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Field Hockey Rules

Abhijit Naik Mar 7, 2020
We often hear people complaining that field hockey rules are difficult to understand and hence, they prefer other games over it.
Difficult, however, would be an overstatement! Nevertheless, we have tried to simplify these rules to make things easy to understand.
Field hockey is an outdoor sporting event, wherein two teams, with eleven players each, attempt to score by flicking, hitting, or pushing the ball in opponent's goal. Though the common name for the game is hockey, the term field hockey is used in countries wherein ice hockey―the other variant of this sport―exists.
Though it is an immensely popular game, which is also included in Olympics, not many people around the world are familiar with it. Here is a beginner's guide to the rules of this sport which will make it easier for you to grasp it.

Field Hockey Rules and Regulations

One of the most interesting milestones in the history of hockey was the formulation of its rules in the last quarter of the 19th century. According to the rules constituted in 1870s, the dimensions of the hockey field were stipulated to be anywhere between 100 and 150 yards in length and 50 and 80 yards in width.
Since then, these rules have come a long way to become what they are today.

Field Dimensions and Duration

According to the requirements formulated by the International Hockey Federation (IHF), a hockey field is 100 × 60 yards in size. At each end of the field there is a goal post, which is 7 feet in height and 12 feet in width.
Right in front of the goal, there is a semicircle with a radius of 16 yards, which is known as the 'D' or 'shooting' area. The 'penalty spot' is marked at a distance of 7 yards from the center of the goal.
The entire field is divided into two halves by the 'center line'. Each half is further divided into two halves by the '25-yard line'. The grass pitches which were used initially have now been replaced by synthetic surfaces, such as the sand-based pitches and water-based artificial turfs. Each match is played for 70 minutes, i.e., two halves of 35 minutes each, with a break of 10 minutes in-between.

Teams and Positions

Each team consists of 11 players, who are on the field at a particular point of time, and 5 players, who are sitting on the bench along the sideline. There are no restrictions for substitution in field hockey, which means teams can opt for substitution of players on-field and off-field any number of times they want, except during a penalty corner.
Excluding the goalkeeper, the other players form various strategic formations by marking some crucial positions. Player positions in field hockey are broadly categorized into three groups: fullbacks, mid-fielders, and forwards.


In order to score a point, also referred to as a goal, the players have to guide the ball into the opponent's goal. There are three methods to score goal in field hockey. A field goal is the one wherein the attacker scores a goal during continuous play, from within the 'D' area.
If the ball is hit from outside the D area and it goes into the goal after deflecting onto one of the attacking players stick, it is considered a goal. However, if the ball hit from outside the D area gets deflected from the defending players stick, it is not considered a goal. Basically, there are no self-goals in field hockey.
If the defending team commits a foul within the D area or a serious foul within the 25-yard line, the attacking team is awarded a penalty corner. During a penalty corner, the ball has to be pushed, along the ground, to a set of attackers waiting outside the D area.
One of the attacker is expected to stop the ball outside the D area, and roll it into it, before another attacker takes a shot at the goal. Penalty stroke is awarded for committing a foul, which prevented a certain goal, within the D area. In a penalty stroke, an attacker takes a shot at the goal from the penalty spot.

Fouls and Penalties

The list of fouls and resultant penalties in hockey is quite long. Some of the most common fouls include ball coming in contact with the feet (intentionally or unintentionally), using the wrong side of the hockey stick, lifting the ball above the ground (18 inches or more), obstruction (using one's body to prevent the opponent...
...from taking the ball), and third-party obstruction. Most of these fouls result in penalties, wherein the opposition is given the control of the ball to start the play, or awarded a penalty corner (when the foul is committed inside the D area).
The game is monitored by two umpires, one in each half, with the objective of ensuring fair play. Repeated fouls or some serious offense can either earn the player a green card, which serves as a warning, or a yellow card, wherein he is sent off the field. Interestingly enough, even the substitutes along the sideline can earn cards for misbehavior or challenging the umpires decision.
One of the most important, and equally interesting rule of modern-day field hockey is the absence of 'off-side'. This gives both the teams an opportunity to come up with deadly strategic formations which make the game even more interesting.