August 2010

Sept. 01, 2010, 9 a.m. (ET)
The popularity of our ASK THE UMPIRE feature really took off in August. We received more questions (57) than the combined total of all the questions submitted (31) in the previous months of the year! Thirty-two of the submissions were selected for publication and Steve Horgan, our nation's rules interpreter, answered every one. Your questions that were selected for publication, and Steve's answers, are below.

In our game last night [NCAA], the umpire said my substitute goalkeeper wasn't allowed to walk down behind the back-line and swap out with the starting goalkeeper. After we did that here's what happened. On our next free hit the umpire stopped the game, carded my captain for an illegal substitution and gave the ball to our opponent. She told my captain that the substitution has to happen at the center-line and if it's a goalkeeper, the umpire has to stop the clock and "manage" the substitution. I don't see anything in the mods that says the goalkeeper substitution has to happen this way. Why would the umpire do this?

There is nothing in the NCAA modifications about this procedure because the NCAA has not modified the Rules of Hockey with regard to this aspect of player substitution. The umpire acted correctly. Goalkeepers substitute from the substitution area at the center-line. The substitution is managed by the umpire who will call time out on the next appropriate dead ball situation and restart the clock when the substitution is complete. Of course, the goalkeeper substitution cannot place on a penalty corner situation (unless she is replacing an injured goalkeeper). 

Where I live my daughter was told she has to wear goggles and if she wants to wear a mask on a penalty corner, she must wear the goggles on top of the mask. Not only do I think wearing goggles over a mask is completely unnecessary, I also think it is dangerous. Should this be allowed?

According to NFHS rule 1-7, article 7 (page 14 or the NFHS's 2010-11 rule book), "Required equipment shall not be modified from its original manufactured state and shall be worn as intended by the manufacturer." You would have to check with the manufacturer to see if your daughter's goggles are intended to be worn over a mask and contact the NFHS member association in your state for guidance.

The interpretation used by USA Field Hockey for the 2009-2010 indoor season was that the ball could not (when in the attacking half on a free push) enter the circle directly off the boards without either being touched by another player or if a self pass of the board was used. The FIH have published their rule changes for 2011 does this rule change allowing a player to play a first time pass from a dead ball free hit situation in the attacking half off the boards and enter the circle directly? Will this be interpreted differently for the 2010 -2011 indoor season?

The Hockey Rules Board has announced that it has made changes to free push rule in the Rules of Indoor Hockey for 2011 that will for the first time  allow a free push from the attacking half to be played into the circle when the only other contact outside the circle is the side-board. Indoor hockey in the USA will continue  to be played exactly as the Rules of Indoor Hockey intends games to be governed.

Could you clarify where the ball needs to be placed when the ball is to be taken on the broken-line circle by the attack? NCAA = just outside the line? NFHS = on the line? Also could you explain why the ball needs (if that is the answer) to be placed just outside the line? Is there any place that this clarification is written?

In all cases and at every level the ball can be placed on or just outside the "broken circle line" for free hits requiring that placement. There is nothing that is written requiring the ball to be further from the circle then the broken line circle. Putting the ball on the broken line circle will satisfy all requirements for the free hit rule including when the self pass option is used.

An attacker, in a game between high schools (NFHS rules), is air dribbling the ball when a defender moves on to the attacker to play the ball. Does the attacker have to bring the ball to the ground i.e. stop air dribbling due to the potential danger it may cause? Is the height of the air dribble above the knee or below the knee a consideration in determining danger or potential danger in this scenario?

All players have responsibility to play safely. Air dribbling, whether above or below the knee, in an open space would not be considered dangerous. However, depending on the proximity of other players and the direction of the ball, danger may occur. The umpire will judge the situation based on the playing distance to the defender, the trajectory of the ball and, of course, the proper or improper actions of the involved players.

  1. The player who put the ball up into the air initially is mainly responsible for the situation. Just the same as any other ball intentionally raised.
  2. In most cases, general play below the knee would not be dangerous, but this is not always a certainty.

On an attacking free hit inside the 25 yard, if the attacker chooses not to self pass, is she allowed to drive the ball directly into the circle?

No. The attack must ALWAYS meet the Indirect Circle Entry requirement regardless of how the attack chooses to restart play inside the attacking 23 meter/25 yard area. The attacker MUST move the ball a cumulative 5 meters [5 yards in NFHS] before hitting or pushing the ball into the circle.

I had a situation from a game in preseson. The defense took a free hit in their end, just a little inside the 25 yard line. They hit the ball to a teammate who was inside the circle without anyone else hitting it. How should we rule it?

There is no violation. The indirect circle entry requirements only apply to restarts inside the attacking 23 meter/25 yard line.

What is the ASTM standard for goggles for high school field hockey players? On your website it shows that the wire framed goggles like they wear in lacrosse are not legal for field hockey. Is this only a FIH/NCAA rule? Lots of websites sell the wired frame goggles as ok for field hockey.

For more information on the ASTM standard, please visit the ASTM's website. Wire framed goggles like those designed for lacrosse are not allowed in games governed by the Rules of Hockey, including NCAA games and all USA Field Hockey competitions. The NFHS, which governs games between high schools, does permit caged goggles as optional equipment.

A corner is called in the second half with 8 seconds remaining on the clock. The attacking team/team awarded the corner is losing 2-0. Time expires before the corner is set. My question to you is should this corner proceed. I thought that in the second half if there is no chance to tie or win the game the corner is not played out. Where am I going wrong? Please explain.

If the situation you just described is from a game between high schools governed by the NFHS rules, regardless of which team was awarded the penalty corner, the penalty corner would not be started because the outcome of the game cannot be changed. In all other games the attack would begin the penalty corner.

There is much discussion regarding the 5-yard distance between the broken line circle [NFHS] is from the scoring circle and when penalty corners are over. For the penalty corner to be considered over, does the ball need to be played over the broken-line circle, or when the ball contacts the broken line circle?

One of the seven ways that the penalty corner can end in games between high schools governed by the NFHS rules is when the ball travels "more than 5 yards from the circle" [Rule 10-2, Art. 12, on page 50 of the 2010-11 rule book]. The wording in the Rules of Hockey is exactly the same only the distance is 5 meters (about 5.5 yards).

Can a high school goalkeeper wear a jersey with a triple digit number on their back?

No [Rule 1-5, Art. 1, on page 10 of the 2010-11 rule book], only single and double digit numbers are allowed.

In high school play can the goalkeeper's stick have a bow that is greater than 25 mm?

No. The NFHS rule book specifies the ways in which goalkeeper equipment differs from field players and makes no modification to its Rule 1-6, Art. 4 where a "player's stick" is defined. In other areas of the book, when specifically addressing differences between goalkeepers and other players, you will find that the words "field players" or "goalkeepers" are used.

In the NFHS rulebook pg 15 Art 3 part d. and pg 20 1.7.3 Situation D. Is there a difference in the rules between college and high school for a goalie intentionally playing the ball over the endline on a goal saving action? In the high school book it reads as being ok on page 15 and then is penalized on page 20.

All goalkeepers -- whether they be in middle school, high school, club, college or even the Olympics games -- are allowed to "deflect" the ball over the back-line as part of a goal-saving action (the goalkeeper's opponents will restart play with a long hit). No goalkeeper is allowed to intentionally "play" the ball over the back-line at any time (the goalkeeper's opponents will be awarded a penalty corner if the goalkeeper uses this action). 

Umpires must make a decision whether the next play is a penalty corner (the penalty for any defender intentionally playing the ball over the back-line) or a corner/long hit (the result of a defender deflecting the ball across the back-line).

On a self-pass taken by the attack within the 25 yard line. The attack dribbles the ball 2 yards and then plays the ball towards the circle. The ball contacts a defender's foot outside the circle and then enters the circle. Am I correct that this is considered played/deflected?

Yes. If the ball is next played by an attacker inside the circle, it's "Play on!" However, if the ball is next played by a defender, the whistle would be blown and the attack would restart play 5 meters outside the circle [5 yards in high school games] closest to the place where the ball contacted the defender's foot.

I heard that if the ball is stationary and the restarter just taps the top of the ball, that counts as the first action on the self pass even if the ball doesn't move. Is that correct? And, let's say a player is at the 16 waiting for her teammate or the ball girl get the ball and roll it to her. Does stopping the ball count as the first action?

No. The ball must be moved.

Rule 13.2 Procedures for taking a free hit, centre pass and putting the ball back into play after it has been outside the field

d. the ball is moved using a push or hit
The initial stopping of the ball or tapping the ball on top does not constitute movement or the action of a hit / push to begin the play. 

[ED: Though numbered and worded differently, the same applies to games between high schools governed by the NFHS rule book.]

Player A takes an attacking free hit in the attacking 23 meter area. She takes two touches (legally utilizing the self restart), then stops the ball -- or allows the ball to stop by itself -- for attacking player B to come and play the ball into the circle. The ball has not traveled 1 meter. Am I correct that the ball doesn't need to travel 1 meter because player A self started?

No, you are not correct. The ball must move 1 meter [or 1 yard in games between high schools governed by the NFHS rules] before another player of the same team can play the ball, taking a self pass does not negate this rule.

Rule 13.2 g before another player of the team which took the free hit is allowed to play the ball, the ball must move at least 1 meter The ball does not have to move 1 meter before the player taking the free hit may play the ball again.
Only the player who initially took the free hit, whether they choose the self pass option or not, can play the ball before it has moved 1 meter. 

[ED: The rule quoted is a different number and worded differently in the NFHS rule book but the implications are exactly the same.]

Goalkeeper is in a 3v1 situation and makes a dive for ball and clears it. While still on the ground an attacker pins her to the ground with a knee on her helmet so the attacker's team can recover ball and score. All of this was done in plain sight of umpire. What is the proper call for this play?

The entire game happens in plain sight of the umpires, it doesn't mean that the umpires see everything that happens. The actions that you describe are handled by both the rules governing player conduct. At a minimum, based on your description, the goalkeeper was being obstructed so a free hit to the defense for the technical foul. Further, a yellow card would be the minimum penalty the umpire would consider for a personal foul of this nature.

Goalkeeper goes in to dive and looses hand pad in process. The opposing team sees this and then proceeds to attempt to injure the hand of goalkeeper by trying to stomp on her hand and hit her with their sticks. What should have been done by the umpire in this situation?

An umpire who sees a player attempting to injure another player will issue a red card to the offender(s).

At the college level, do goalkeepers have to have a number on the front of their jerseys? I know they have numbers on the back but is it required to have numbers on the front as well?

Yes. The goalkeeper must have numbers on the front and back of their jersey, just as does every member of the team. Further, just like everyone else on the team, the goalkeeper's numbers must meet the uniform number size requirements.

When you have a free hit inside the attacking 25 yard line (NFHS) and you use the self pass, when moving the ball 5 yards do you also have to move your feet when moving the ball?

No. The player is not required to move their feet or body in any direction. The umpires must decide if the BALL has moved a cumulative 5 yards to satisfy the rule (5 meters in the Rules of Hockey). The decision has nothing to do with the player himself or herself. 

For more details on the Self Pass and the Indirect Circle Entry, please visit our SPICE page (

Can players wearing goggles during play, lower them and wear them around their necks during a penalty corner so they put on a mask?

No. Goggles, if worn, must be worn as intended. In NFHS play, wearing the goggles around the neck would, in essence, turn them into necklaces and jewelry is not allowed in NFHS games. Further, a player wearing goggles should not have any string or lanyard from the goggles around their neck at anytime. The players would have to remove the goggles and then put on the masks.

What is the legal and proper way for a team that is wearing masks during penalty corners, to take off the masks and put on goggles after the penalty corner is complete?

The umpires would make no special accommodations for this change to take place. Masks can be put on for defending a penalty corners and umpires should not rush this process but also cannot allow delay. As for taking off masks and putting the goggles back on---the umpire will not stop the game for this as it is the full responsibility of the player choosing to wear goggles and to do so as they see fit; at a time of their choosing.

After attending a high school rules interpretation meeting last night some umpires were discussing the self-pass from a long hit or a side-in inside the 16 yard line. For a violation of the indirect circle entry requirement (i.e. the ball is played directly into the circle), the NFHS's Officials Guide VI.B.6.e (page 69) says that, "Violations result in a free hit taken by the opponent at the spot where the free hit, side in or long hit was incorrectly executed." Does this mean that the ball is place on the long hit mark or the sideline for the ensuing free hit?

No. For all violations by the attack inside the 16, the defense can choose to take the resulting free hit up to 16 yards away from the back-line, in line with where the foul occurred. This governance does not change because the attack illegally Self Passed or violated the Indirect Circle Entry requirement. Remember, the violation is considered the exact same as any free hit to the defense inside the 25 yard / 23 meter line. For more details on the Self Pass and the Indirect Circle Entry, please visit our SPICE page (

Everyone understands that there are differences between the Rules of Hockey, NCAA modifications and the NFHS rules but, for the most part, do interpretations on a higher level apply to NFHS? For example, is it legal in high school for a goalkeeper to stutter-step on a penalty stroke if she doesn't take a step in any direction? It seems the high school officials want to call the game in black and white without proper interpretations. Can you comment on this?

There are varying degrees of a stutter step. The rules state that the goalkeeper's feet must be on the line until the ball is played. As long as the goalkeeper does not move laterally or forward off the goal-line, the stutter stepping would be permitted. Umpires must make a judgment under all circumstances. We can no more say that stutter-stepping would never be a foul than we can say that stutter-stepping would always be a foul. The umpire must judge this on the merits of the action. Interpretations are the same for all domestic field hockey competitions -- only some of the wording may be a little different. For example, in a college game umpires will make a decision concerning danger when a shot from near a standing goalkeeper hits the goalkeeper in the head. That is forbidden by rule in high school and so no interpretation about what is and is not dangerous is needed.

This question was asked during the Q&A session at the end of the 2010 National Rules briefing but I thought I heard a different answer during the summer at the umpire's seminar. If an attacking hit inside the 25 is hit directly into the circle, where is the free hit awarded? During the Q&A session, I thought the answer was that the free hit is awarded at the spot where the hit was initially taken. My understanding during the umpire's course was that it was not a foul until it entered the circle, so the free hit would be taken directly up from where it entered the circle. Please clarify.

At the umpire manager course this was a discussion. The final answer is: the free hit shall be taken from the spot where the initial free hit was incorrectly executed, but not blown until the ball actually crosses the circle line untouched.

During the Q&A period at the end of the 2010 National Rules Briefing, a question was submitted about a defender deliberately using her hand to catch a ball going toward goal. The answer was to yellow card her. Is the game resumed with a penalty stroke?

Yes. Play would restart with a penalty stroke.

The goalkeepers have to wear shirts that contrast with the players. Are the two goalkeepers allowed to wear the same color and if so, why do we allow this?

Yes, the goalkeepers are allowed to wear shirts that match each other. They are allowed to match each other because, with the exception of a penalty stroke, the rules prevent them from playing near each other.

During the 2010 National Rules Briefing you mentioned that a stick check must be done 45 minutes before the game is scheduled to start. Last season we went with the first weekend and then at the championships only. If deemed necessary it was done at regular season games -- if it seemed that an illegal stick is being used.

It is recommended that stick checks are performed before every game 45 minutes prior to the scheduled start time. If a conference decides to do otherwise, we have no control over that. The NCAA modifications uses the word "recommended" on this issue. As the rules interpreter, and for consistency purposes, I am recommending 45 priorevery game.

When can a defender (who has established his/her 5-meter or 7-yard away distance) move into play the ball when the attack is using the self-pass? Is it the first touch or the second touch?

The first touch. Once the ball is initially played (moved), the free hit has been taken.

Steve mentioned during the 2010 National Rules Briefing that the trail umpire should never call in his/her partner's circle. If the trail umpire is responsible for "off ball" activity and he or she sees a foul in their partner's circle, how is this situation managed? (Type of foul might be unsportsmanlike physical contact.)

The trail/support umpire should be watching "off ball" actions and should not be making decisions that affect the play in the lead umpire's circle. The trail should be looking for physical play that could lead to a card or a dangerous situation. If the foul is off the immediate play then your decision would not affect whether play continues or if a penalty corner for the attack or a free hit for the defense is called. Should you recognize something that needs to be carded then at the appropriate time (a subsequent stoppage of play) call time out, let your partner know what you have seen and card the player. This is not open for discussion if you feel strongly that a player needs to be carded, but your actions shall not impede what is happening legally in the lead's circle.

One of the biggest misconceptions amongst players and many umpires seems to be that they think a ball cannot be lifted (flicked) into the opponent's circle. The danger rule / evasive action rule applies. They need to be educated on this.

You are correct, any ball lifted off the ground is now only judged on the dangerous aspect of the play. While a ball can only be hit intentionally off the ground for a shot, the ball can be lifted into the circle as long as the umpire deems it not dangerous. 

[ED: Lifting the ball and hitting the ball into the air are two distinctively different actions. A lift -- i.e. a scoop or flick -- is legal throughout the field of play. Using a back swing to intentionally hit/drive the ball into the air is only allowed when shooting. In all cases, use of these actions are subject to danger and other applicable governance.]

With the new rule concerning restrictions of any free hits awarded to the attacking team inside the opponents 23 metres, players and some officials are unaware that a player cannot just move / pass the ball past the 23 metres line back towards his own goal and then hit / direct the ball into the opponents circle even though the ball did not yet travel 5 metres. They are under the impression that since the hit into the circle occurred from outside the 23 metres area, that this then is allowed. NO it is not. Because the free hit was awarded inside the 23 metres area, the ball NEEDS to travel 5 metres before the ball can be hit into the circle, regardless of where the hit originates.

You are correct. When the free hit is taken inside the 23 meter line, if the free hit is a self pass, the attacker must move it 5 meters cumulatively in any direction or directions before hitting into the circle. This INCLUDES even if the ball is moved outside the 23 meter line. They cannot just move it from 1 meter inside the 23 meter line to 1 meter outside the 23 meter line and hit it into the circle.