This article contains some valuable tips which can be used to
develop field hockey drills, field hockey plays, and assist with
field hockey coaching.
Field Hockey Rules and play
Throughout most of the world the field hockey rules set by the
FIH are used. However in the United States,
NCAA have their own rules for inter-collegiate field hockey
competitions, and high school associations similarly play to
different rules. This article assumes FIH rules unless otherwise
Field hockey players are permitted to practice field hockey
drills and play the ball with any part of the stick other
than the rounded side (back). The flat side is always on the
"natural" side for a right-handed person — there are no
"left-handed" hockey sticks (for actual use in play, some have been
made as novelties).
Teams consist of eleven players on the field, and up to five
substitutes. Substitutions are not limited but may not be made
during a penalty
corner. There are no set positions other than goalkeeper, but
most teams arrange themselves (in a similar way to football
(soccer) teams) into fullbacks, midfielders and
Many teams include a single
A goalkeeper makes a glove save. Equipment worn here is typical
gear for a goalkeeper.
One player from each team is designated the goalkeeper.
Goalkeepers must wear a suitable helmet with full face mask and are
also permitted to wear protective padding, including large leg
guards, kickers and gloves. Although goalkeepers may block or
deflect the ball with any part of their bodies, and propel the ball
with their feet, they must always carry a stick, and normal stick
rules apply. Goalkeepers are permitted to play the ball outside
their defensive circle (scoring area or "D"), but must only use the
stick in this circumstance.
For the purposes of the rules, all players on the team in
possession of the ball are attackers, and those on the team
without the ball are defenders.
The match is officiated by two field umpires.
Traditionally each umpire generally controls half of the field,
divided roughly diagonally, although now experiments are being made
where either umpire can make any decision anywhere on the field.
These umpires are often assisted by a technical bench including a
timekeeper and record keeper.
Prior to the start of the game, a coin is tossed and the winning
captain can choose a starting end or start with the ball. The game
time is divided into two equal halves of 35 minutes each, with five
minutes for half-time. At the start of each half, as well as after
goals are scored, play is started with a pass from the centre of
the field. All players must start in their defensive half, but the
ball may be played in any direction. Each team starts with the ball
in one half, and the team that conceded the goal has possession for
Field players may only play the ball with the face of the stick.
Tackling is permitted as long as the tackler does not make contact
with the attacker or his stick before playing the ball (contact
after the tackle may also be penalised if the tackle was made from
a position where contact was inevitable). Further, the player with
the ball may not deliberately use his body to push a defender out
of the way.
Obstruction typically occurs in three circumstances - when a
defender comes between the player with possession and the ball
without first performing a legitimate tackle; when a defender's
stick comes between the attacker's stick and the ball or makes
contact with the attacker's stick; and also when (usually
deliberately) blocking the opposition's passage to the ball (called
third party obstruction).
When the ball passes over the sidelines, it is returned to play
with a sideline hit, taken by a member of the team whose players
were not the last to touch the ball before crossing the sideline.
If it crosses the backline after last touched by an attacker, a 15
m hit. A 15 m hit is also awarded for offenses committed by the
attacking side within 15 m of the end of the pitch they are
Free hits are awarded when offences are committed outside the
scoring circles. The ball may be hit or pushed once in any
direction by the team offended against. Opponents must move 5 m
from the ball when a free hit is awarded, and for attacking free
hits within 5 m of the circle all attackers other than the one
taking the hit must also by 5 m away.
As mentioned above, a 15 m hit is awarded if an attacking player
commits a foul forward of that line, or if the ball passes over the
backline off an attacker. These hits are taken in line with where
the foul was committed (taking a line parallel with the sideline
between where the offence was committed, or the ball went out of
play). If the attack commit a foul in the circle they are
attacking, the defence additionally has the option to take the free
hit anywhere in that circle.
A long corner is awarded if the ball goes over the backline
after last being touched by a defender. Long corners are played by
the attacking team and involve a free hit on the sideline five
yards from the corner of the field closest to where the ball went
out of play. These are also known as long hits.
or penalty corner is a rather complicated set play that is
awarded against a defending team when any offence is committed in
the defensive circle, and may be awarded when a deliberate offence
is committed in the defending 23 m area, or when the defending team
deliberately plays the ball over the back line.
Short corners begin with five defenders (including the keeper)
arranged along the backline. All other defenders must return to the
centre line until the ball is in play. Attacking players begin the
play standing outside the scoring circle, except for one attacker
who starts the corner by playing the ball from a mark 10 m either
side of the goal (the circle has a 14.63 m radius). This player
puts the ball into play by pushing or hitting the ball to the other
attackers outside the circle; the ball must pass outside the circle
before the attackers attempt to get a shot or deflection into the
goal. For safety reasons, the first shot of a penalty corner must
remain under 460 mm high unless it is flicked.
A penalty stroke is awarded when defenders commit a deliberate
foul in the circle which deprives an attacker of possession or the
opportunity to play the ball, when an accidental breach prevents a
certain goal, or if defenders repeatedly "break" or start to run
from the backline before a penalty corner has started. This penalty
pits a single attacker against the goalkeeper, and is taken from a
spot 6.4 m out and directly in front of the goal. The goalkeeper
must stand with heels on the goal line, and cannot move his feet
until the ball is played. On the umpire's whistle, the striker may
take one step and push or flick the ball at the goal, which the
goalkeeper attempts to save. The attacker is not permitted to take
more than one step, more than one shot, to fake or dummy the shot,
or to move towards or interfere with the goalkeeper once the shot
is taken. Hitting or dragging the ball is also forbidden. If the
shot is saved, play is restarted with a 15 m hit to the defenders;
if a goal is scored, play is restarted in the normal way.
Dangerous Play and Raised Balls
If the ball is raised off the ground in a manner that is, in the
umpire's opinion, dangerous, the ball is turned over to the other
team and they receive a free hit. The free hit is taken where the
action that caused the danger occurred (that is, not where the
danger itself occurs). The definition of a "dangerous ball" is a
matter of interpretation by the umpires. Guidance in the rules
states "a ball is considered dangerous when it causes legitimate
evasive action by players" — but it also depends on the speed of
the ball, the height at which it is raised, and the number of
players near its path.
It is, however, legal to raise the ball when making a shot on
goal (by hitting or flicking), or to make an 'overhead' pass
(providing opposition players are greater than 5 m from the player,
and the ball is not dangerous). The ball may only deliberately be
raised using a hit if the player is shooting at goal.
Dangerous play rules also apply with relation to the usage of
the stick. Players may not attempt to play at the ball above their
shoulders (unless saving a goal on the goal line). It will
generally be considered dangerous play to hit the ball while it is
in the air; the ball must be controlled first in this
Warnings and Suspensions
Hockey uses a three-tier card system of warnings and
- A Green card is a warning.
- A Yellow card is a temporary suspension, just like in
but normally for a minimum of 5 minutes duration without
substitution, in normal games. (In some modes, including indoor,
shorter periods of suspension are applied, dependant on local
- A Red card, just like in association
football, is a permanent exclusion from the rest of the game,
without substitution, and in many circumstances will also result in
the player being banned for a certain period of time or number of
matches (this is governed by local playing conditions, rather than
the rules of hockey).
Unlike football, a player may receive more than one green or
yellow card, although if a player has already received a yellow
card, they cannot be issued any more green cards. In the case of a
second yellow card, the temporary suspension would be expected to
be of considerably longer duration than the first. However, local
playing conditions may mandate that cards are awarded only
progressively, and not allow second awards.
The teams' object is to play the ball into their attacking
circle and, from there, hit, push or flick the ball into the goal,
scoring a point. The team with more goals after two 35-minute
halves wins the game.
Conditions for breaking ties are not laid down in the rules of
hockey, but many associations will follow the procedure laid down
in FIH tournament regulations which mandate 7.5 minutes each way of
"golden goal" extra time (i.e. the game ends as soon as one team
scores). If scores are still level, then the game will be decided
with penalty strokes, in much the same way that association
football penalty shoot outs are conducted.
Other competitions may use alternative means of breaking a tie,
for example, an extended period of golden goal extra time with a
progressive reduction in the number of players each team can have
on the field (usually termed "drop-offs"); if no goal is scored at
the end of such extra time periods, again a result would be
achieved using penalty strokes.