Amended 3rd February 2013
The ban on the intentionally raised hit in field hockey. – Dangerous lifting of the ball. Suggestions.
The hurling style lift-and-hit is not now specifically banned, as it once was, but would probably be regarded as a lifted hit; we have no idea if bouncing the ball on the stick is technically permitted, stationary or running, although it is usually allowed if not dangerous (in what circumstances this action would be considered dangerous was at one time set out in the Rules of Hockey, but was removed – I have no idea why) and the up-and-under slap-hit of a bouncing or falling ball that produces a lob-like effect, can be a spectacular skill, has never been ruled for, but is seen occasionally in the modern game.
If we take the present rule literally (how else can we take it?) the lob-hit (as I have above termed it), no matter how much attacking players and umpires would like to see it as part of the game (i.e. they would like it for attackers but not defenders – who could possibly use such a stoke to hit the ball out of the circle), is presently not legal – and the advantage gained can be huge.
I have read Internet discussions where it is suggested, as a ‘get round’ that this hit-lob might be referred to as guiding or stroking the ball rather than as hitting it ( The ‘bending’ of rule with such semantics is only a good argument for reducing subjective decision making by umpires. Where it is felt a Rule is inappropriate for game circumstances there should be lobby to change the rule not a tacit circumvention of it ).
The hurling-hit can be lethal but it is presumably now (as it is no longer specifically banned) legal from within the circle as method of making a shot at the goal.
Bouncing the ball on the stick is technically hitting it, but as the ball is not propelled beyond the playing reach of the ball holder, it could be seen as a dribbling skill. It is easy enough to make an exception for this skill as long as it is done out of the playing reach of an opponent, but the hit-lob and the hurling-hit propel the ball in ways that are only really different in terms of power (and therefore of potential danger of injury), even if the style of action (position of hands and arc of swing) are not the same. The lob can of course, like the longer scoop, result in a ball falling from above head height onto the positions of opponents who are too close to each other for safety.
The admonishment in regard to certain playing actions “but this should not be dangerous” is a prohibition that results in the award of a penalty after dangerous play has actually occurred; by itself it does not prevent injuries caused by the presently allowed (but possibly not legal) strokes, such as those I have termed hurling-hit and lob-hit, and also the blindly propelled drag-flick (the flick that is propelled at the same place each time irrespective of the positions of defenders) , all of which have a very high potential for dangerous execution: other limits are required.
The blanket ban on the intentional lifted hit in the outfield is too simplistic and, as the possible variations in lifting stroke are limited, it is possible to compose rules to either include or exclude from the game particular hitting actions used to lift the ball, and also to control the scope of those that are permitted.
Certain flicking or scooping actions are also potentially dangerous because the ball velocity will reach that of a well struck lifted hit, ( I recently read an interview of Ashley Jackson in which a claim of 100mph was made for his drag-flick – which, if accurate, is astonishing, as most good hitters of the ball have difficulty exceeding 75mph). It is obvious that because of the potential for serious injury to any player struck with a ball of such velocity (or the more common 60 -70mph), any reference to lifting the ball coupled with dangerous play must include such strokes – the days when it was possible to assume that a lifted flick or scoop would be of much lower velocity than an undercut hit are long gone.
There are four criteria that may be used to limit any lifted ball and to describe potentially dangerous play. The first is that the ball must not be propelled at a player in a way that forces self-defence, the other three are Velocity; Height; Distance. I will start with a suggestion for a rule wording to which modifications can be made and guidance added.
A player shall not propel the ball at another player at above a height of 1200mm (sternum / elbow height).
This initial suggested rule wording applies to a ball propelled from any distance where player reaction may be insufficient to allow a player targeted with the ball to make an adequate self-defence (evade, stop or control/deflect the ball) because of the velocity of the ball or because that player was unsighted or otherwise handicapped (for example, blocked, barged or otherwise impeded) at or just prior to the moment the ball was propelled. Wording for Guidance needs to be composed to include what is necessary for the reasonable safety of players from the above and the following observations.
(There can be no absolute safety and such a target would be undesirable anyway, hockey is a competitive sport with a hard ball and sticks, danger is inherent in such activity, therefore some risk of injury must be accepted by any player who takes part in a hockey game. The aim is to prevent injury as a result of actions that are contrary to Rule by describing clearly what actions are illicit and will be penalized so that players will be be deterred from intentionally carrying out these actions).
RULE SUGGESTION: The ball may not be propelled with any stroke at above elbow height at another player in a way that forces self defence.
Above elbow height is the area of the heart, throat and head and an area where a ball impact at high velocity is likely to cause serious and/or long term injury or possibly even death. A ball propelled at a player at elbow height or above and at high velocity is therefore likely to compel self-defence to avoid injury.
The usual speed at which a hockey ball is hit or flicked by a top class striker (which does not necessarily mean a highly skilled player) is at present between 60mph -75mph. A ball propelled at 75mph will travel approximately 33.85m in one second.
The average pure reaction time (time between stimulus and physical movement, using simple single tasks in laboratory experiments e.g. pressing a button when a light is lit) of a healthy individual is approximately 0.22 seconds, variation is normally in the range 0.20 secs. – 0.24 secs. Pure reaction time cannot be significantly improved by training, although minor short term reductions (two or three hundredths of a second) are possible and can be maintained with repeated training. Anticipation, on the other hand, such as the ‘reading’ of ‘body-language’ as an opponent approaches and makes the stroke to propel the ball, can be greatly improved by both training and by playing experience – this is the skill which is so often mistakenly referred to as ‘fast reactions’.
A ball propelled at 75mph will travel approximately 7.5m in 0.22 seconds. In view of the complex nature of the response required to either successfully play the ball or to evade it, even without distractions like closing attackers or impediments such as sight-blocking, it is reasonable to state that any ball lifted above elbow height and at high velocity at an opponent can, because of its potential to injure, be dangerous to that opponent. A ball propelled in this way may, if it hits an opponent, be penalised as dangerous play or intimidation or a forcing offence and dangerous play or intimidation if it compels any player to self-defence (with the stick or by attempting evasive action).
(Note: The offence of forcing an opponent into a rule breach has been removed from the Rules of Hockey 2011/13 as a separate offence in itself – I think this to be a serious error of judgement by the FIH Rules Committee)
The previous removal of the facility for a targeted player to defend himself with his hand is also contentious, especially as it was once printed in the Rules of Hockey in upper case letter to emphasize its importance. The conclusion must be that if a player believes he cannot defend himself with his stick, he should if he can, evade the ball – not defend himself with his hand. One of the problems with this conclusion is that despite ’caused to take legitimate evasive action’ being a definition of a dangerously played ball, such evasion, when the defender is in front of the goal, usually results in the award of a goal and not a free-ball to the defence for dangerous play, which logically and fairly it should – such failure to use and apply the definition of ‘dangerously played’ may lead to defenders taking unnecessary risks, risks they should not ever feel obliged to take, to defend the goal in a game.
No maximum distance limit is proposed simply because in the past any distance given has been regarded as a maximum distance, outside which there can be no ball played dangerously at an opponent, (the present , incorrect, attitude of many to the current “within 5m is considered dangerous” is that a ball propelled from beyond 5m of a player can’t be dangerous to that player). Height and velocity are the main criteria but of course (other things being equal e,g. the absence of sight blocking) the nearer the striker is to the opponent the less time there is to react to the path of the ball, and the greater the velocity the greater the potential for injury.
A maximum distance for a dangerously played ball can also be seen to be impractical when the scooped ball is considered as a cause of dangerous play or play leading to dangerous play , a limit of 10m or 15m would still leave most scoops outside the rule when considering if the ball was lifted to fall in a place where the potential for danger was apparent at the time the ball was lifted, e.g. the area between the penalty spot and the goal when players who were likely to contest for the falling ball occupied that area. (for example in the 2010 World Cup game between England and Pakistan where the English player Tindal who was positioned in the opponent’s circle hit a falling ball, on the volley, into the goal while it was being contested for by a defender, who had closed on Tindal and attempted to play the ball with his stick well above his head height ).
The previous prohibition on lifting the ball above knee height at another player who is within 5m of the ball at the moment it is propelled, irrespective of velocity, must remain but it is suggested that it be amended to apply only within 3m of the ball, not 5m.
A ball propelled to pass between the legs of an opponent at above knee height and from within 3m should be considered to be at that opponent.
High velocity is a subjective judgement.
A high velocity ball is one that has been propelled at a velocity at which, in the judgement of the umpire, if it hit a player it would injure that player.
The judgement of high velocity should not be based on supposed reaction times or skill levels (on the ability of the player to play a ball propelled at him or to evade it) but on the potential of the ball to cause injury when it is played at and forces another player to self-defence or hits him.
Where an over-height ball at a defender is intercepted with the stick successfully by that defender the umpire need take no action against the player who propelled the ball (but may do so to discourage repetition of the action if it is seen as reckless); where the defender is disadvantaged – forced to evasive self-defence or hit, particularly when the attacker had other shooting options, and especially in congested or contested situations, the umpire should penalise the shooter for dangerous play.
Unless there is clear evidence to the contrary (such as repetition of apparently targeting a defender when there were clearly other options available to the shooter, e.g. repeatedly propelling a drag-flick at a particular place in the goal when previous flicks there have forced evasive action or forced self-defence from either an out-running player or a player positioned in front of the goal ) it will be assumed that an attacker shooting at the goal when there are defenders stationed between the attackers position and the goal, is shooting at the goal and not intentionally at defenders – but hitting a defender with a ball that is propelled at that defender at above elbow height at high velocity (or above knee height from within 3m irrespective of velocity) should be seen as dangerous play, irrespective of such intent, and penalised as such.
In the same way it will also be assumed, unless there is clear evidence to the contrary, that a defender hit with the ball while attempting to intercept a shot at the goal, intended to play the ball with his stick and not with his body. ( evidence to the contrary would be a player choosing to make no effort at all to play the ball with the stick when that was possible, or moving laterally into the path of the ball after it has been propelled – but again, only if there is a choice made to make no attempt to use the stick to play the ball)
Any legitimate* positioning in front of the goal to defend the goal prior to a shot should not be interpreted as an intent to play the ball with the body (even if the body is positioned behind the stick) or as an acceptance that the defender can be targeted with the ball by an attacker. The notion that a defender intentionally endangers himself by taking up a defensive position in front of the goal, between an attacker in possession of the ball and the goal, must be suppressed as unsound – because it is a judgement that may be made without tangible evidence other than the fact that the player was hit with the ball, which is not clear evidence of intent to play the ball with the body.
The idea that the defender accepts all possible risks when defending the goal, even those associated with dangerous play and other illegal acts by opponents, is unreasonable: so unreasonable it is absurd. The risks defenders (and all other players) accept are those associated with legal play, not illegal play. The current climate of opinion seems to be to change what was previously considered illegal dangerous play to legitimate play, thus removing all responsibility for shooting actions from the shooter. We have reached the point where umpires are informing players that an ‘on target’ shot at the goal cannot be dangerous – such umpires are abdicating from their responsibility to see that the game is played fairly and reasonably safely. No doubt that is the easy thing to do and it is consistent but it is not fair and it is unsafe.
The umpire should try to prevent any repeat of reckless endangerment by penalising it whenever it occurs – it can occur if an attacker shoots at a defender when there are other viable ways to score, such as open space in the goal wide of the position of the defender, that the attacker had opportunity take advantage of. Whether play by an attacker when shooting at the goal is reasonable or reckless is a judgement call by the umpire, part of that judgement is the prior positioning of any defender ( an attacker should seek to avoid hitting a defender with the ball) and part the time and options available to the attacker.
*(Legitimate positioning by defenders does not include deliberately lying on the ground and other similar reckless positioning in the path of the ball, such as sitting or kneeling; the term assumes a normal on-feet playing stance by all except the goal-keeper, who may ‘go to ground’ at any time, but not make physical contact with an opponent while doing so).
Shots at the goal from within the circle.
Suggested Guidance Any shot at goal within the circles in open play (or second and subsequent shots at a penalty corner) may be propelled at the goal to any height but may not be propelled at high velocity at any player at above 1200mm. – the approximate elbow height of a male player of average height when in a normal standing position. (Adjustment to this suggested height can and should be made for women and further adjustment for junior players according to age).
A ball which passes between the point of the shoulder and the side of the head of a player will be considered to be at the player concerned.
All shots at the goal from within the circle made at below knee-height from any distance will (subject to reckless play) be considered legitimate. An above knee-height shot at the goal that is also at a defender – but is below 1200mm – should (subject to reckless play) be considered a legitimate shot at any velocity from any distance beyond 3m.
All else being equal (e.g. there being no prior offence by the attacker to take into consideration and the shot cannot reasonably be considered reckless e.g. if the attacker did not have other target options or the time to choose an alternative shot), if a defended other than the goalkeeper is struck on the body with a legitimate shot at the goal and thereby prevents a goal, a penalty stroke may be awarded. This is because the purpose of the game is to win by scoring goals and there is no other measure of winning, so an unfair benefit will have accrued to the team of a player who prevents a goal other than by legitimate means, and adequate compensation for this unfairness must be given to the attacking team. This penalty is also necessary to prevent reckless defending.
If the defending player did not clearly intend to play the ball with the body but prevented a goal a penalty-stroke is sufficient penalty (the option of a penalty-goal is not available in these circumstances**); where there is clear intent to use the body to play the ball the defender concerned should also be suspended.
**(there is a reasonable case for the introduction of a penalty goal in cases where a certain goal has been prevented by clearly deliberate use of the body by a defender other than the nominated goalkeeper – this would prevent defenders being reckless enough to deliberately move to put their body in the way of a shot, without an attempt to use the stick, in the hope that the subsequent penalty stroke will be missed).
If a defender is hit with a shot or other ball propelled inside the circle by an attacker but he does not certainly prevent a goal (e.g. there being other defenders behind the one hit when the shot at the goal was made) then all else being equal (e.g. no clear intent by the defender to use the feet/body, no injury to the defender, no reckless play by the attacker) play should continue. An unavoidable or accidental ball/body contact is not an offence and there is no reason other than an offence (or injury) for the umpire to stop play or penalize when there is a ball/body contact. There is ample evidence that penalizing accidental or unavoidable foot and body/ ball contacts will probably encourage reckless shooting at the goal or the deliberate forcing of such contacts by attacking players in possession of the ball. It is in fact much more reasonable to penalise an attacker for gaining a benefit from a ball/body contact in the opponent’s circle than it is to penalise a defender for such a contact – unless a defender makes such ball/body contact intentionally.
Much of what has been written above will apply particularly to the drag flick when it is used as a first shot at a penalty-corner and the ball is lifted high at the goal; such drag flicks need have no height limit as long as they are made at a part of the goal that is open at the time the stroke is executed, not made directly at a player.
Lifted ball in the areas outside the circles.
In this proposal the dangerously played ball rule is the same everywhere on the field of play, i.e. a ball may not be propelled at a player at high velocity at above elbow height anywhere on the field of play.
Outside the circles the ball may be lifted in any direction to any height with any stroke except a hit.
I propose that the ball should also be permitted to be lifted with a hit to elbow height when play is outside the circles , but must not in any circumstances be lifted with a hit to above shoulder height – such play will be considered either dangerous or time-wasting (it will probably be necessary to devise an exception for the lob-hit mentioned above).
Allowing the lifted hit in the outfield would make it necessary to reintroduce a prohibition on the lifting of the ball with a hit directly into the circle. This ban should apply to a ball lifted directly off the stick of the striker and directly into the circle, not to deflections off the surface of the pitch outside the circle. But any deflection of a hit from outside the circle, off the ground or off the stick of a team-mate out-side the circle should be required pass into the circle at below knee height and not rise to above knee height during its flight within the circle. Flicks,scoops and lobs into and from within the circle to remain unrestricted in height except where the flick or scoop is from a free ball. A free ball should not be lifted directly into the circle with any stroke in any circumstances.
The hurling-hit i.e. lifting the ball with the stick and then hitting it before it falls to ground or on the half-volley, as it bounces up from the ground after such a lift, should be banned in the outfield and not permitted as a shot at the goal when there is a defender other than the nominated goalkeeper between the shooter and the goal. (For the purpose of this particular suggestion, a field player standing in for a goalkeeper as a ‘kicking back’ i.e. wearing only a helmet as additional protection, should be treated as a field player, not as a fully equipped goalkeeper)
An attacker receiving a raised ball in the circle may take a shot at the goal on the volley only if the ball is below elbow height when he hits it, but if he does carry out this action he should shoot downwards towards the goal (but not so as to cause the ball to bounce up off the pitch above knee height before it crosses the goal line), essentially he should not not raise the ball into the goal higher than it was when he hit it and also not dangerously or recklessly. Alternatively he could control the received aerial ball to ground and then shoot at the goal without height restriction, but of course not dangerously or recklessly.
ADDITIONAL FIELD EQUIPMENT .
A brightly coloured strong woven tape, no more than 50mm wide, to be run from the back of each goal-post and around the back of the goal-net and supports at a height of 1200mm. The front and sides of goalposts will be marked with paint or plastic sticking tape at the same height and at the same width.(The goal tape can be adjustable and may be lower for junior players). The alternative discussed here:
http://wp.me/pKOEk-LX is the introduction of a different size goal.
PENALTY CORNER Additions
A first hit shot at a penalty corner which is raised sufficiently above 460mm to make it improbable that it will fall below 460mm before it reaches the goal-line should be penalised immediately that is apparent, as dangerous (or as non-compliant) and a 15m awarded to the defending team.
After the ball is inserted at a penalty corner it should not be permitted to be played by any attacking player until it has passed completely out of the circle. If the ball does not reach the circle line after it is inserted the umpire should blow the whistle when it becomes stationary, declare the ball ‘dead’ and award a 15m free - which should then be taken from any position in front of the goal and 15m from the goal – unless the defending team intercept the ball and wish to continue play – in which case normal play would resume and attackers could engage. In such a case the penalty corner would not be over until the ball was played to beyond the 5m outer circle or played out of the shooting circle for a second time and a goal could not be scored until the ball has been played out of the circle and had then been played back in.
Amended 8th February 2011
Goal tape. The straps used as cargo ties on transport are suitable. They can be hooked to the back of the goal-posts, and tensioned with elasticated ties or using an integral ratchet (which should be suitably covered for safety).
Link to Index of Rules http://wp.me/p3tNmd-3