Field hockey balls are one of the most important components in the game. The small plastic sphere is the main focus of the players during a game, with both teams trying to get it into their opponents nets to gain a point. The players rely on the consistent design of field hockey balls to ensure the techniques they use to play the game will work the same each time.
Balls that have rubber or cork inside of them are more stable, and the added weight will make them move faster in play. Balls that are hollow are only used for practice and are not certified to be used in an actual game.
Field hockey is an intense sport that takes a lot of skill and training, so when it comes to the equipment, it’s important that everything is working as it should be. Over the years, the field hockey ball has gone under some minor adjustments to improve it, resulting in the final product we know it to be today. The design of the field hockey ball is imperative to a good game.
Field Hockey Balls for Games
When finding the perfect field hockey ball for a game versus just practice, there are a few different things to look for. You are going to want to find a ball that meets all the regulations for game ball weight and sizes. These requirements change depending on a few factors, including:
- Level of play
A high school division versus a professional field hockey division might have balls that vary slightly in weight and size.
Some Examples of Field Hockey Balls
There are three variations in filling you will find for field hockey balls:
Some examples of field hockey where the ball size and weight might differ are a high school game. For high school play, any ball used in play must have an official NFHS stamp to certify its size and weight. The ball is hollow inside and smooth on the outside.
Another variation is the indoor field hockey game. Indoor field hockey is played on a smaller playing surface, and the ball is also generally smaller and lighter than the ball used for outdoor play. It is also hollow and smooth, making it best suited to indoor play.
Field hockey balls used in games are almost always a neutral color like white. An exception to this rule would be if the game was played in conditions where it might be hard to see, like rain or extreme wind.
The Kookaburra Field Hockey Ball
The field hockey ball usually used for upper-division field hockey games is called a Kookaburra ball. This ball was invented in Australia and features a rubber or cork filling as well as a textured outside so that it can be accurate and predictable in play even in weather conditions such as rain or a wet, muddy surface. Because of this feature, it is preferred for outdoor play. These balls are never hollow.
The Kookaburra field hockey balls have had a lot of adaptations (both big and small) to get them to the near-perfect model we have today. Now they all have to be standardized. These regulations put in place for how much a ball should weigh and what size it should be helps keep each ball as reliable and precise as possible for field hockey.
Field hockey is a game that relies on its equipment almost as much as its players. This means that practicing and playing games with field hockey balls that are roughly the same size and weight is important.
Field Hockey Balls for Practice
Balls made for practice sessions of field hockey differ in design from those made for games, or more professional play. These practice balls feature a smooth, often brightly colored outside while the inside remains hollow. Almost all balls used for practicing field hockey are hollow.
Because they are considered to be less accurate and reliable, this style of ball is only used for practice and is also usually offered at a lower price point than your standard field hockey ball that is NFHL approved for games. Not only do they weigh less, but they also have to be replaced more frequently. These field hockey practice balls usually are offered in more fun and bright colors then ones for games so that they are easier to see. This quality is supposed to balance out the fact that they are less accurate.
For example, if you are not sure if your pass will go directly to your teammate or not because of subtle inaccuracies within the ball, the bright, lively color can make it easier to spot and make up for any miscalculations. Practice balls are usually about the same size and weight as official game balls, although they are not as closely regulated, so there may be some discrepancies. These balls can be used on a variety of surfaces including:
- Any smooth surface
- Outdoor turf
- Wet ground
- Outdoor arenas
While a practice ball can be used outdoors, it is not recommended to use them in any wet conditions as this can just add to their unpredictable nature.
What is a Field Hockey Ball Made of?
A field hockey ball is usually between 8.8-9.3 in circumference and weighs 5.5 to 5.7 ounces. It is a small plastic sphere usually filled with one of three things that we mentioned before:
The design of a field hockey ball allows it to perform very well on a number of surfaces. Some field hockey balls have a smooth plastic outside shell, and others have a more textured, dimpled appearance. These variations exist to make each ball better suited for different conditions. A smooth ball will perform better inside, while a textured, dimpled ball like the Australian Kookaburra ball is much better suited for outdoor play.
Balls filled with cork or rubber tend to have more stability to them and are more predictable in play. Because they weigh more, they will also move faster when hit. Modern materials have also completely revolutionized the field hockey ball. Along with the development of these materials, we also see a huge difference in field hockey balls. Some of the main differences being:
The Outer Shell is Important Too
Plastic was a huge game-changer when it came to field hockey equipment, especially the balls. Prior to the 1980s, the balls were all made of leather. The outside of the field hockey balls would be wrapped in stitched leather. By nature, leather is far more delicate than the plastic outer shells we use for the balls today, and so they also had to be replaced fairly frequently.
Not only is leather something that easily catches on natural turf like grass, but it also does not perform well in wet conditions. If these older leather models would get wet, the ball was likely to absorb lots of the water, leaving you with a bloated, slow-moving ball.
What is Spalling?
A problem that is also associated with practice balls for field hockey is called “spalling.” This is when the outer plastic shell begins to crack and break off inside. You can check if your practice balls are spalling by giving them a quick shake. If you hear a rattling noise, you know bits are starting to break off on the inside, and it might be time to go get some new balls for practice. Some of the best practice and game field hockey balls for 2020 are the brands:
- Champion Sports
- A&R Sports
- Franklin Sports
The type of field hockey ball you choose for practice depends on your personal choice as well as how well the players perform on the field. While some players prefer a colorful field hockey ball for high visibility, others need a smooth and heavy field hockey ball to cut through the grass or turf when playing. Of course, practice balls are most often different from game balls, but the weight and filling should be consistent with the field hockey ball you will be using on the field.