For as long as humans have been organizing themselves into communities, sports have been a part of our lifestyle. From the ancient Aztec ball courts to modern basketball courts and football pitches, we love to gather together and participate in games that test our strength, speed, and skills. Sports aren't just for the spectator, though; they're an essential and excellent way to encourage physical fitness and teamwork. That is why you will often find a wide variety of sports in schools. Encouraging children to find a sport they like and stick with might not always yield an all-star player, but it will create opportunities for valuable life lessons. Community sports leagues are a great way to accomplish this, as well.

So which sports should you encourage your children to join? There are many from which to choose. Naturally, allowing your child's personal likes and dislikes to play a part in the choice is important. However, it's also a smart idea to consider the pros and cons of many different activities. How much physical activity is involved? Which sport is likely to help the most in building character, confidence, and cooperation abilities? More "solo" sports such as tennis and swimming are excellent for increasing physical activity, but for a well-balanced approach, consider something different. Sports like football, basketball, and rugby are good options, but for a fun all around experience, why not take a closer look at the sport of field hockey?


What is field hockey? How is it played?



First, it can be helpful to understand exactly what the sport is and how it's played to see its strong suits. If you have any familiarity with ice hockey, then much of this is likely to be familiar to you. If you're new to the entire concept, though, and you're curious about its suitability for both boys and girls, a quick rundown will be helpful. Here are the key basics of field hockey

  • Two teams of 11 players each, one of whom guards the goal
  • Gameplay is divided into two halves, each consisting of 35 minutes of play
  • Played with a special ball and stick; the goal is to guide the ball using only the stick across the playing surface, striking to send the ball into the opponent's goal for a score
  • Primarily uses a grass playing surface
  • No part of the body may contact the ball, except for the goalie, whose hands may touch the ball within a small area around the goal; even a player's feet can't touch the ball!

From this simple set of rules stems a game that is fun, exciting, and perfect for team building. The ten players besides the goalie position must work together to coordinate offensive and defensive strategies. At the same time, they must position themselves in the right formations to work in concert and prevent the opponent from scoring. If it sounds complex, don't worry ? it isn't! Field hockey is simple to learn, even for children, but it can provide years of fun and growth. Of additional note is the largely contact-free nature of the sport. Especially in youth leagues, rough physical contact is kept to a minimum. This is certainly not a sport of violence! Instead, it provides a healthy outlet for youthful energy while also providing quite a workout. There are many more specific rules, of course ? passing plays an important part in the game, and fouls exist to prevent unsportsmanlike play. Nonetheless, it presents an excellent opportunity for all kinds of individuals. Field hockey has quite a storied history, too.




A Brief History of Field Hockey





Believe it or not, but field hockey has roots that go all the way back to Ancient Greece. We have evidence in the form of carvings that depicted young Greeks battling over a ball with sticks. These date to an amazingly old 514 BCE, but did you know that evidence of even more ancient hockey playing exists? It's true: images from an Egyptian tomb depict a form of hockey played between men. With an additional form of the game played in Persia as well, it's easy to see that this sport has been popular the world over and across history. Its simple principles translate well to an exciting, competitive sports anyone can pick up and play.


In modern times, the game of field hockey as we know it now is an English invention. With rules refined in the mid-19th century, it quickly spread across the globe. Popular in both the British colonies and eventually the United States of America and Canada, field hockey became a pastime many people enjoyed. Its popularity grew to such heights that by the early 20th century it was recognized as an Olympic sport. Women did not compete at the Olympic level until 1980, but now both sexes enjoy the competitive challenges of Olympic field hockey. Watching these skilled athletes compete for the gold is exciting for adults and young fans of the sport alike. It can be an inspiration for children, too! Field hockey's endurance throughout history is a testament to its value not only as a game but as a force of community. For thousands of years it's brought people together on the playing field, men and women alike. However, despite this, some misconceptions remain. The sport's development proceeded differently in various places around the globe. Let's dispel a myth or two about who plays this sport today.




Not Just a Sport for Girls





Some might say that field hockey is strictly a "women's sport." While it's true that in some areas of the world the sport is played predominantly by women, those areas are outnumbered by the places where it is not restricted to one gender. The sport's global popularity across gender lines demonstrates that it is certainly an ideal sport for any child, boy or girl. On the eve of the sport's one hundred year anniversary as an Olympic sport, the New York times noted that despite the smaller number of boys playing field hockey in the Americas, worldwide it is enjoyed by everyone. Evidence of that fact can be seen in the variety of medal winners, which include Argentina, Australia, and even Pakistan. Field hockey is fundamentally a sport about teamwork due to the close coordination required to pass the ball ? and both boys and girls can learn the value of working together through this sport!




Why Field Hockey is Fun for Everyone




So what about some of the other actual benefits to the sport? It's easy to see that for boys and girls, it's a fun way to learn teamwork while also developing physical coordination and mental acuity. There are quite a number of tangible benefits to playing field hockey as well, though. For example, quickly darting around the field, chasing other players and the ball produces an intense cardiovascular workout. The heart gets pumping hard; calories are burnt off, and whole muscle groups in the body are used. This kind of cardiovascular exercise is also good for the improvement of breathing. As a child's body conditions itself to the activity involved, it becomes better and better at reacting to the stresses of exercise. In turn, that promotes overall wellness! As mentioned, it can help to improve mental fitness as well. Tracking the fast motion of the ball requires rapid reflexes.


Children gain mastery of their ability to balance, which promotes self-awareness. Similarly, we mustn't forget the best benefit of playing overall: happiness! Everyone enjoys themselves playing field hockey, which in turn leads to a better, more balanced mental state. It doesn't matter if your child is a boy or a girl ? as long as you've got a group of friends for them to play with, it's great fun! You can even form pick-up games with a minimal amount of equipment. From its simple rules and its humble beginnings all the way back thousands of years in the past, field hockey's evolution yielded a sport that endures in popularity around the world. With tens of thousands of worldwide players and growing interest, there's no time like the present to introduce a child you know to the sport. When it comes to promoting teamwork, encouraging physical activity, and eschewing the rough and contact-filled nature of other sports, field hockey reigns supreme. A hundred years of Olympic competition and excited kids everywhere can't be wrong!