Persians are believed to have played the game of ball-and-stick as far back as 2,000 BC. Later, in medieval times, on stained glass windows of English cathedrals there were images of men playing a game with hooked sticks. Hockey evolved in England and was so popular in the Middle Ages that officials banned its play for a while because the nation’s defence was at stake: too many men were playing hockey and not practicing archery.
In the late 1800s, field hockey gained in popularity, spreading first to members of the British Empire: India, Pakistan, Australia and New Zealand. Field hockey became an Olympic sport in 1908 and a Pan American sport in 1967. Women’s field hockey was first included in the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, and seven years later at the Pan American Games.
Two teams of 11 players face off a field that measures approximately 91 metres long and 55 metres wide. The players use “hooked” sticks to hit, push, pass and dribble a small hard ball. This is original hockey; ice hockey was adapted from this field hockey model.
Each team includes a goalkeeper and 10 field players who are separated into three categories: attackers, midfielders and defenders. Skilled stick work is imperative to setting up scoring opportunities. Field players are not permitted to use their feet. The goalkeeper can use any part of his or her body to stop the ball. Goals can only be scored within the “shooting circle” out in front of the net, or by penalty stroke or penalty corner. Each game lasts 70 minutes and is divided into two 35-minute halves.