Hockey playing positions and stroke types
Team positions and shots in field hockey
Just getting to grips with the basics of hockey? Find out all about hockey positions and the different type of hockey shot with our quick guide.
Hockey playing positions
In hockey each side has 11 players (a goalkeeper and 10 outfield players) from a squad of 16 players. The outfield players can be put into three general categories — defenders, midfielders and attackers, with the side’s tactics defining the system that they will play around those positions. Here is a quick run-down of what each position entails:
- The hockey goalkeeper. The goalkeeper is the only player who is able to touch the ball with any part of his or her body, but unlike their counterparts in football, hockey keepers are not allowed to pick the ball up. Goalkeepers wear special clothing, including protective headgear, pads and gloves. Since they are quite literally in the firing line, goalkeepers need to possess bravery amongst other key attributes including agility and quick reaction speeds.
- Hockey defenders. The defender’s main aim should be to prevent the opposition from scoring. A defender’s strength lies in good anticipation and strong tackles to rob the opposition of possession. They should also be cool in possession of the ball, particularly when in their own half as a misplaced pass is often punished by a goal. Defensive hockey positions include full backs, center-backs and sweepers.
- Hockey midfielders and attackers. Midfielders are the real heartbeat of the side as their role is to both to attack and defend. They need to have lots of stamina to get up and down the pitch in both a destructive and creative manner — either putting in the vital tackle or interception or playing the vital pass to set up a scoring opportunity for an attacker to pounce upon. Positions include holding and attacking midfielders and centres.
Hockey shots and strokes
There are several ways in which hockey players can move the ball around the pitch during a game. These shots and strokes include:
- The hit
This type of shot is a powerful hit with a good backswing, with both hands together at the top of the stick. The aim is usually to quickly hit the ball long distances along the ground to meet its target, usually in a pass.
- The push
This is a hockey stroke with no backswing, executed using a quick wrist stroke, to push the ball accurately along the ground. It is considered the best way to pass the ball over a short distance.
- The flick
This hockey stroke raises the ball off the ground and is a good way of flipping the ball over an opponent’s stick. The player snaps their wrists to lift the ball for quick passes or shots. The flick can also be used to shoot at goal and from the penalty spot.
- The slap
This is a hard, quick pass or shot on goal. It is done with a half back-swing with hands slightly apart on the stick. It is considered ideal for shots close in, or for passes that need to be slightly stronger than a push.
- The backhand hit
Like a tennis player needs to be able to hit the ball on their other side (backhand side), so a hockey player should be able to play the backhand or reverse hit. It can be used for passing or goal shooting, but should still involve contact with the flat side of the stick.