hockey, field, outdoor stick and ball game. Field hockey, like many sports, is of obscure origins, but traces in one form or another to the ancient Egyptians and Persians, making it one of the world's oldest known sports. London's Wimbledon Hockey Club (organized 1883) standardized the game after many centuries of informal play in England, and it thereafter spread to other countries, particularly those in Europe and the British empire. Men have played field hockey in the United States since 1890, but the Field Hockey Association of America, which regulates men's play, was not formed until 1930, and the sport continues to appeal very little to American males. In Olympic competition, where men's field hockey first appeared in 1908, India, Great Britain, and Pakistan have dominated. Although the sport has been very popular among high school and collegiate women in the United States since 1901, particularly in the East, it has been a women's Olympic event only since 1980.
Rules for men and women are essentially the same. The game is played on a level field, measuring 50 to 60 yd by 90 to 100 yd (46 to 55 m by 82 to 91 m), by two teams of 11 players each (five forwards, three halfbacks, two fullbacks, and a goalkeeper). A face-off in the center of the field starts the game. Teams direct their play toward advancing the ball—made of white leather over a cork and twine center and about 9 in. (23 cm) in circumference—down the field with their sticks (wooden, with a flat head on only one side of the striking surface). A point is scored by putting the ball through goal posts, which are 7 ft (2.13 m) high, 12 ft (3.66 m) apart, and joined by a net. Play can be physically punishing and fouls result in penalty strokes and free hits.
See M. J. Barnes and R. G. Kentwall, Field Hockey (2d ed. 1978).