Field hockey, also called hockey, outdoor game played by two opposing teams of 11 players each who use sticks curved at the striking end to hit a small, hard ball into their opponent’s goal. It is called field hockey to distinguish it from the similar game played on ice.
Hockey is believed to date from the earliest civilizations. The Arabs, Greeks, Persians, and Romans each had their own versions, and traces of a stick game played by the Aztec Indians of South America have been found. Hockey can also be identified with other early games, such as hurling and shinty. During the Middle Ages a French stick game called hoquet was played, and the English word may be derived from it.
Hockey began to be played in English schools in the late 19th century, and the first men’s hockey club, at Blackheath in southeastern London, recorded a minute book in 1861. Teddington, another London club, introduced several major variations, including the ban of using hands or lifting sticks above the shoulder, the replacement of the rubber cube by a sphere as the ball, and most importantly, the adopting of a striking circle, which was incorporated into the rules of the newly founded Hockey Association in London in 1886.