When Did Field Hockey Become An Olympic Sport? [Solved!]

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While the winter season may be over, spring has sprung which means warm sunny weather, blossoming trees, and sports being back in action. One of the most exciting sports to be on the rebound is field hockey. Thanks to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the sport will be making its debut as an Olympic sport and will be played at the premier athletic events after the winter season. Now that the dust has settled, it’s time to find out more about this exciting new addition to the Olympic roster.

When Did Field Hockey Become An Olympic Sport?

It all started at the 1896 Olympics in Athens, where the sport of field hockey was played for the first time. The game was a modified form of rugby with each team having eleven players and a very small pitch (just over 100 meters long & 50 meters wide). The rules were similar with the main difference being that in rugby, the players were allowed to hold opponents jerseys. While this made for a more exciting game, it also encouraged less tackling which ultimately led to the sport being discontinued in 1904.

It wasn’t until the 1920s that the sport started to make a comeback. Australian Olympian Harry McIlwri brought the game to the masses by writing a book about it titled, “The Game that Changed the World.” At the 1924 Paris Olympics, the sport made its debut as a full contact game and was played on a 220-meters-long field with two 25-meters-wide running lanes. There were also two sets of goals, one set at each end. This is the version of field hockey that most people know and love today. It’s also the type of field hockey used in the International Hockey League (IHL).

Why Is The International Hockey League Important?

While the game itself may be an Olympic sport, the league it belongs to is not. The IHL is an important part of the hockey world because it allows aspiring hockey players to play at the professional level. As a recreational sport, field hockey doesn’t have the same worldwide recognition as its rival, ice hockey. However, it does enjoy a large fan base in Australia and in countries where cricket is popular. Thanks to the IHL, Australian hockey players have been able to make a name for themselves and further their sports career. Some of the players have gone on to play for the national team, the Hockeyroos, and have won gold medals at the Paralympic Games. If you’re an Australian who enjoys a good cricket match, you may enjoy field hockey too with teams like the Sydney Ice Hockey Club and the Melbourne Glacéis taking part in the IHL. As for the rest of the world, the IHL allows them to follow the Australian teams’ games live, which in turn, helps to further their own sports awareness.

What Does The Future Of Field Hockey Look Like?

With the return of the summer season and the resumption of sport, there’s no doubt that field hockey has a future. Just look at how quickly the game has been accepted in Australia and the fact that it was one of the early sports to be included in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as a demonstration sport. The Tokyo Olympics will mark the return of the sport to the Olympic scene after a 20-year absence. While it will still be played on a rectangular field with two goals at each end, some of the game’s most prominent figures predict an evolutionary look to the sport.

“As the game develops, we will see more and more elements of rugby introduced into the game,” said former NHL (now IIHF) player and coach Scotty Olson. “The main difference will be the size of the pitch. We’re already seeing experimentation with the game being played on a football pitch, which would make it much more entertaining for spectators.”

Olson went on to predict the return of some old elements in the game too. “I would love to see teams revert to a formation that is more rugby like, with no hiding places and constant forward movement,” he said. “I also can’t wait for the tackles to be reintroduced. Tackling is such an important part of the game and I miss it when it’s not allowed.”

Another area of exploration for field hockey is off the field. While we often think about the physical difference between ice hockey and field hockey, the games are actually very similar. Thanks to advances in technology, there are now head coaches, assistant coaches, and trainers equipped with video cameras who study the play on the field to find out how to make the sport more effective. One of the main takeaways from these videos is the need for speed. While there’s no question that bigger and stronger players win the day on the field, the video scouts have also identified players who are fast and elusive as the types of players who can help their teams succeed. This is one of the reasons why the IHFL (which preceded the IHL by eight years) has seen an increase in the number of women’s teams taking part in the league. In many ways, it’s an effort to make the game more accessible to the general public, which ultimately could lead to more people getting involved and further improving the game.

Regardless of whether you’re an avid spectator or player, the upcoming 2020 Olympics will be an exciting time for field hockey. While some of the rules and terminology may change, the game itself will be back with a bang and prove that nothing will stand in the way of this great Australian sport.

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