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Field hockey isn’t just a game of sticks and goals; it’s a battlefield where every player is a crucial warrior with a vital role.

From the unwavering Goalkeeper to the strategic Center Forward, each position is more than a spot on the field; it’s a unique mission.

Dive into the art of field hockey as we decode the responsibilities of these essential positions.

  • The Goalkeeper is the last line of defense, a shield of certainty in the chaos of the game.
  • Fullbacks form the team’s defensive backbone, thwarting attacks with tactical prowess.
  • Halfbacks (or Midfielders) are the versatile connectors, bridging the divide between defense and attack.
  • The Left Wing Forward adds creativity to offense, surging down the field to outflank the opposition.
  • Right Wing Forward mirrors skill on the flank, using speed and agility to penetrate defenses.
  • And the Center Forward is the spearhead of the team’s attack, orchestrating the frontline with precision.
Field Hockey positions with the numbers as they are known:
1โ€“Goalkeeper 2,3โ€“Fullbacks 4,5,6,7,8โ€“Midfielders 9โ€“Left Wing Forward 10โ€“Center Forward 11โ€“Right Wing Forward

#1 Goalkeeper

  • ๐Ÿ† Notable goalkeepers: Joyce Sombroek, Maddie Hinch, Jaap Stockmann, and David Harte

The Goalkeeper is the last line of defense and their primary role is to prevent the ball from entering the goal. They are allowed to use any part of their body to block shots within the shooting circle.

On offense, while the goalkeeper doesn’t directly contribute to scoring, their skills in quick decision-making can launch fast counter-attacks by distributing the ball effectively to outfield players.

Key Characteristics or Skills:

  • Exceptional reflexes and hand-eye coordination.
  • Good communication skills to organize the defense.
  • Courage and the ability to stay calm under pressure.
  • Outstanding agility and flexibility.

#2 Fullbacks

  • ๐Ÿ† Notable fullbacks: Kate Richardson-Walsh, Moritz Fรผrste, Alyson Annan, and Luciana Aymar

Fullbacks, also known as defenders, are primarily responsible for protecting the area in front of the goalkeeper. They make key tackles, interceptions, and block shots to prevent the opposing team from scoring.
During offense, they need to deliver accurate passes to midfielders and forwards and can also advance up the field to support the attack, particularly during set-pieces like penalty corners.

Key Characteristics or Skills:

  • Strong tackling and marking abilities.
  • Excellent positional awareness and game comprehension.
  • Good passing skills to initiate attacks.
  • Composure under pressure and physical resilience.

#3 Halfbacks (Midfielders)

  • ๐Ÿ† Notable halfbacks: Teun de Nooijer, Stacey Michelsen, Eddie Ockenden, and Delfina Merino

Halfbacks, or midfielders, serve as a bridge between the fullbacks and forwards, contributing both to defense and offense. They intercept passes from the opposing team and initiate counter-attacks, maintain possession, and distribute the ball to create scoring opportunities.

Defensively, they track back to support their defenders and disrupt the opposition’s play through skilled tackles and interceptions.

Key Characteristics or Skills:

  • Excellent endurance and stamina.
  • Good ball control and precise passing.
  • Strategic understanding of the game.
  • Versatility to adapt to both attacking and defending situations.

#4 Left Wing Forward

  • ๐Ÿ† Notable left wing forwards: Sohail Abbas, Roelant Oltmans, Floris Jan Bovelander, and Jamie Dwyer

Left Wing Forwards specialize in attacking down the left side of the field. They create scoring chances by making runs along the sideline, crossing the ball into the shooting circle, and occasionally cutting in to take shots on goal.

Defensively, they apply pressure on opposing defenders and cover their corresponding wing to prevent forward progress and force errors.

Key Characteristics or Skills:

  • Speed and agility to outrun defenders.
  • Accurate crossing ability.
  • Strong dribbling skills with the ability to cut inside towards the goal.
  • Good defensive positioning and pressing.

#5 Right Wing Forward

  • ๐Ÿ† Notable right wing forwards: Ties Kruize, Pietie Coetzee, Maartje Paumen, and Naomi van As

Similar to their partners on the left, Right Wing Forwards are responsible for quick offensive plays down the right flank. They are pivotal in stretching the opposition defense, providing crosses, and assisting or scoring goals themselves.
On defense, they are required to pressure opponents and disrupt potential threats on their flank, as well as track back and assist their own defenders.

Key Characteristics or Skills:

  • Ability to sprint and maintain speed along the flank.
  • Effective at delivering powerful and precise crosses.
  • Proficiency in one-on-one encounters with defenders.
  • Good tactical awareness to fulfill defensive duties.

#6 Center Forward

  • ๐Ÿ† Notable center forwards: Paul Litjens, Stephan Veen, Luciana Aymar (a versatile player also excelling at center forward), and Taeke Taekema

The Center Forward is typically the main goal-scoring threat on the team, operating in the central areas of the enemy’s defensive half. This player makes leads, creates space, and finishes scoring chances from passes delivered by the midfielders and wing forwards.

Defensively, the Center Forward hassles the central defenders, attempting to force them to make errors, and can often be the first line of defense by disrupting play high up the field.

Key Characteristics or Skills:

  • Strong goal-scoring instincts and finishing ability.
  • Excellent spatial awareness to find and exploit gaps in defense.
  • Effective off-the-ball movement.
  • Defensive work-rate to pressure the opposition from the front.

Hybrid Positions

Attacking Midfielder

An Attacking Midfielder bridges the forward line and midfield, primed for creating scoring opportunities through assists and long-range shots, maintaining offensive pressure.

Defensive Midfielder

A Defensive Midfielder supports the defense from midfield, adept at ball retrieval, distribution, and breaking up opponent plays, providing a pivotal defensive bulwark.


A Wingback fuses responsibilities of a defender with a winger, contributing to both offense and defense along the sidelines, crucial for width and overlaps.

Inverted Winger

An Inverted Winger cuts inside from the flanks onto their stronger foot, focusing on shooting or playmaking, rather than traditional width and crosses.


What are the positions and roles in Field Hockey?

Goalkeeper, Defenders, Midfielders, and Forwards are the Field Hockey positions and roles, each tasked with specialized functions within offensive and defensive play strategies.

How do I choose a position in Field Hockey?

Analyzing your skills, fitness, and understanding of the game is how you choose a position in Field Hockey. Your coach can also offer insights based on team needs and individual aptitudes.

What Field Hockey positions are for beginners?

Midfielders and Forwards are the best Field Hockey positions for beginners, providing opportunities to learn a broad range of skills and engage in both offensive and defensive plays.


Field hockey thrives on the unique contributions of each position, from the defensive resilience of the Goalkeeper to the offensive agility of the Forwards.

Midfielders bridge defense and attack with versatility, while Defenders ensure solid backline support.

As field hockey evolves, players exhibit adaptability and tactical insight, mastering various roles to meet changing demands.

This diversity of positions, as outlined in our chart, underscores the sport’s essence: a blend of continuous motion, strategic foresight, and cooperative spirit.

Together, these roles create a rich tapestry of gameplay, illustrating field hockey as a sport where teamwork and individual skills converge to form a compelling showcase of athletic prowess and collective ambition.

To see how these positions and roles come to life in popular culture, check out our list of the best field hockey movies, shows, and documentaries.

Taylor is a travel blogger and educator who helps others travel Europe easily. She is a field hockey expert, playing on nationally-competing teams for more than a decade before playing division I field hockey at Liberty University.

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