Rules of Field Hockey

There is an old adage that rules are meant to be broken, but rules are meant to be changed as well. Indeed, the rules of field hockey have changed considerably since they were first developed in the late 19th century. The International Hockey Federation (IHF) releases updated versions of the rules for each season (from the middle of one calendar year to the middle of the following year).

Field of play

Essential to any sport is the definition of the field of play. A hockey field must be rectangular in shape; its dimensions should be 91.40 meters in length (side-lines) and 55.00 meters in width (back-lines). The side-lines and back-lines must have a width equal to 75mm.

Like association football, hockey uses corner flags, which can be between 1.20 and 1.50 meters. Goals must be positioned outside the field of play at the center of either back-line, and must touch the back-line as well. Other important areas on the hockey field are the center circle and penalty spots. There are other prescribed field markings that must be made in accordance with the rules of the game.

Team composition

A maximum of 11 players can take part in play at any period in a match. For any infringement of this rule, the captain of the offending team suffers a personal penalty and play is restarted with a free hit (unless a penalty against the offending team was previously awarded). Each team must have a goalkeeper or a player with goalkeeping responsibilities on the field of play. The keeper would be differently attired and use recommended goalkeeping equipment as well.

Basic equipment

Basic equipment for field hockey is a ball and a stick. The ball has certain qualities and measurements that are prescribed on the rules. It must be spherical and have a circumference between 224 and 235 mm. It is usually colored white, but other colors are permissible as long as it contrasts with the playing surface. In addition, the ball should be hard and smooth, although indentations are sometimes allowed.

Hockey sticks also have extensive qualities and measurements. There are variations among hockey sticks, particularly as they must cater to different player heights. However, all hockey sticks must reside within the parameters outlined in the rules.

Match and gameplay

A game of hockey consists of two periods of 35 minutes, with a half-time interval of just five minutes. These times can be altered by mutual agreement between teams, unless competition rules specify otherwise. Like association football, field hockey permits drawn games. Where one team scores more goals than the other, that team is declared the winner.

According to IHF rules, a goal is scored when "the ball is played within the circle by an attacker and does not travel outside the circle before passing completely over the goal-line and under the crossbar."

To make a potentially dangerous game less dangerous, there are rules governing player conduct on the field of play. For instance, players cannot raise their hockey stick above shoulder height and must not play in a dangerous manner. One of the more important rules is that a player cannot come within five meters of a player receiving a "falling raised ball" until it has been received, controlled and grounded.

The field hockey manual is 68 pages long and contains more details about player equipment, field specifications, player conduct, team composition and other extensive details.

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