It is summertime, and a relaxed and friendly competition is being held in which both men and women can compete together.
It’s a Monday night and most players have come directly from work to start the week with some exercise and competition in a fun, social environment.
Hockey – or field hockey as it is known in parts of Europe and North America – has been a popular pastime for 4000 years. The sport made its first appearance at the modern Olympics in 1908 and has been a regular fixture at the elite sports event since 1928.
But the athletes we are watching today are not thinking about history or aspiring to such lofty goals. Most of these players also play in the wintertime in a more serious competition, where they are segregated according to their skill level and they play for trophies and glory. Tonight they have a more agreeable goal: FUN.
Although hockey is technically a non-contact sport, the ball moves fast! It is a dynamic game requiring speed, skill and stamina in equal proportions. Care must be taken to prevent injury. Muscle tears and lower back injuries can be common in the official competitive season.
When players of substantially differing abilities play together, the rules must be adjusted to accommodate everyone. The summer competition is also an opportunity to introduce new players to the game. Players are here to socialise and have fun, and this is only possible in a safe environment. The greater physical size and strength of the men can be intimidating to some of the women.
Steps are taken to ensure that everyone feels safe. In this particular competition, it is illegal to lift the ball off the ground. On a potentially dangerous penalty, the first shot on goal must always be taken by a woman. This lessens the risk of injury to the defenders.
Some thought is given to the strategy but it is not taken too seriously. The relaxed atmosphere of the game is extremely welcoming for spectators of all ages, some of whom take their first steps towards becoming players of the future.
The game comes to an end. No-one is particularly concerned by the result as long as everyone has had a good time. The players shake hands and cheer each other off the field. A goalkeeper even congratulates an opposition player on a well-taken goal.
The cheers give way to good-natured banter as the players walk off the field for a well-deserved drink. They’ll all be back next week for a restorative dose of fun, fitness and pleasant competition playing summer hockey.
CJ – Fitness