WHO DOES IT?
Around 200,000 young people aged between six and 16 get the sticks out once a week. Seventh most popular sport in Britain, with girls outnumbering boys. Under-11s play mini-hockey at seven-a-side, often indoors. Over-11s play 11-a-side. New Lottery money to help elite players train.
At least a double period during the week to develop skills. Full games are 35 minutes each way, though may differ in many schools' competitions. State schools play after school; independents may play at weekends.
Sticks range from plastic indoor ones at Pounds 11 each to larger outdoor ones starting at Pounds 18; balls from Pounds 1.25; goals from Pounds 475 with nets from Pounds 70 (don't forget, you need two of each!). For training, however, Pounds 2 cones can be used to mark goal areas.
Girls wear short skirts, polo-type shirts and long socks: total about Pounds 16; boys wear shorts, shirt (can be rugby-style) and socks. Protection for goalies is very important: leg-guards from Pounds 49.95, boot kickers from Pounds 16.95, gloves from Pounds 9.25 and chest protec-tors from Pounds 10.95. Some manufacturers offer starter kits for schools from about Pounds 165.
A fast-running game which develops motor skills and co-ordination. Unfairly blamed for females having large bottoms.
Cold, muddy fields. Smart thwacks across the shins. Stray balls causing black eyes. Gum-shields recommended.
Team sports build team working. Fast-thinking and strategy crucial. Fast-growing sport with boys. Men won gold in 1988 Olympics; women bronze in 1992.
Still (unfairly, see above) tarred with "jolly hockey sticks" image, especially among girls.
Sports field ideal, but can be played in sports hall with cones. Astro-turf growing in popularity. An end to muddy boots!
As for school THEY LOVE IT BECAUSE
It means charging round a huge empty outdoor space yelling encouragement at each other, with the intense triumph of shooting a goal and the feeling of having had a great work-out.
THEY HATE IT BECAUSE
Captains with bad strategy can end upleaving defence or wings out of the game, which is boring - and cold.Ball control is complex, and until you have some degree of skill at shooting, it can be very frustrating. Seen as a traditionally single-sex game, it can seem unglamorous.
More information from: Gill Oliver at Hockeywise, English Hockey Association, The Stadium, Silbury Boulevard, Milton Keynes. Tel: 01908 689280