sure that you have clearly marked goals and field boundaries, as well as some form of a penalty circle/area, as this marks where offensive players can score points from.

The Players

People of any age can play Field Hockey! Field Hockey leagues begin accepting players as young as 6 years old, and professional leagues include adult players in all age ranges. Basic Field Hockey requires 22 players, 11 for each team. However, if you have less people, the number of positions can easily be reduced to better fit the size of your group. The most important rules for varying positions is to keep the same number of players on each team and to always have a goalie for each team. If you don’t have enough players to differentiate between offensive and defensive players, that’s okay; in doing away with this differentiation, you can also disregard any rules pertaining to offsides.

Goalie/Goalkeeper: The Goalkeeper is supposed to, you guessed it, guard the goal. Their primary role is to make sure that offensive players don’t send the ball into the goal, therefore scoring a point. Goalkeepers can use a stick if they so choose, but most stick to their hands and body to block shots. However, unlike in other sports that have utilize Goalkeepers, they are not allowed to use their hands to catch or throw the ball.

Goalkeepers in Field Hockey can leave the penalty circle, but if they do, they must remove their helmet and switch to using a regular stick instead of arms and legs.

Left and Right Back/Defender: There are two defenders on each team that aren’t supposed to leave their own team’s half of the field, and left vs. right are determined as if you were facing away from your own goal, towards the other team’s half of the field. Each defender is responsible for a designate half of the field closest to the penalty circle. These players are expected stay on their team’s side, even if the ball is in play on the opposite team’s half of the field. However, they are no hard rules against offsides in Field Hockey.

Left, Right, and Center Half/Midfielder: These three positions move freely about the field, and are expected to follow the ball wherever it goes. Because these players are constantly running back and forth from one side of the field to the other, players that cover these positions must have excellent stamina. However, Left and Right Half tend to take a much more defensive position, resulting in 4 primarily defensive players being on a team’s side of the field at any given time.

Inner Left and Right: Much like Midfielders, players in this position may follow the ball across the entire field. However, they are generally expected to maintain a primarily offensive position and stay on the opposing team’s side of the field.

Right, Left, and Center Forward:These positions are expected to stay with the ball when it is in offensive play on the opposing team’s half of the field. These players must be able to play aggressively and fight viciously for control of the ball, as well as make accurate shots from a considerable distance.

The Rules

Each round of Field Hockey lasts until one team scores a goal. A round is started with pass-back where the Center Forward passes the ball back to the Center Half from the field’s half-way line. Before starting the game, the team that gets first possession can be determined by a flip of a coin.

The opposite team can not begin movement on the field until the ball has been passed back, upon which the match officially starts.

In the case of play stopping due to a foul, an injury, a time-out, or an equipment/clothing malfunction, play is restarted by a face-off. During a face-off, one player from each team faces each other at the field’s half-way line. The ball is placed on the ground between them, and the player tap their sticks together three times before attempting to gain possession of the ball at the same time. Most of the time, players will attempt to sweep the ball back, sending into the possession of one of their teammates.

There are a variety of rules that will result in a foul against the offending player and their team. Most of these rules are designed to maintain fair play and prevent serious injury. Rules can be modified and dropped in casual backyard Field Hockey, but it is very important to always keep safety in mind,

  • 1 – Players can only hit the ball with the flat side of the stick
  • 2 – No hands, and no players other than the Goalie can kick the ball
  • 3 – A goal only counts if it is kicked from within the penalty circle
  • 4 – No aggressive body contact. This includes tripping, kicking, punching, pushing, headbutting, or physically handling another player in any similar way. This includes hitting each other with hockey sticks
  • 5 – Sticks cannot be raised above the waist
  • 6 – The ball cannot be purposely hit so as to fly high up off of the ground, potentially hitting another player in the face, unless a player is shooting to score a goal

In the case of a rule-break, there are multiple ways that a player can be penalized:

1 – Free Hits. These are rewarded to a team when the opposing team perform a violation outside of the penalty circle. They take place at the same place where the violation occurred, and the player that the violation was aimed against gets to freely kick the ball in any direction with all opposing players at least 5 yards away.

2 – Penalty Corners. These are rewarded to a team when a defensive player on the opposing team breaks a rule inside of the penalty circle, or purposely kicks the ball out of bounds. One player takes the ball to a point 10 yards away from the corner on the backline. All offensive players on their team may position themselves outside of the penalty circle, and 5 defensive players and the Goalkeeper of the opposing team must stand behind the backline until the ball is hit. The player hits the ball into the penalty circle, after which all players rush the circle in an attempt to gain possession.

3 – Penalty Stroke. These are awarded to a team when a defensive player on the opposing team breaks a rule in order to prevent an almost certain goal. One player stands 7 m. away from the goal and gets a free-shot at the goal with only the Goalkeeper allowed to defend.

If a player commits a serious offence, they may also be forced to take some time off of the field, as determined by the referee. In extreme cases, a player may be asked to stop playing altogether. In the case that you do not have an unbiased person to act as a referee, it is key to lay out strict rules before the game starts so as to prevent arguments breaking out in the middle of gameplay.

How to Win

There are two major ways to win a game of Field Hockey; either by having the most points at the end of a predetermined length of time, or by reaching a certain number of minimum points before the opposing team. In regulation Field Hockey, each game lasts 35 minutes, with a 5 minute halftime after 15 minutes. Each goal is worth 1 point.

If you are playing to a minimum number of points, such as “first to reach 10 wins”, it is important to clearly agree on a number before the match starts. This will help to prevent to arguments, and ensure that each participating person will play fairly.

The Benefits

Backyard Field Hockey, other than being a fun activity to play with family and friends, has a variety of physical, emotional, and social benefits for those who play!


1 – Field Hockey is a great way to get a cardio workout! With all of the running you’ll be doing on the field, juxtaposed against intermittent breaks, the stop-and-go nature of this sport is a particularly great exercise for the heart and lungs!

2 – Field Hockey can also increase your coordination and balance. In order to keep possession of the ball, make and and receive successful passes, and make shots at the opposing team’s goal, a player must have an excellent ability to make precise movements while moving quickly. Players must also be able to make rapid foot movements on the go without falling over; a skill that can improve your balance even outside of the game!

3 – Just like with any other sport that keeps you up and moving around, regularly playing Field Hockey can help promote weight loss. When paired with a proper diet, a person who regularly engages in vigorous physical activity will rapidly start to see changes in their physique.

4 – Unfortunately, there are going to be some minor bumps and bruises that will inevitably result from playing Field Hockey. No matter how safely you play, and no matter what equipment you use, this is going to happen from time to time. However, this may not necessarily be a bad thing! So long as injuries remain fairly minor and are promptly treated with proper care, playing in a rowdy sport such as Field Hockey can help build one’s resilience and fortitude. Some major athletes even report that getting injured may be one of the reasons that they were able to achieve great success later on in their careers. While precautions should always be taken to keep players on the field safe, there is no reason to get worried over a few minor cuts and bruises.

Emotional and Mental

1 – By being a part of a team, growing as a player, and improving one’s physical health, Field Hockey can greatly improve a person’s self-confidence.

When you have something to be proud of, it’s natural to walk with your head held high.

2 – Field Hockey can be a demanding sport; the fast-paced and oftentimes stressful environment is taxing on the mind. However, this exercise in keeping up with rapidly changing circumstances and adapting accordingly can be extremely beneficial to one’s mental strength. Even if the face of unfavorable circumstances, a Field Hockey player must be able to rapidly adapt so as to turn the tide back in their favor. In order to to this, a player must be able to hold on to hope and positivity even in the face of a seemingly impossible task.

3 – In order to get out of a tight spot, a Field Hockey player must be able to engage in creative problem solving, both individually and as a team.


1 – Field Hockey is, first and foremost, a team sport! In order for any team to succeed, the players must be able to properly communicate with each other both on and off of the field. Without effective communication skills, a team will not be able to adapt to situations quickly enough to succeed in-game. These skills are easily translated into the real world, where players will have a much easier time finding effective ways to communicate with team members in other situations.

2 – Not only must Field Hockey players be able to communicate, but they must also be able to work together as a team. Playing Field Hockey can help develop basic team work skills so that a player will be able to work as a part of a group even off of the field.

3 – While Field Hockey is primarily a team sport, players can also learn vital skills that can be translated into leadership off of the field. In a stressful situation, players have to be able to take charge and make quick decisions, oftentimes without the direct council from a coach or other team members. In a leadership situation, this results in Field Hockey players being far more capable of taking the reigns in a situation and setting out a plan of action, instead of waiting for outside instruction.

Field Hockey is a fantastic sport that any small group with a backyard and some basic equipment can get involved with. It’s fairly simple to play, has a wide range of health benefits, and is a fun activity for people of all ages!

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