Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Nov. 8, 2018 — The FIH engages in futurism, and the United States may actually be ahead of the curve

It was a bit more than 25 years ago when someone in Holland figured out that a waterlogged artificial turf field puts a film of water around the ball, creating a frictionless game with the ball under close control. It also helps create a safer sliding environment for goalies when they are wearing foam leg guards.

This past week, the FIH, international governing body of the sport of field hockey, announced something that has been hinted at for several years: the expensive hockey-only facilities with watering pumps and drainage systems are likely to not be the standard FIH pitch starting after the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

“Now we will have to work together with manufacturers for turf, ball and shoes to bring you a new experience equal to what we know today on water,” said Thierry Weil, the chief executive officer of FIH.

The solution may very well be a reformulated version of what is currently on the ground on thousands of competition surfaces in the United States: artificial grass. These kinds of pitches, which have been marketed under brand names such as FieldTurf and SafePlay, have been adopted by a number of high schools, and many of the best teams are using it to quicken their style of play.

What goes in between the blades, however, may be changing. Cork, sand, and rubber crumbs are already being used as infill, and I think the manufacturers are looking chiefly at the infill, even though has learned of plans by some manufacturers to reformulate the blades to give them less friction and to create a faster playing surface.

I envision a kind of plastic that was made to make the 80s-era novelty toy, the Wacky Wall Walker (check this link, I kid you not). It is a very oily rubbery plastic which may get dirty after a time, but a water washing can restore its pliability. Getting the right ratio between slip and grip is going to be the challenge over the next six years. After all, I’ve known at least one goalie who broke an ankle on a dry pitch, effectively ending her career.

Let’s see what the manufacturers can do.


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