A quick look at fast-paced field hockey


I watched and covered my first field hockey game on Nov. 5 when Regis Jesuit and Colorado Academy played for the state championship at All-City Stadium.

For years I helped with the coverage of both University of Denver and Colorado Avalanche hockey and was involved with writing sidebars of both Avs’ Stanley Cup victories.

Field hockey has some similarities to ice hockey, but they are very different games. A few of the obvious differences are: There is no checking in field hockey, goalies can’t catch the ball, the goals players shoot at in the game played on grass or artificial turf are larger than the ones in the game played on ice, a ball is used and not a puck, and field hockey has 11 players on each side because of the larger playing surface.

Both sports are fast-paced and enjoyable, but a big plus for field hockey games is that while there are whistles and penalties, the clock runs most of the time, and high school games without any overtimes are usually over in less than 90 minutes.

Many of the goals scored in field hockey come off of penalty corners. Don’t ask about the infractions because I have no idea after observing one game.

But penalty corners, sometimes called short corners, are fun to watch as one attacking player pushes the ball into play from a spot on the back line at least 10 meters from either side of the goal post. A maximum of five defending players, including the goalkeeper, line up in the goal most of the time.

The attacking player shoots the ball outside the circle while defending players scramble to mark offensive players who start outside the shooting circle. Before a shot is taken, the ball must go outside the shooting circle.

A shooting circle is a semi-circle 16 yards in from of the goal and players must be inside the shooting circle to score a goal.

The game was fun to watch and like many sports, hard to explain, so I asked Regis Jesuit coach Spencer Wagner to describe what makes a good field hockey player and team.

“Great field hockey players often come from other sports (soccer, lacrosse, basketball, golf) because all of those sports happen in off-seasons,” said Wagner. “Field hockey players need both speed and endurance as well as the ability to develop stick skills. They need eye-hand coordination and the willingness to be coached. They also need friends in the sport because a strong social connection keeps people attending training sessions in the off season.”

But it takes more that good players to make a good team.

“Good teams are made of players who are empowered to problem-solve and make decisions themselves,” added Wagner. “Teamwork is really just approaching a problem as a group instead of individually. At the end of the day, the best team wins, not the best players.”

There are currently 15 teams in Colorado and many are co-op teams with interested girls from a school without teams who wind up playing with another district or school in their attendance area.

Participation figures for girls playing field hockey in Colorado have increased slightly over the past four years, from 557 in the 2015-17 NFHS data to 636 in 2018-19.

“I’ve been coaching in the league for 20 years and I can say that interest in field hockey is certainly growing but has lacked support from schools,” said Wagner. “Monarch, Northfield and South high schools are interested in starting field hockey programs, but as of yet, the school’s board/athletics programs have not put it into motion. There’s not a shortage of players wanting to play. What we struggle to find is umpires and coaches.”

Honor roll

Each week, performances of South Metro athletes and teams will be highlighted. This week’s performances were selected from games, matches and meets from Oct. 31 through Nov. 7.

Legend’s Blake Rarog gained 257 yards on 33 carries and scored twice and had two receptions in a 34-7 football win over Chaparral on Nov. 1.

Junior linebacker Tyson Lambert of ThunderRidge was in on 20 total tackles in a 14-13 football victory over Castle View on Oct. 31.

Senior Emma Ammerman of Chaparral had a total of 43 kills in 15 sets played Nov. 2 in the Cheyenne Mountain volleyball tournament.

Valor Christian’s Gavin Sawchuk scored three touchdowns and had 243 yards rushing on Nov. 1 in a 34-7 football triumph over Highlands Ranch.

Lutheran junior Sabrina King had 95 assists in 13 sets played in the Metro League volleyball tournament, which was held Nov. 1 and 2.

Jim Benton


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