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Field Hockey, The Rules

A field hockey match consists of two halves, usually 35 minutes each, and begins with a pass back (a non-defended pass from one teammate to another at mid-field). There are 11 players to a side, one of whom is a goalkeeper. The object of the game is to score more goals than the opposition. Goals are scored when the ball -- made of solid plastic, weighing between 5 1/2 ounces and 5 3/4 ounces with a circumference of 8 13/16 inches to 9 1/4 inches -- crosses the goal line between the goal posts after being touched by the stick of an attacker within the circle. Each goal is worth one point. The ball can only be touched with the flat side of the curved, hardwood stick.

Unique to field hockey is the obstruction rule. In virtually every other sport, shielding the ball with one's body is an integral part of game strategy. However, this is not allowed in field hockey. All players have an equal chance to gain control of the ball as it is dribbled or passed down the field.

Other infractions include advancing (other than the goalkeeper, no player may play the ball with any part of the body), dangerous use of the stick and hitting the ball in a manner that could lead to dangerous play. For a breach of rules, an umpire may award a free hit, penalty corner or penalty stroke. A majority of scoring opportunities in each match comes from penalty corners.

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The Game

  • Two Halves, 35 minutes each in collegiate and international play, 30 minutes in high school play

  • 11 players per side, including the goalkeeper

  • The pitch is 100 yards long and 60 yards wide (91.40m x 55.0m) divided by a center line and a 25-yard line on each side of the field. A striking circle is marked 16 yards (14.63m) out from each goal post. All international matches are played on watered down artificial turf.

  • Goal cages are 7 feet (2.14m) high, 12 feet (3.66m) wide and 4 feet (1.22m) deep. Boards on the back and side of the cages are 18 inches high.
  • Two umpires on the field officiate the match. An additional umpire may sit at the scorer's table.

  • The ball must be passed or dribbled down the field with the flat side of the stick.

  • A goal is scored when an attacker strikes the ball into the goal from within the striking circle.
  • Players may not shield the ball using their body or stick. All players must have an equal chance to play the ball.

Extra Time/Overtime

  • In international play, in classification rounds or games that require a winner to advance to the next round, if the score is tied after regulation, extra time of two, 7 1/2 minute periods is played. The game is ended when one team scores a goal. If the score remains tied after overtime, penalty strokes may be used to determine the winner. In penalty stroke competition, each team selects five players to take alternating penalty strokes against the opposing goalkeeper.
  • In high school federation play, if the score is tied after regulation time has expired, an overtime period of two, 10-minute halves is played with each team reducing the number of players to 7 per side. If the score remains tied after overtime, penalty strokes may be used to determine the winner. In penalty stroke competition, each team selects five players to take alternating penalty strokes against the opposing goalkeeper.

Fouls

A player may not

  • Shield or obstruct the ball from an opponent with the body or stick. All players must have an equal chance to gain control of the ball as it is dribbled or passed down the field.
  • Play the ball with the rounded side of the stick.

  • Interfere in the game without a stick
  • Charge, hit, shove or trip an opponent

  • Play the ball in a potentially dangerous way.
  • Use the foot or leg to support the stick in order to resist an opponent

  • Raise the stick in a dangerous or intimidating manner while approaching, attempting to play or stop the ball
  • Advance the ball by any means other than with the stick.

  • Stop or deflect the ball in the air or on the ground with any part of the body
  • Hit, hook, hold or interfere with an opponents stick: Free Hit

  • A free hit is awarded to the non-offending side following an infraction and are usually taken at the spot the foul occurs.
  • No player of the opposing team may be within 5 yards of the ball when hit.

  • The ball must be stationary and the striker must push or hit it. The hitter may not replay the ball until another player has touched it.
  • If the infraction is committed by a defender within the shooting circle, the attacking team is awarded a penalty corner.

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