The Active Interns: Field Hockey

Field Hockey is one of the most popular sports in Europe and Asia and has now found its way to North America. Field Hockey has been an Olympic Sport for over 100 year and even before that acted as a quarter stone at which many other sports would draw influence from.

In this edition of the Active Interns, I had the opportunity to take part in a practice with the U15 Field Hockey Alberta team before their nationals tournament.

If you aren’t familiar with the sport, check out the video below as it give a good intro to the sport!

Rules and Background of field hockey!

A game of hockey being played between Germany and Scotland at the 1908 London Olympics

A game of hockey being played between Germany and Scotland at the 1908 London Olympics

Field hockey is a team game of the hockey family. Each team plays with eleven players, including the goalie. A match ordinarily consists of two periods of 35 minutes and a halftime interval of 5 minutes. Other periods and interval may be agreed by both teams except as specified in regulations for particular competitions. The goal of each game is to score as many goals as possible in the allocated time. Players cannot use other parts of their body to handle the ball. The game is fast paced and substitutions can be made whenever.

The sport can be traced back to ancient Greece in 500 A.D however different variations of the sport have been found throughout history including the popular Irish sport of Hurling in the middle ages as well as similar sport played in 12th century China called Suigan.

My Experience with Alberta Field Hockey

Matt and Team Alberta before the practice

Matt and Team Alberta before the practice

Matt warming up with the Team Alberta girls

Matt warming up with the Team Alberta girls

Field Hockey has always been a sport I have been fascinated with, however as a Canadian anything that usually has hockey in it or part of it will always catch our interest. However, I remember watching the sport at the Rio 2016 Olympics and being fascinated. To me, I saw a strong mix between soccer, hockey and lacrosse. The sport seemed like the perfect mix for me as I was never the kid to enjoy being crunched into the boards.

Upon arriving at the Hawkins field at U of C, I was met by Thu Blackwell who is the regional director with Field Hockey Alberta. She was incredibly welcoming and even hooked me up with my own practice jersey and mouth guard that she ensured I would definitely need. After teaching me the basic rules of the sport the girls began to show up and we jumped right into warm-ups.

Thu showing teaching Matt about the different ways the field hockey stick can be used.

Thu showing teaching Matt about the different ways the field hockey stick can be used.

Before jumping into my first drill, Thu walked me through some of the various different skills that field hockey players must know how to do. The first was the sweep which involves angling the stick up and completing a sweeping motion across the turf.

The next was the pass and shot technique. I was advised by one of the other coaches the best way to complete this motion was similar to a golf swing. By moving your hands up on the stick this allows players to generate more power. However, similar to a golf swing, if you lift your head up while swinging, the ball may bounce or dribble off your stick. The tip was beneficial as the girls said there may have been a chance that I could have made the roster in the first place. I tried to not let the comment get to my head but before I could realize I took a pass right off my inner shin, Ouch! After the passing drill the girls got into a game play drill. The field was split in half as a group of attackers tried to pass and maneuver their way through a group of defensive players. With nationals only three days away I stepped out of the drill as I did not want to mess up the flow of the drill.

After stepping out it was interesting watching the teams run certain routes similar that you might see in field lacrosse to try and confuse the defensive team. However, what fascinated me was the speed at which the players could snap the ball across the field. During the play this reminded me of a offensive zone possession in ice hockey as well as the ball was cycled between players if a shot or scoring opportunity was present. 

Overall the experience was amazing as the Field Hockey Alberta coaches and players did an awesome job showing me the techniques and getting me involved in the play! The great thing about field hockey is it is one of the fastest growing sports in Alberta so I can’t wait to pick up a stick and throw on some shin guards again. 

Here is an interview I got to conduct with some of the pros before our practice!

About Field Hockey Alberta and how to get involved!

Matt attempting a pass

Matt attempting a pass

Field Hockey Alberta is the Provincial Sports Organization (PSO) responsible for supporting field hockey in the province. FHA has been in operation since 1974. In partnership with the National Sports Organization (NSO), Field Hockey Canada (FHC), Field Hockey Alberta provides opportunities for Albertans to experience the challenges and rewards of the exciting sport of field hockey.

Field Hockey Alberta offers a bunch of great programs for kids to try out the sport as well as for kids who want keep playing the sport over time.

Calgary Junior Programs focuses on introducing field hockey to young athletes (ages 6-18). This program is great for beginners and experienced players alike. CJP offers community based Funstix (ages 6-9), U14 league and U18 league.

Also in Calgary various club programs offer opportunities for both boys and girls to get involved with the sport between 8 to 18.

From July 23-28th the U15 team Alberta girls are competing at Hawkings Field at the University of Calgary part of the Nationals tournament. I would encourage you to go check out the sport and cheer on the team! There is a couple days left in the tournament so make sure you go cheer on the girls! 

Thanks once again to Field Hockey Alberta for having me at the session as I had a great time trying the sport! Stay posted for the next installment of the Active Interns.