Why Do Field Hockey Players Wear One Glove?

If you’re a fan of field hockey, you’ve probably noticed that many field hockey players choose to wear one glove. While you’ll frequently see players with no gloves at all, it’s far less often that you’ll see a player wearing two, outside of the goalkeeper, of course.

Field hockey players wear one glove on their left hand because its exposed placement on the stick makes it extra vulnerable to potential injury. The right hand is kept mostly behind the player’s own stick, offering it some degree of protection even without a glove.

Since gloves are an optional part of the uniform, why players choose to wear one glove—or no glove or two—mainly comes down to personal preference. Wearing a glove can have benefits even beyond just avoiding injury, but it can also come with some tradeoffs.

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The Purpose of One Left-Hand Glove

Gloves are worn on the left hand because of how players hold the hockey stick. Field hockey players use a variety of standard grips that help them perform playing techniques—grips specialized for dribbling, for scooping, for hitting the ball extra hard, etc. 

If you ever look at a photo of a field hockey player utilizing these grips, you’ll notice that most grips leave the back of the left hand exposed on the same side of the stick the players use to hit and maneuver the ball. This means there’s a lot of surface area that’s extra susceptible to being hit by errant balls or other player’s sticks, not to mention scrapes and cuts from falling.

The extra degree of protection offered by the left-hand glove can make a world of difference in how players operate and offer numerous benefits. Anybody who plays or follows field hockey knows hand injuries, minor and major alike, are common. The left-hand glove allows players to:

  • Totally avoid minor injuries that might otherwise take them out of the game
  • Avoid blisters from gripping the stick
  • Significantly lower the risk of more severe injuries like crushed fingers
  • Play more comfortably in cold weather

Additionally, the awareness of the protection offered by a left-hand glove can change how people play. Since a player with a left-hand glove on knows they aren’t at as much risk for serious harm, they can feel more comfortable using a more aggressive play style and might actually perform better as a result.

Do Left-Handed Players Wear a Glove on Their Right Hand?

One might think that the single glove worn by field hockey players always goes on the non-dominant hand, especially since this is the case in other sports in which players sometimes wear a single glove, like golf or baseball. This isn’t how it works in field hockey—left-handed and right-handed players alike wear the single glove on their left hand.

This is because—unlike in golf, for which players can buy left-handed clubs, or in baseball, in which switch-hitting can be a vital tactic—in field hockey, all players play with right-handed sticks. This isn’t because they have a problem with left-handed people. It’s a matter of safety.

Field hockey might not be a full-contact sport like American football, but contact happens a lot anyway. It might be easier for lefty players to learn if they used left-handed sticks, but the follow-through from a left-handed swing can pose a threat to the players around them. Having all players play right-handed creates a certain bout of synchronicity on the playing field, which helps minimize injury.

Why Not Wear Two Gloves?

Since it’s certainly possible to injure both hands when playing field hockey, it might seem intuitive to wear two gloves—get as much protection as possible, right? Despite this, most players prefer to wear only one glove.

Since even skintight gloves are going to have some impact on mobility, wearing just one is often a risk worth taking, especially since the right hand is at a lot less risk for injury anyway. 

Additionally, the dexterity of the right hand is extra important—in most field hockey grips, the right hand is responsible for fine control of the stick.Even the smallest deficit in maneuverability could mean the difference between losing the ball and scoring a point.

Nonetheless, some players do choose to wear two gloves. Defensive players stand to lose less than attacking players when they do and arguably might even stand to benefit. For them, fine control of the ball is less important than protecting their fellow players, so being able to take a few hits might be worth losing a bit of manual dexterity.

Types of Field Hockey Gloves

You might have noticed that not all field hockey gloves look alike. Since the left-hand glove is not a required part of the uniform, you’ll see a lot of variety in glove choice. Different players wear different types of gloves—some are skintight, while others are bulky and heavily padded. Some cover the whole hand, while others leave the fingers or palm exposed. These different gloves serve various purposes, and each comes with its own pros and cons. 

Type of GloveExampleProsCons
SkintightOGLOVE Skinful Gloves
Offers protection from weather Minimizes impact on dexterityDoesn’t offer as much protection as padded gloves
Knuckle GloveGRAYS Fingerless GlovesFully protects knuckles Still allows for decent mobilityLess protection than gloves with more padding
FingerlessRitual Vapor GloveGood balance between mobility and thorough protectionDoesn’t offer total impact protection 
Fully PaddedGrays International Pro Left Hand Glove
Maximum protection of hand and fingersBulkier gloves can inhibit mobility

(Source: Field Hockey Reviews)

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What to Consider When Choosing a Glove

What glove a player chooses will depend on several factors—whether they’re playing offense or defense, their playing style, personal stylistic preferences, etc. Just like with shoes, how a glove fits is of the utmost importance—it doesn’t matter how fancy or well-padded a glove is if it’s uncomfortable.

Before a player tries to find a glove that fits them like Cinderella’s glass slipper, though, they must decide what they want out of a glove. According to Field Hockey Reviews, glove choice has a lot to do with a player’s position.

  • Forwards will probably want something lightweight, like a skintight or knuckle glove since mobility is integral to their role on the team. They have to do lots of intricate maneuvering.
  • Conversely, midfielders and defenders both might want gloves with more armor, either fingerless or filly padded. They’re a lot more likely to get up close and personal with the other team, and as a result, probably want some more security.

A player should also be conscious of whether the glove they choose is best suited for indoor or outdoor play. An outdoor field will hurt less to fall on than a hard indoor arena, and there’s little chance of tripping and falling into a wall outdoors when pushed out of bounds. Because of this, indoor players might want a little more padding, even if they’re playing offensively. 

Final Thoughts

While wearing a single field hockey glove is entirely optional for players, it’s a choice that many choose to make. Having a little extra protection can give a player piece of mind in a sport as hectic and fast-paced as field hockey. There are many different types of gloves that have their own pros, cons, and specific purposes. No matter what position a player plays, odds are there’s a glove out there that can fit their style, protecting them from injury without hampering their freedom of movement.

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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