Edit 21 July 2012. Field Hockey. The suggested direct-lift has been adopted into the Rules of Hockey for 2013-15.
Edit 3rd April 2013. Thus far the facility to raise the ball directly from a free has not caused any ‘ripples’. The self-pass still seems to dominate restarts after a free ball has been awarded, whereas before the introduction of the self-pass the ‘touch and scoop’ was frequently used. Danger arising from facility to lift a free ball directly into the circle has not materialized, as I thought it might, mainly I think because the circle is seldom clear of opponents and the opportunity for a pass directly to an attacker (that will not be penalised as dangerous play) seldom occurs after a free ball is awarded. I wonder what might have happened if the direct-lift had been introduced first or the two measures had been introduced at the same time – which is what I had originally hoped for.
Edit 1st November 2013. The substitution (August 2013) of Article 4 . Appendix 1. FIH Tournament Regulations., for Rule 9.7. at International and (then immediately in domestic hockey at NPHL level) to allow the ball to be played at about shoulder height, by any player, anywhere on the pitch (which far exceeds what is necessary to enable receiving or interception of an aerial pass at above shoulder height – ‘play’ is not restricted and so must include ‘hit at’) leads me to reinforce the suggestion that the ball should not be raised (above knee height) to fall directly into the circle with the Direct Lift of a Free-ball and nor should the ball be deflected into the opponent’s circle at above knee height Not, in some way, restricting the raising of the ball into the circle substantially increases the risk that a volley shot from above shoulder height may be attempted. It is probably better to reduce the opportunity for such ‘fly hits’ than just to prohibit the making of them from above shoulder height – but that should be done as well.
Some years ago I suggested that a team awarded a free anywhere on the pitch should be afforded the facility to lift it directly with any stroke except a hit. There were two reasons for the suggestion. Firstly, it complemented the self-pass, which was suggested at the same time, because it would then be of little advantage to defenders to put a ‘wall’ around the position of a free awarded against them, to block in a self-passer. Secondly, it provided a safe alternative for the scoop combined with the (ignored) ’1m rule’ (and the need for attackers who want to lift the ball to have two players adjacent to it) – which was often followed by a defender trying to charge the ball down – more to distract the lifter into ‘fluffing’ the lift, or being inaccurate with it, than with any real hope of interception (in fact probably with the hope that the charging defender would not be hit with the ball but the scoop would be penalised as dangerous).
A suggested restriction was that a ‘lifted free’ could not be lifted directly into the shooting circle.
There were some ‘whispers’ that the direct lift would be introduced in 2006, but that did not happen. I think it is still the preferable alternative to the present ‘touch and scoop’ between the 23′s and would also resolve some of the problems the self-pass has thrown up.
Defenders do not want to retreat far from a player who they think will self-pass, but they will certainly move to guard their ‘back-yard’ if the ball can easily be lifted directly over any ‘wall’. That in turn should make openings for the shorter ground passes and for the self-pass.
Obviously the suggestion is aimed more at play between the 23′s but there is no reason the ball could not be scooped wide of the circle, or even over the circle from one side of the pitch to the other, from within the 23 areas.
The ‘Direct Lift’ or ‘Lifted Free’ solves the problem of the attackers ‘wasting’ two players in the taking of a free-ball – just as the self-pass means they no longer need to ‘waste’ even the taker of the free. It solves the passing of the ball 1m before a scoop can be made (which was ‘solved’ previously by ignoring the 1m requirement) and it solves the problem of the defender charging down an intended scoop as soon as the free is played – which in turn allows the taker to scoop the ball with greater consideration, over a greater distance and with greater accuracy – its safer.
The debates that have taken place on Internet hockey forums about a self-passer scooping the ball with a second touch, and the debate on lifting the ball over the circle, while the possibility of the Direct Lift is ignored, seem ludicrous to me.
Since writing the above passage I have come across this from the 1976 Rules of Hockey:-
14. FREE HIT.
For Women Only.
b) The ball shall be stationary. Any legitimate stroke may
be used except that any ball propelled into the circle
shall not rise above knee height.
For Men Only.
d) The ball shall be stationary and the striker shall hit the
ball or PUSH IT ALONG THE GROUND. A flick or
scoop shot shall not be permitted.
So my suggestion is not entirely new. The women were, (before the joining of the two Associations and the subsequent issue of a uniform set of rules), allowed to lift the ball from a ‘free’ even with a hit. The men were specifically forbidden from raising the ball with any stroke (men being considered more dangerous and irresponsible I suppose).
Prohibiting the direct lifting of a free-ball with a hit, but allowing it with a flick, lob, scoop, is a different approach and one that I believe would improve the game.
Link to Index of Rules http://wp.me/p3tNmd-3