Why Are Field Hockey Sticks So Short?Posted: August 15, 2016
My wife and I were in a restaurant bar enjoying some Italian food when Olympic field hockey came on the television.
I love sports, but I have to admit that I’ve never watched field hockey. To be fair to myself, I’ll also add that I don’t often have the opportunity to watch field hockey in person or on television. Because I was engrossed in talking with my wife and eating a plate of gnocchi, I didn’t really see this as the first time that I would take in a game.
Ten, Eleven. Whatever It Takes.
That plan went awry. Some drunk across the bar kept saying “Huh. Women’s field hockey. So there’s nine and the goalie. Ten players? There are ten players on a side.” At first, I took it as a rhetorical question. After the eighth time he asked, it became clear that he was looking for an answer. I looked at the television to do a head count. Unfortunately, the players were all in motion so I just said “yup, ten”, because that’s nicer than saying “dude, stop asking me”. It turns out there are eleven players. I don’t feel guilty about misinforming that guy.
I ended up paying attention to a few minutes of the game. The drunk seemed determined to talk to someone about field hockey. My wife responded on our behalf – “Yes, you are right. It is like hockey, on a field” and “No, I don’t play. My sister played in high school.”
She was right. The sport is like hockey, on a field…hence, I suppose, the name. I’m sure that she was also correct about her sister. I can’t imagine a motivation for her to fib on such a matter.
My Back Hurts From Watching Them
But as we watched the competition, I realized that there is a problem with the game. The sticks are too short.
These deficiently sized sticks are a health hazard to the players. The obvious problem is that they endanger these athletes by forcing them to lean closer to the ground to block a shot with their stick while their opponent is swinging their own stick to strike the ball. A swing with a strong follow thru could be catastrophic.
Some of the players wore gear to protect against that catastrophic swing . Even with protection, it can’t be comfortable to get hit in the face with a hickory stick.
Get Up, Stand Up
My research tells me that field hockey sticks are 31-38 inches long. Nearly anything a player does with that size stick requires them to stoop over. The athletes in the game I watched ran around bent over like women four times their age. I felt terrible for them. How much more comfortable would they be if they were given proper sticks that would permit them to stand upright and play? This must be the only sport in the world that facilitates poor posture.
And so, I appeal to the field hockey powers-that-be to make a change. For the health of the athletes devoted to your sport, you must switch to properly sized sticks. I imagine there is a reason rooted in tradition that dictates the tiny sticks. But I am concerned that we are creating waves of former field hockey players with the posture of a boiled shrimp and post-concussion syndrome.
Some might make the argument that watching three minutes of televised field hockey does not make me an expert in the sport. But my concern is not rooted in expertise. It is based on simple concern for the health of these competitors.
Once I get this change enacted, I’m going to move on to other important matters, like making sure the horse gets the medal in equestrian events.