Field Hockey Rules

Field hockey rules govern the basics of game play and penalties. This fast-paced version of hockey is easy to follow once you learn the rules. Grab a hockey stick and learn how to play field hockey.

Game Plan
A field hockey game lasts approximately an hour and is divided into two 30-minute halves, not including a half time. If you view a collegiate or international game, expect each half to last 35 minutes, including play stoppage. The field measures 100 yards long by 60 yards wide and a center line splits the field. A 25-yard line is also marked on each side. A striking circle, where goals must be attempted, marks an area 16 yards out from the goal posts.

The ball, a bit larger than a baseball, weighs approximately 5 ½ ounces. A hockey stick can't weigh less than 12 ounces or more than 28 ounces. It's made from hardwood and has a curved head that is flat on one side and round on the other.

Eleven players, including a goalie, take the field for each team. Two umpires regulate play. Sometimes, a third referee is available at the scorer's table.

How do players move the ball down the field? It's passed or dribbled with the flat side of the stick. During ball movement, players cannot shield the ball with their bodies or sticks. Each player must have equal opportunity to make contact with the ball.

Penalty Box
Unlike the game's counterpart on ice, field hockey rules do not include a penalty box. But, penalties are assessed if player commits a foul. Shielding another player from attempting to make contact with the ball, using the stick or interfere with play, or using the body to advance the ball are all fouls.

Once an infraction occurs, the other team receives a free hit. Players must be at least five yards away from the ball when it returns to play.  If a defender causes the violation in the shooting circle, the other team receives a penalty corner.
A penalty corner places the ball 10 yards from the goal line. Once the ball is back in the circle, a shot can be attempted. If the first shot is a hit, it has to cross the goal line at a height of not more than 18 inches for the goal to count.

A penalty stroke differs from a penalty corner. An offensive player and the goalie square off. All other players stand behind the 25-yard line.

Overtime Limits
Overtime differs between international and high school levels of competition.

  • International filed hockey rules. If the game is a classification round or if play results in a winner advancing, two seven and a half minute periods are played if the score is tied after regulation. A winner is declared once a team scores a goal.  What happens if it's still tied? Alternating penalty strokes against the defending goalie may be used to decide a winner.
  • High School rules. When there is a tie at the end of regulation playa, two 10-minute halves are played. Each team has seven players on the field. If the game remains tied at the end of extra time, alternating penalty stroke attempts against the defending goalie determine the winner.

With a basic overview of field hockey rules, spectators will be able to follow the fast-paced action on the hockey field.

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