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Choosing a Field Hockey Position

If you are new to field hockey, understanding the different positions and trying to figure out which one is for you can be quite the challenge. You could be wondering where you’ll fit on the field, or you could already have your mind set.

If you already know that you’re going to play goalie and no one can stop you, go for it! But, if you’re still a little hesitant, read on. This guide will cover all of the different positions and give you a better idea of where you’ll excel.

Quick Overview

Standard play involves 11 players on the field at all times, including the goalie. There are four lines of positions: Forward, midfield, defense, and goalie. Within these lines, you can either play a left, right, or center position — the formation varies depending on the coach’s preference. Most of the time, however, there will be at least three players on each line and a fourth player added to one of the lines.

Forwards

Forwards are the offensive line in field hockey. Their job is to score goals; so they have the least amount of defensive responsibility on the field. There are generally three forwards: The right, left, and center. The center forward is sometimes referred to as the “striker” because her job is to take quick shots on goal. The left and right forwards create plays and move the ball from their respective zones to the center.

Faces of Field Hockey ...
Jamie Dwyer
Position: Striker / Inner Forward
Team: Kookaburras
Date of Birth: March 3, 1979
Sponsor: Adidas
Getting to know Jamie Dwyer: Dwyer was born in Rockhampton, Queensland. He made his debut to the Australian Men’s Hockey Team in 2001. In 2004, he scored the winning goal in the gold medal match against the Netherlands, making the the final score 2-1 and securing the Kookaburras first ever Olympic gold medal. Since then, he has been named player of the year by the International Hockey Federation three times in 2004, 2007, and 2009, marking him one of the best field hockey players in the world.

The Skills

The offensive line is generally made up of the fastest players on the team. These players embody ambition and:

  • Are usually the best sprinters
  • Have highly developed stick skills
  • Have lightning quick reflexes
  • Are able to take hard and accurate shots on goal

Lastly, they should also have a high level of familiarity and comfort with screening the goalie, deflecting shots, and shooting inside the circle. Most forwards have no problem playing the ball to themselves and are opportunists inside the shooting circle.

The Responsibilities

Creating turnovers and plays on the offensive line are the main responsibilities for forwards. The only reason a forward would enter into a defensive zone is to receive a pass, with which she would immediately move forward into the offensive zone. Once the ball reaches the offensive line, the forwards are responsible for making plays geared towards beating their opponents’ defense and scoring goals.

Midfielders

The midfield line has the most versatile players of all the positions. The formation generally consists of three midfielders: The center, right, and left. The center midfielder is the “distributer” of the game. She is involved in almost every play, facilitating passes from one side of the field to the other. Right and left midfielders are more like “wings.” They generally position themselves closer to the sidelines to spread the field, create passing options, and work the ball up the sideline from defense to offense.

The Skills

The fittest players are on the midfield line. Because midfielders play both offensive and defense, they need to be able to run for long periods of time. So, they have to develop the quickness of the forwards and the control of the defense. Their stick skills are highly developed and they excel in passing, receiving, and shooting the ball.

The Responsibilities

The midfield line is responsible for supporting every position:

  • Helping the defense
  • Controlling the neutral zone
  • Supporting the forwards

Midfielders facilitate turnovers and make plays in the neutral zone to help push the ball forward into the offensive zone. Their main jobs are to control the game and slow it down by keeping possession of the ball.

Defense

Every professional athlete knows the best offense is a strong defense. The defensive line is arguably one of the most important positions on the field, but it often receives the least amount of glory.

Generally, three defenders play on the defensive line: The right, left, and center. The defense’s main jobs are to support one another, guard the goal, and clear the ball out of the defensive zone.

The Skills

Defenders have to be the smartest players on the field. Their success lies less in their stick handling abilities and more in strategic positioning. They need to be able to:

  • Take away passes
  • Block shots
  • Slow the offense
  • Take long, accurate hits

The most important skills a defensive player embodies are great eye-hand coordination for blocking shots and strong defensive tackles.

The Responsibilities

Protect the goal at all costs — this is the number one goal for every player on the defensive line. Their main jobs are to slow down the opposing team’s offense and limit their scoring opportunities. They work to take away the shooting angles and force the opposing offense to give up the ball. Lastly, they need to always be clearing the ball out of the defensive zone and away from the goal.

Goaltender

The goaltender position requires a completely different set of skills than a field player. A goalie uses her body, hands, feet, and stick to stop the ball. This position is also very mental because a goalie is the last line of defense. The abilities of the goalie, or lack thereof, can either lead to the success or failure of the team.

The Skills

Goaltenders are composed under pressure. They use their flexibility, quick reflexes and hand-eye coordination to stop quick shots on goal. They must also be fearless enough to stop a shot — and depending on the game, a goalie may face a ton of shots. So, she must always be mentally and physically involved in the game.

The Responsibilities

A goalie’s responsibility is to protect the goal. She must do everything she can to stop the ball from crossing the goal line — one mistake and it could cost her team the game. If she continually succeeds, her team will never lose. A goalie may have only one job, but it is the most important.

The Team

This is the makeup of a field hockey team. Now, all you have to do is decide where you fit. But before you do, try out every position. That way, you’ll get a feel for each one and have a better appreciation for your teammates who play the position. You may think you’re a striker and then decide your absolutely love playing defense. Have an open mind and you’ll ease right in to your position.

This guide will help new players find their ideal position on the field by examining the four basic lines in field hockey: Forward, midfield, defense, and goalie.
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