Shinty is one of the fastest, most physically demanding and skilful sports in the world. Normally played on an outdoor surface that can be up to 155m long, shinty is about two teams of players striking a small leather ball with a curved stick, known as a caman.
With the ball being hit around the field of play at speeds of over 100 miles per hour, a game of shinty is a thrilling experience for both players and spectators.
Shinty evolved in the Highlands of Scotland, but is now played (by children, men and women) in other areas of Scotland, England, in the United States and Krasnador in Russia – a testament to shinty’s continuing and growing appeal.
Shinty is a fast, physical contact sport played outdoors. The object of the game is to score goals.
The full Rules of Play for shinty are contained in the Camanachd Association’s byelaws, but variations to these rules, mainly to do with numbers in a team and the dimensions of the field of play, exist for women’s shinty and for children and young people.
In men’s shinty there are 12 players in each team – one of whom is always the goalkeeper. In women’s shinty and in some competitions for children and young people, there are fewer players in the team and the pitch dimensions are smaller.
Each player has a caman, or curved stick, and it is with the caman that the small leather ball is struck. A well-struck shinty ball can travel over 100 metres at very high speed.
Competitive shinty is organised into league and knock-out cup competitions at various levels and grades. In the men’s game the most coveted trophy is the Camanachd Cup, first played for in 1896 and in women’s shinty, the ultimate competition is the Valerie Fraser Cup.
Both these events normally take place in September each year.
Internationally, shinty has an annual match between shinty and the Irish game of hurling (Camogie when played by women) – which have the same historic roots, although each has evolved in its own way – and this normally takes place in October. A composite set of rules has been agreed between the Camanachd Association and its Irish counterpart, the Gaelic Athletic Association.
Although some developmental competitions for children and young people take place indoors, or outdoors on artificial surfaces, shinty is primarily an outdoor sport played on a natural grass surface. The playing area is much larger than for other outdoor team sports such football (soccer), rugby or field hockey. The pitch dimensions can be up to 155m long by 73m wide.
Shinty is a sport that is very much a community based sport and as a result home games are mostly played in the local area on pitches that have been developed from ground that may have had a variety of uses before being developed for shinty. Because of the large playing area which is fully utilised by only one sport in, sometimes, rural or semi-rural areas, thinking about a move towards, for example, all-weather playing surfaces presents enormous resource challenges. Many clubs though have risen to the challenge of developing their facilities and there has been a significant growth in the number of clubs that have financed and built high-quality changing and club rooms.
There are opportunities for everyone to play shinty, whatever their age, gender, ability, race, culture or background. There are different forms of shinty from the small-sided game, such as First Shinty for young children taking their first steps in the game to the hugely popular six-a-side tournaments, to the more traditional 12-a-side senior game (or 10-a-side in the case of women’s shinty).
Young players start out playing First Shinty being introduced to the key skills of the game using rubber headed, flexible camans. As the players progress they are introduced to using the wooden caman and taught the basic skills of blocking to protect themselves and cleeking, or hooking, to prevent their opponent playing the ball.
However you choose to enjoy playing shinty, there are teams across Scotland providing opportunities in an ever increasing number of communities.
For the most talented players, there is a player pathway in place which provides a pyramid of participation identifying the key elements needed in foundation, through participation and performance to drive excellence at the top of the pathway. A player development pathway ensures that players are given the very best opportunities and support to reach their full potential, which at the elite end may mean playing top level shinty and even representing Scotland at many levels from Under 16 to adult for both men and women