Get Inspired: HOCKEY

Hockey was first introduced to the Olympic Games in London in 1908.

More than a century on, the sport is in very good health; a total of 630,000 spectators saw live hockey at the 2012 Games, with every match a sell-out.

The British men have won Olympic gold on three occasions, in front of home fans at the inaugural Olympic hockey tournament in 1908, again in Antwerp in 1920 and more recently at the Olympics in Seoul 1988. The women came close in 2012 with bronze.

Why hockey?

Hockey is a sport that improves your fitness, agility and lower body strength, and it's a great calorie-burner.

Analysis

Mel Clewlow, BBC Sport

"New rule changes mean the game is quicker, more goals are scored, skill levels are massively improved and it's much easier to watch."

As a form of cardiovascular exercise it increases lung capacity, and the combination of using the stick and the dynamic movement required gives a real all-round workout.

As hockey is a team game incorporating both genders, it has a lively social element and people often take up the sport to make new friends. Clubs also have a family environment which make it hugely appealing to players of all ages, including parents and their children.

Hockey clubs have become important parts of local communities, offering a variety of social events beyond simply playing the sport.

Ways to play

Hockey is played by more than 100,000 people in the United Kingdom, and there are many ways in which you can try it out.

Back To Hockey is a campaign currently running at 200 clubs across England offering women of all ages an introduction to the game either for the first time, or to return to hockey having played previously. It focuses on learning the game whilst also making friends in a relaxed environment, and sessions for this campaign run from 28 April until 2 June. Find a session you can attend here. 

Hockey at the Olympics explained (Part one)

National Club Weekend takes place on 6-7 September, when clubs will open their doors to the public so you can have a go at hockey and find out what goes on at your local club. More detailed information will follow soon, but in the meantime you can find your local club on the Hockey Nation website. 

The England Hockey,   Hockey Wales,   Scottish Hockey  , and Ulster Hockey  websites all provide information about where you can find your local club.

For those wanting to play the game,  it is vital to buy your own gum shield and shin pads to ensure safety. It is worth checking with your local club whether they can provide a hockey stick for the first few sessions before you decide if you want to purchase one for yourself.

Whether you are a complete novice or returning to the sport, Hockey Nation  lists places you can take part or watch the sport in the UK.

There are hundreds of events to choose from, many of them at little or no charge.

Rush Hockey, Back to Hockey, Quicksticks and In2Hockey also provide a variety of different ways  to play the game.

More on the GB Hockey website 

History

Hockey gets its name from the French word 'hocquet', which means shepherd's crook.

Sean Kerly remembers starting out in hockey and winning Olympic gold

There are records of a similar game being played in Persia in 2000 BC and the modern sport developed in London in the 19th century before being spread throughout the British Empire.

It became an Olympic sport for men in 1908, but it was not until the Moscow Games of 1980 that women's teams were admitted.

From the 2000 Games in Sydney, men competed in a 12-team tournament and women in a 10-team one, but in London this changed to allow 12 teams in each tournament.

India were the dominant force in the sport either side of World War Two. Between 1928 and 1960 they won 30 consecutive matches at the Olympics, scoring 197 goals and conceding just eight.

India's men have won eight Olympic golds in all, although the last of these came in 1980 and they did not even qualify for the Beijing Olympics.

Zimbabwe were the inaugural women's winners in the boycott-affected 1980 Games, while the German men and Dutch women were the 2012 Olympic champions.

More on the IOC website 

Are you inspired to try Hockey? Or maybe you are a keen enthusiast already? Get in touch and tell us your experience of the activity by tweeting us on @bbcgetinspired  or email us on getinspired@bbc.co.uk.

See our full list of activity guides for more inspiration.