History of field hockey

There is evidence that men played a crude version of field hockey in Egypt as far back as 2000 B.C. and in Ethiopia around 1000 B.C., making field hockey the oldest stick and ball game. Over the centuries, various forms of it were played by Greeks and Romans and the Aztec Indians in South America well before Columbus had set foot in the New World. The modern game, however, didn’t really develop until the mid-1800s in England. The first men’s hockey club, Blackheath, was formed in 1849. The addition of other clubs eventually led to the establishment of the Hockey Association in London in 1886. The sport gained international appeal once the Association standardized the game – using rules from London’s Wimbledon Hockey Club – and the British army introduced the game to India and the British colonies. American men began playing the game around 1890 and the first international competition was held in 1895. Hockey made its Olympic debut at the 1908 London Olympics with a men’s tournament. The sport was subsequently dropped from the 1912 Stockholm Games, reappeared in 1920 in Antwerp, and was omitted again in Paris in 1924 because the sport had no international federation. The sport returned to the Olympic program in 1928 and has been a part of every Olympics since, while a women’s tournament was added at the 1980 Moscow Games.

Medal history

The Netherlands has won the most field hockey medals in Olympic history, and recently claimed gold in the women’s tournament and silver in the men’s tournament in 2012. Australia, which has earned at least one field hockey medal in seven consecutive Olympics, has the second most medals in Olympic history. India won six consecutive gold medals from 1928-56 and took a medal at every Games from 1928-72, but its last medal was in 1980. The United States has won two field hockey medals in Olympic history. The U.S. men won bronze at the 1932 Los Angeles Games where only three teams competed. Fifty-two years later, the U.S. women also won bronze in Los Angeles — on a penalty-stroke shoot-off with Australia because they had equal records.

Stick and ball

Players pass, dribble and hit the ball with the flat face of a J-shaped stick to move the ball up and down a 100-yard field. To dribble, the player keeps the stick close to the ball and moves the ball forward. The rounded back of the stick must not be used but in 1999, the International Hockey Federation made it legal to strike the ball with the edges of the stick. The ball can be raised using a scooping movement of the stick but it may not be hit into the air unless it is a shot at goal. When hitting a ball into the air, it must not endanger a player either on its way up or on its way to the ground. If it does, the umpires will penalize the action. Also, players are not allowed to use any part of the hand or body to propel the ball. Only the goalkeepers inside the shooting circle may kick the ball or stop it with his body or protective equipment.