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USA Field Hockey

All questions, unless otherwise indicated, are answered by Steve Horgan, our nation's rules interpreter. If you have a question, please look through the questions that have already been answered. If your question hasn't been asked, please use this form to submit your question.


Q 2011-09-19: A high school coach from Maryland approached our umpire team prior to the game and asked about substituting a player. The situation he described was one where he told me a player could leave the field from anywhere if they were injured or short of breath during play and a new player could be subbed in from the substitution area on the bench side of the field once the injured/out-of-breath player had left the field. He told me this was confirmed by officials in Delaware. Using the NFHS rulebook, in the section on substitutions, which I referred to in our answer, I saw no way under substitutions section where this was allowed. All subs had to go in and out through the substitution area. Am I missing something here? If a player is injured, I call a time out and the player is removed from the field and a new player, the substitute, comes in to replace that player. Thanks!

A: There is no support in the NFHS rules that would allow a substitute to enter the game during play for an teammate who has left the field outside of the substitution area for injury treatment, shortness of breath, refreshment, to change equipment or for any other reason.

RULE 4.4.5...If a substitution occurs during play, it must take place through the team substitution area, with the player coming off the field before her substitute may go onto the field.

RULE 1.4.5...Field players who leave the field for injury treatment, refreshment, to change equipment or for some reason other than substitution are permitted to re-enter at the 50-yard line on either side of the field.

Note: This cannot be used as a tactic of deception or an attempt to take advantage of a situation.


Q: Are teams permitted to substitute a GK on a penalty Stroke? I would guess not as you cant substitute a specialist penalty taker from the bench. I was understanding that Penalty strokes fell under the same category as penalty corners. However in our DIII game last week the umpires let it happen. When I consulted the rule book there was nothing definitive. Could you clear this up for me please?

A: Substitutions are allowed at any time except between the time a penalty corner is awarded and until the penalty corner is over.

RULE 2.3.a...A team may substitute after a penalty stroke is awarded and prior to the penalty stroke being taken, both offensively and defensively, including the goalkeeper. During a penalty stroke competition used for tie breaking, however, there is no substitution.


Q: I've been reading your Ask The Umpire blog since last year and I find your answers very helpful. This week I'm visiting New Orleans and watching my niece play in an event here. I was surprised to see that the keepers were brought into the pitch from behind the back-line. This didn't just happen once. We don't do this in England. We bring all the players in from the substitution area. Is this new in the rules or something peculiar you Yanks do?

A: The rules only specify that field players MUST substitute within 3 meters of the center-line, however, it is expected that in USA Field Hockey events all players (including goalkeepers wearing full protective equipment) are to substitute from the substitution area. Time is stopped for substitution of goalkeepers wearing full protective equipment so there is no reason to use a nonconforming substitution area. In USA Field Hockey events with a central clock that cannot actually be stopped, the goalkeeper substitutions are to be managed by the umpires just as if the clock could be stopped.


Q: During the last few minutes of a game, can you sub a goalie for a field player? And does the fieldplayer that takes the goalie's place need to have a helmet or different shirt while on the field? And doesn't the goalie have to leave the feild where the replacment player is coming on the field.

A: Time is stopped by the umpire for any substitution involving a fully kitted goalkeeper and should be administered in the designated substitution area. Rule 2.2 indicates the parameters for playing with only field players and no goalkeeper.

RULE 2.2...Each team may play with only field players; no player has goalkeeping privileges or wears a different colour shirt; no player may wear protective headgear except a face mask when defending a penalty corner or a penalty stroke; all team players wear the same colour shirt.


Q: I am told in high school, you cannot pull the goalie. What steps can you take regarding this issue?

A: In NFHS games a fully kitted goalkeeper must always be in the half of the competition surface that his/her team is defending. By NFHS rule, there are no other options in NFHS games.