Hockey is considered the oldest ball-and-stick game in existence. Field hockey was born prior to the advent of ice hockey. The equipment used in the first evolutions of the sport was primitive in many respects. Field hockey equipment has changed drastically over time, with far more types of equipment used in the sport today than ever before.
Drawings and records place the origin of field hockey 4,000 years back in history, according to USA Field Hockey. Ancient northern European, Greek, Roman, Aztec and Ethiopian peoples all played some form of field hockey. What we know as modern field hockey is traced back to the mid-1800s in England, where the first men’s hockey club and the first hockey association were founded. The international spread of field hockey’s popularity is mostly due to the British Army, which introduced the sport to British colonies throughout the world. Early hockey games involved the most basic equipment, with willow tree branches used as sticks and a ball made of wood or cork.
During the late 1800s and early 1900s, other equipment items like pads were introduced to field and ice hockey. The shin and knee pads that goalkeepers first wore were actually used in cricket. The hockey sticks were typically carved from wood with straight blades. Goalkeepers didn’t wear protective masks until 1960 and didn’t even wear helmets until the early 1970s. Traditionally played on grass fields, but field hockey took a major turn in the 1970s when the game was played for the first time on plastic artificial turf in international competitions. Field hockey became a much quicker and more action-packed sport when played on artificial turf, because the heavy natural turf grass no longer slowed down the ball.
Field hockey debuted at the 1908 Olympic Games in London, England, and then became an official Olympic competition at the 1920 Games. Although the first women’s field hockey clubs emerged during the late 1800s and early 1900s in Europe and the U.S., women’s field hockey didn’t become part of the Olympic Games until 1980. The Federation Internationale de Hockey sur Gazon, also known as the FIH or the International Hockey Federation, was founded in 1924. Field hockey was later added to the Pan American Games beginning in 1967.
Today, there is much more equipment involved in field hockey. The hockey stick is made from wood or composite materials and has a flat side on the left of the blade. The ball used in field hockey is typically white in color and made of hard plastic, measuring about 230 mm or 9 inches in circumference. Players also wear shin pads and special shoes that provide extra grip. In addition, the goalkeepers wear leg pads, elbow pads, helmets and shoe blockers to protect their feet. Goalkeepers wear “kickers” as well, which are protective devices worn over the front and sides of their shoes for kicking the ball.