Field Hockey Rules

Field hockey is a fast-paced and exciting sport with specific rules that players must follow to ensure fair play and safety. Once you are playing you will get used to them. You will also hear a lot of whistles when you play. Once you read the rules and play a little you will learn why. The object of the sport is to get the ball into the cage and score, but there are a number of rules you have to follow in order to do that. Knowing the rules well will give you an advantage on the field.

Players are NOT allowed to touch the ball with their feet or other body parts. The only player allowed to do so is the goalie, as long as they are in the circle. 

Players can only use the flat side of their stick to touch the ball.

Goals can only be scored inside the striking circle. These goals can come from a shot inside the circle, a penalty corner, or a penalty stroke.

Dangerous play: Any action that could cause harm to another player is considered dangerous play and is prohibited. This includes raising the stick above the shoulder level or playing the ball dangerously close to other players.

5-meter rule: Defenders must stand at least five meters away from the ball during free hits, penalty corners, and penalty strokes.

Free hits: When a foul occurs, the opposing team is awarded a free hit. The ball must be stationary before taking the free hit, and the ball cannot directly enter the circle without first touching another player’s stick.

Self-pass: On free hits and some other restarts, players are allowed to take the ball themselves without passing it to a teammate first.

Goalkeeper rules: Goalkeepers have additional restrictions, such as not using their feet or body outside the goal circle and only being allowed to kick the ball inside the circle.

Field Hockey Fouls

There are a dozen or so fouls or penalties that can occur in the game. Tripping, pushing, charging, interfering with, getting physical with another player and other fouls result in a penalty. When a penalty is called you will hear a whistle, which means they are calling the penalty. The penalty can result in a free hit, a penalty corner, or a penalty stroke. It depends where on the field the foul takes place and the severity of the foul.

Advancing. This is when any player pushes, shoves, or advances the ball by using any part of their body. (You can sometimes get away with this if you are down at the cage and trying to score. If there are multiple people down there and everyone is trying to get the ball and it rolls in front of your foot and you kick it. I DO NOT recommend doing this IF there is a stick coming towards your foot or the ball.)

Backstick. This is when the ball hits the backside, or non-smooth part of the stick. (Sometimes you can get away with this if the ref is not close enough to see you. An example is if there are several players trying to hit or shoot the ball at the same time and it hits the backside of a stick)

Hockey Stick Interference. This is when a player either intentionally or unintentionally uses their stick to.

Obstruction. This is when a player uses their stick or body to prevent another player from reaching the ball. This can happen either by accident or on purpose. Either way, it will be called. 

Third Party Obstruction. This is when a player positions themselves between an opponent and the ball, allowing a teammate to have an unobstructed play on the ball. Just like obstruction, this could be accidental or on purpose. It still will be called.

High Sticks. This is when a player’s stick is raised dangerously high or near another player.

Undercutting. This is when a player lifts the ball in a dangerous manner.

Field Hockey Punishments

When a player commits a foul, the opposite team is rewarded with a free play. Depending where and the severity of the foul determines the free play.

Free Hit. This is when a team has a free hit of the ball into the field. This is usually a spot foul, meaning the free hit will happen where the foul occurred. All opposing members must be at least five feet away from the free hit.

Penalty Corner. This is when foul occurs inside the striking circle, or is intentionally hit out of bounds by the defense. One offensive player stands on the end line ten yards away from the goal post. There are other offensive players around the circle, waiting for the ball to be played. The goalie and four defenders stand inside the cage until the ball is played. Once the ball is hit in play, the defenders are allowed to rush out of the cage and towards the ball. The player who hits the ball into play can only hit the ball once. So if the ball is hit and only rolls a few feet, that player can not touch the ball, until any other player touches the ball first.

Penalty Stroke. This occurs when an almost certain goal has been stopped, or if a severe foul occurs. The player taking the penalty stroke stands on the hash mark about seven yards away from the goal. The player has one free shot towards the goal from the hash. 

Umpire Cards

Umpires have three cards that can be called. Green, yellow and red. 

Green Card – This is the official warning given out to not break the rules. 

Yellow Card – This means you will be off the field for five minutes.

Red Card – This is for more serious offenses and the player must leave the game. 

These rules are essential for maintaining order, fairness, and safety in field hockey matches. It’s crucial for players, coaches, and officials to be familiar with and adhere to these rules.