I have played field hockey for eight years, but I have never played indoor field hockey. This year a new indoor league was created in San Diego for players to keep their skills up in the offseason. Initially the intention was to have multiple divisions for high school, college, adults, and professionals. However, since field hockey is not that popular in California, and many players do not know how to play indoor, the league failed to get enough members and consequently had to make one division. I was scared when I found this out because that meant I would be playing against members of the U.S. Men’s National Team. I initially thought they were going to be my biggest problem, but adjusting to the new stick and pitch proved to be much worse.
First off, I had to buy a new stick that is about half as light as the one I regularly play with and has a much smaller bow. This made the ball bounce off my stick when I tried to receive it.
Secondly, the pitch is about half the size of an outdoor field and made of wood, which makes the ball travel a lot faster than I was use to. I found myself often pushing the ball too hard, which in combination with the shorter court and faster pace would cause it to roll out of bounds.
The faster surface also made it very hard to do technical skills like pulls because the ball was moving too fast and I did not have the correct timing to catch the ball again on my stick after the pull.
Thirdly, another frustration was a major rule change from outdoor to indoor that in indoor you cannot hit the ball, only push or flick it. My natural instinct is to be able to hit and so the first few weeks of playing I could mess up and accidently hit and be given a penalty, which not only made my team mad at me, but also made the other team mad because of the extreme danger of hitting on that fast of a surface. Finally, on top of it already being very difficult technically to adjust to the new stick and surface, I was also very tired, which made my skills even worse. With the ball moving faster, it required me to move a lot faster and there are only four players on the court. The biggest factor, however, was that along the sidelines are wooden planks so the ball goes out of bounce far less often. This constant play and higher tempo made me exhausted within the first few minutes of each half.
This is what the boards look like …
As the weeks went on and I got in better shape and adjusted to the new surface and rules, I started to enjoy playing a lot more. I finally started to notice more and more successes with my pulls and pushes and defensive tackles. With these successes I also got to know the other people in the league much better. Suddenly the same men on the National Team who I was terrified of day one were my friends. While they were still much more talented than me, it made playing against them less intimidating and I actually have had a few times where I have got past them or stopped them from getting past me, which is arguably the best feeling in the world.
In the beginning, learning to play indoor field hockey was extremely frustrating. After the first day I even went home and cried because I was embarrassed of how bad I was when people who I had played with had talked me up so much. However, I am happy that I stuck with it because as my skills and relationships have grown it has become a lot of fun. Furthermore, it has also made me a much better hockey player and I am excited for Spring, when I will transition back to outdoor, to see how my quicker and sharper stick skills help me.