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Grass hockey, or just plain old hockey as it is commonly known in the UK is much less popular than its frosted equivalent in the US. It is played at a league level across the country with both male and female leagues but is rarely televised, and usually attracts only small crowds, mostly relatives of the players and a few aficionados. It is played by schoolgirls everywhere and largely hated, in Britain we play hockey outdoors, in winter, in skirts and t-shirts, as soon as it gets to March and starts to warm up a little we move indoors to play a slightly smaller scale version, indoor hockey. That’s right, there are two types of hockey, indoor and outdoor, each is a quite different animal so lets deal with them one at a time.

Outdoor hockey is played on a rectangular pitch, 91.4m x 55m. At each end of the longer sides is a sort of squashed semi-circle, about 3m wide at the back line, within this circle is a goal just 3.66m wide and 2.14m high. (Please to be notink that these numbers are much neater in imperial measurements|old money). Overall a hockey pitch is about a half again as big as an ice hockey rink, or the same as the average football pitch, this multipurpose forum being the one upon which I learned my meagre skills as a freezing school girl. Each team has 11 players, one of whom is a goalie, decked out in lovely warm padding, including every schoolgirls dream, a glamorous helmet! All eleven players are equipped with a stick around a metre and a half long, depending on their height, the stick is curved in a “c” shape at one end, the bottom of the “c” continuing up to form a straight handle. Sticks are traditionally made of wood but fibreglass is becoming more common nowadays as a lighter, stronger alternative. The top of the stick is flat and smooth, the back is smoothly rounded, the flat side is used to strike the ball, using any other part of the stick is prohibited in the rules.

The whole purpose of the game of hockey is to put the ball, that’s 155g of toughened plastic, into the back of your opponents net via a system of tapping at the ball with the flat side of the stick. Players can dribble the ball forward by keeping it in contact with the front, flat side of their stick, or pass to each other by striking the ball. Once the semicircle in front of the goal is reached it is acceptable to get the ball over the goal line in any way you like, slap hit, dribble, push, hit, flick or scoop, however both ball and player must be entirely within the circle for a goal to count. The goalkeeper can use any part of their body to prevent the goal being scored, other players may not intentionally use any part of their body to hit the ball, (this rule is almost never broken, a 150g ball at 50mph will soon discourage this kind of thing.)

Other rules, which apply during the game, are that the ball should not be lifted off the ground unless for a shot at all goal, sticks may not be raised above shoulder height, or held in a dangerous manner, obstructing another player while they attempt to play the ball or stick tackling. Stick tackling is the equivalent of stick checking in ice hockey, when tackling (yes we tackle in field hockey too) a player may clash into the ball with their stick, but they may not hit the possessive players stick, shins, ankles, vertebrae or anything else with their stick or any part of their body. Compared with ice hockey, grass hockey is a non-contact sport, of course it’s still a non-contact sport with big sticks, and my shins and I can vouch for this being so, at least at school level. Indoor hockey is basically the same game, played indoors, with lighter sticks and a smaller pitch. Oh and only five players per team, including a goalie. The pitch is around 40m by 25, or whatever size sports hall is handy. The same ball is used, sticks must wiegh no more than 737g. The objectives are the same as are most of the rules, changes include two twenty minute halves rather than the two forty-five minute halves of an outdoor game and that the ball can be played off the walls, the main differences are in the game play. Outdoor hockey is a fast-paced game, but the size of the pitch restrics it from runnign much faster than, say soccer, indoors in a smaller area, and with the walls to play-off the game become sincreasingly fast paced. A forty minute indoor game is easily more tiring than ninety minutes outdoors, and can be more exciting to watch. Field hockey is an exciting and healthy sported enojoyed, or endured by British schoolgirls for about a million years. It's great fun, and cheaper than that ice hockeybusiness you Canadians get so excited about. So go out, join a league, and hit somethings with a big stick.

Though thorough, Miki's summary has many deprecated rules mentioned in it.

Field Hockey (grass hockey) is governed internationally by the Federation Internationale de Hockey, or simply FIH. This organization is responsible for changes to the rules accepted at the World Cup as well as the Olympics.

Wood sticks (usually Indian Mahoghany) are very popular, however composite sticks made of Fibreglass, Kevlar, and Carbon (Graphite) are now at least as widely used as wooden ones.

The rules can very simply be boiled down to a few sentences; Players try to score the ball by manipulating it with the flat side of their stick. No player may obstruct the fair play of another player by any means, and no player may create danger with ball, stick, or body.

However, the rules become more complex when one attempts to define words like danger and obstruction. Thus, Field Hockey is known as highly dependent on the discretion of the umpires, of which there are 2.

The rules have been simplified in recent years. The "flat side of the stick" now includes both the leading and following edges. A raised ball is legal at all times so long as it does not create danger in the umpire's opinion. The striking circle is 16 yards in radius from the nearest edge of the goal, making it flat at the top. Halves are 35 minutes long with a 5-10 minute half time.

Hockey is known as a "Schoolgirl's game" primarily in the United States, and an Aussie or Indian will outright laugh in your face if you refer to it as such.

For more information, visit http://www.usfieldhockey.com .

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