Olympics 2012: how to get involved in hockey


You remember hockey. It was the one lesson at school where everyone was actually encouraged to carry a lethal weapon. You can still feel those blows on your knuckles whenever the weather turns cold. And sometimes, late at night, you remember the time you were forced to go in goal.

You'll be pleased to learn, therefore, that hockey is a game also played by sane adults in a properly regulated environment. It's a sport that, despite Britain standing fourth in both men and women's world rankings, doesn't enjoy a massive following over here – possibly because it's quite difficult to see the ball on TV. It's easier to see when you're playing, promise. Now hold this stick. You can go in goal first.

The basics

Hockey is contested by two teams of 11 – organised into defence, midfield and attack – on a pitch of grass or astroturf at either end of which stands a seven-foot-high goal. You run, you dribble, you hit, you try and score. Other than that it's mainly a list of don'ts: no kicking the ball, obstructing players or swinging the stick too high. If you're tackled, you cannot immediately resume dribbling. Also, you must hit wherever possible with the flat edge, which is on the front of the stick when swinging from right to left (though the stick can be reversed for a shot on the opposite side). Bad news for southpaws: left-handed sticks are not permitted in regulation play. This is a sport popularised by the Victorians, after all, and they thought left-handers were evil. Which they aren't. Are they?

Health benefits

Aside from helping you develop really hard knuckles, hockey works the CV system, builds upper- and lower- body strength and improves coordination and teamworking abilities. Strengthening your core muscles can help prevent the back pain that might arise from the bent-over position of play.

Equipment, costs and practicalities

A decent stick can be yours for about £50, though prices go much higher, while bespoke hockey shoes (very like astroturf boots) come in at a little less. Most hockey clubs accept beginners, who will be assigned an appropriate team and/or training session after a trial. Or to get started, you could try rush hockey, a five-a-side format played on smaller pitches, which works on a "pay and play" basis if you can't muster up a team.

Trendiness rating: 5/10

Hockey still carries the whiff of public school repression and/or comprehensive school depression. Though don't tell the man with the stick I said that.

Inside line

Lawrence West, England Hockey: "A fun and sociable team sport, hockey is a great all-round workout, boosting cardiovascular fitness and toning major muscle groups such as your core and legs. Until 2 September, GB Hockey is running its Hockey Nation: Give It a Go programme offering the public 20,000 opportunities to pick up and stick and try the sport at 500 sites around the country. You can find your nearest session in two minutes at hockeynation.info. Whether you're new to hockey, returning to it or just fancy playing a bit more often there's a session that's right for you, with opportunities for for kids and adults alike."

Find out more

englandhockey.co.uk – national governing body for hockey in England.

scottish-hockey.org.uk – national governing body for hockey in Scotland.

hockeywales.org.uk – Hockey Wales.

ulsterhockey.com – Hockey in Northern Ireland.

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Over to you

Do you play hockey? Help us build up this resource by sharing tips, videos, links to clubs and anything else that beginners might find useful.

Thanks to guardian.co.uk who have provided this article. View the original here.


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