There are 11 positions in field hockey that players will occupy, including one goalie or goalkeeper and 10 other players with a more active role on the field. Which field hockey position should you play?
When determining which field hockey position to play, you should carefully contemplate your skill level, stamina, and experience. For example, the role of midfielder is one in which a lot of responsibility is heaped on your shoulders, so that’d be recommended for more advanced players.
We want to help you decide exactly which field hockey position is right for you. In this guide, we’ll go through all 11 positions to talk about what you do in each and what kind of skills and abilities are required. By the time you’re done reading, you should be ready to assume one of these field hockey positions!
Field Hockey Positions Explained – Here’s How to Choose Yours
The goalie or goalkeeper is one of the most integral field hockey roles, which is something we’ve discussed on the blog before.
As the goalkeeper, you’re the ultimate line of defense in preventing the opposing team from scoring goals. You’ll do that by standing in front of the goal and blocking incoming shots.
Besides body-blocking, you can also slide, dive, or clear the ball. You can deflect the ball in a variety of other ways too. Goalies are the only players allowed to move the ball using their kickers or feet, but they must keep their stick in hand.
That stick is shorter than the sticks used by the rest of the players on the field. They’d use the stick once the ball is just out of their defending circle.
The reason the stick is shorter is that the goalie is only using their stick to shoot the ball away. They don’t have to worry as much about shooting power as do field hockey players in other positions.
Goalies must wear a lot more equipment than the average field hockey player. They need lower-body protection such as foam kickers, kneepads, and padded shorts. For the upper half of their body, they’re usually required to don a foam gauntlet, foam gloves, elbow pads, pelvic protective gear, shoulder and arm protection, and a chest protector.
Above the neck, a goalie will wear a throat collar, a mouth guard, and a helmet.
Although occupying the role of goalkeeper does not require as much stamina as some of the other roles we’ve yet to discuss, a goalie must still have physical prowess. They have to be ready to jump into action at any point and do what they can (per the rules) to stop the ball from reaching their goal.
Mentally, they must remain focused throughout the entire game, even if both teams have the ball on the other side of the field. They must be able to stave off boredom or wandering thoughts if they’re not particularly involved in the game during that period.
The role of the goalkeeper is a more advanced position. If you’re a newer field hockey player, we wouldn’t suggest you start by playing as a goalie. You might work your way up to the spot in a season or two.
The forward or strikers include three to five players. They are the center forward, the outside-left and outside-right wingers aka the outside forwards, and the inside-left and inside-right forwards or inners.
Before we delve into what each of those positions does, let’s talk about the general responsibilities of a forward.
A forward, regardless of which position they occupy, is placed near the goal of the opposing team. They’re closer to this goal than any other players.
In this spot, it’s a forward’s job to create opportunities to guide the ball to the other players on their team and then score. They should also identify chances to take the ball from the opposing team and prevent them from scoring.
Forwards don’t move as much on the field as midfielders, but they do work closely with midfielders to guide the ball down the field.
Outside of their role on offense, forwards will also play defensively, likely more often than they do offensively. They know how to work together to space themselves out or link closer together so they may hinder the progress of the opposing team. They’re aware of when to change their strategy and can do so on the fly. Forwards are also agile and fast.
Now let’s examine the specific forward positions. A center forward is an attacker, especially compared to the rest of the strikers. They’re ready to receive and then send the ball towards the goal anytime. If not pushing a ball towards the goal, the center forward will stop the progress of the opposing team’s center half and fullbacks.
Next are the wingers, including the outside-left and outside-right wingers, aka the outside forwards. Playing right winger is considered one of the easier positions in field hockey, but you still must be aggressive and fast on the field.
These players are positioned on the field’s sideline on the left and right sides, respectively. They too can score goals provided the ball is near the sideline and they’re within the 25-yard line of the opposing team. They’re less defensive than the center forward.
The inside forwards, including the inside-left and inside-right forwards, are further down the field than the wingers. They work more with the center forward and can score goals for their team too. Compared to the other forwards, inside forwards may be the most active players in this position. They’re great at both offense and defense.
The next field hockey position is that of the midfielder. Named such due to their position from the defenders and forwarders, midfielders connect those two roles.
Midfielders include right-half and left-half halfbacks or outside halves as well as the center half, both of which we’ll talk about in more depth momentarily. First, here are the general duties of a midfielder.
Playing in the center of the field, midfielders will send the ball towards the strikers on their team and score goals themselves. They’re often occupying both offensive and defensive roles throughout the game depending on what’s required of them, which is something we’ve talked about on the blog.
A midfielder has amongst the most freedom on the field, especially compared to goalies as well as defenders and forwards. For that reason, like the role of the goalkeeper, playing in any midfield position is considered a more advanced role.
You must have speed, stamina, and a lot of prowess. If you tire out easily, then perhaps a forward or defender role is better for you as of now. Once you build up your endurance, then you might try out for a midfielder role in a future field hockey season.
Midfielders are also leaders, so that’s a role you must be comfortable taking on. They have dominion over their team, and when they speak, other players listen. That said, a midfielder isn’t bossy, just commanding. There is indeed a difference.
Okay, so let’s talk more about the specific midfielder roles, beginning with the outside halves, including the right-half and left-half midfielders.
Halfbacks work in conjunction with the fullbacks (a defender position) to reduce opportunities for the opposing team to score. They’ll plan plays and attacks and then send the ball towards the forwards or other midfield roles.
The wingers on the opponent’s team will focus their energy on the halfbacks, so they must be offensive attackers when the time comes for it. Halfbacks often get the ball from the middle of the field to any inside forwards on the right or left-hand side of the field.
The center half midfielder is arguably the most important player on the team. They’re the one who takes on that leadership role more so than halfbacks. In their spot, they can move the most freely and thus, besides the goalie, can most affect the tide of the entire game.
A center half can go between the defenders and forwards, sending the ball towards either side. They too also play defensively as well as offensively. In the former role, a center half midfielder will prevent the opposing team from scoring.
That brings us to defenders, which is the last field hockey position we’ll discuss (but not the least). Defenders include three or more players who will occupy such roles as the sweeper, the center-back, the left-back and right-back wingbacks, and the left and right fullbacks.
The defenders, as the name suggests, are mostly defensive but do play offensively at times. They play behind a team’s midfielders and will send the ball towards the offense and the midfielders so those players can score a goal.
Defenders rarely get the glory of scoring goals, which makes their position a less popular one than offense and especially midfielders. That said, defenders still play a very integral role in the progress of the game and winning for their team.
After all, winning in field hockey isn’t only about scoring goals, but preventing the opposition from doing the same. If your team scores 20 goals but you have a weak defense, so your opponents also score 20 points, then there’s no clear winner.
Defenders are closest to the goal and are the first line of defense against a goal being scored on their side, with the goalie the second and the most ultimate line of defense.
Now let’s look at the defensive positions, beginning with the sweeper.
A sweeper may act as the second center-back depending on the play formation. Sweepers will stop opposing players who get through the defensive line from progressing any further. They’re active, speedy players who can move freely but within their zone.
Center-backs strive to get the ball back when the opposing team has it. They’re not attackers like a sweeper can be. Instead, they defend deeply to create a stronger line of defense for the rest of the players in this part of the field.
Wingbacks, including left-backs and right-backs, stay on either side of the wings. Together, the wingbacks expand the attacking width so the defense is even stronger. They’ll play further back on the field to ward off attacks from the opposing team and then higher on the field when in attack mode.
Finally, there are the fullbacks, including the left fullback and right fullback. These players prevent the opposition from reaching your goalie. They can then send the ball towards the midfielders, who might be able to score from there.
Fullbacks usually play on the left or right side of the fields but can also act as the sweeper and a high fullback. They can attack as well as defend, and in an attack position, a fullback will mostly transition the ball to other players.
That said, from the penalty corner, fullbacks can score goals. To do that, a fullback usually must be very strong and boast a lot of arm power. They’re often taller players too.
The game of field hockey affords players 11 unique positions. Some positions, such as right-wing forward, are more beginner-friendly. Others, such as center midfielder and goalie, require a lot more knowledge of the game as well as stamina, speed, and skill.
Determining which field hockey position is right for you isn’t a decision you should make on your own. You should also consult with your coach, who can offer you a candid assessment of your abilities to this point.
Even if you don’t get put in the field hockey position you wanted, keep in mind that there’s always next season!