Why Does the Whistle Blow So Much in Field Hockey?

Josephine Emanuelli

This year marks the 50th year that women’s sports have been at Drew, and to mark this occasion, the Acorn will be doing a series highlighting the women’s sports on campus as well as the women’s coaches and the histories of the sports.

To begin the series, the first article will be explaining the game of field hockey, the first women’s sport at Drew.

Field hockey is not well understood, as it is not a widely played sport in the United States. The games are often viewed as inaccessible because there are too many whistles being blown, too many fouls and nobody really seems to know what is going on.

To begin explaining what happens during a field hockey game, a basic understanding of the rules can be extraordinarily helpful. The lines on the field hockey field are the red ones at Ranger Stadium; it is a 100-yard field with lines at 25 yards, 50 yards and 75 yards. There is also a circle with a 16-yard radius on either end, with a dashed circle just beyond it. Play is allowed in all of these boundaries, but one can only score if you hit the ball from within the 16-yard circle. If a shot is taken from outside of this area, somebody else must get a hit on the ball inside the circle for it to count as a goal.

In addition to the limits on where scoring is allowed, field hockey has a series of other rules, some of which are clearly designed to protect the players and others that seem to be arbitrary. One of the most commonly called fouls is for the ball hitting a player’s foot or body. The ball can only make contact with the flat side of the stick, so when a player kicks the ball, gets hit in the shin guard or uses the rounded side of their stick, a foul is earned for the other team and they may take the ball for a free hit. Once that free hit is made, another foul that commonly occurs is the 5-yard rule. When a player is awarded a free hit because the other team fouled, players on the opposite team may not be within five yards of the hit. If a player is within 5 yards of the hit being taken, they may not engage the player who is taking the hit or try to play them. If they are not far enough away and try to play the ball, they will have another foul called against them and the ball can be moved up five yards.

Once a team is past their offensive 25 yard line and earns a free hit from the other team fouling, they must carry it five yards into the circle; for safety reasons it cannot be hit directly in. Failing to carry the ball five yards results in a foul, and the other team gains possession.

In the attacking circle, where the team is trying to score, there is a higher penalty for the defense if they commit a foul. If the ball bounces off their foot, they run in between a player and the play or any other kind of foul happens in the circle, the attacking team is awarded a penalty corner. All defenders except for four and the goalie must go to the midpoint of the field, while the other team gets to line up around the circle with as many players as they want, hit the ball in and try to score while the other team runs back. This is designed as a harsher punishment to the defense for committing a foul at a crucial point by helping the attacking team score.

Hopefully, this article explained some of the oddball rules and whistle blows that occur in a field hockey game, but the best way to learn is to see. Stop by to see the Rangers at home Saturday, September 30 at 1:00 PM as they take on Moravian College in Landmark Conference play and raise money for the vs Cancer organization.

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