In the sport of field hockey, two teams compete to score goals by rolling, passing and hitting a hard rubber ball with wooden sticks. Although the basic rules of field hockey remain similar no matter the level of play, there are minor differences between high school field hockey, which is governed by the National Federation of State High School Associations, and youth, collegiate or Olympic competition.
Game Structure and Playing Field
A high school field hockey game consists of two 30-minute halves with a halftime period of no longer than 10 minutes. The game is played on a field that measures 100 yards long by 60 yards wide. Splitting the width of the field is the center line. The game begins at the center circle. Positioned at the center of each end line are goals that are 7 feet high and 12 feet wide. Seven yards in front of each goal is the penalty shot line and in front of each goal are semicircular areas that are called the striking circles.
Basic Playing Rules
Eleven players from each team take the field at a time and one of those players acts as the goalie. The goal keeper must be fully kitted and wear a shirt color that's different from the field players of both teams. Each field player wears gloves and masks for protection and carries a stick with a handle and curved head. In high school, players must wear eye protection and mouth guards. The game starts with a coin toss to decide which team gets first possession and on which side of the field the teams begin play. A player from the team with first possession passes the ball from the center of the field to start play. Players use their sticks to carry, pass and shoot the ball, with the intention of ultimately shooting the ball into the opponent’s goal for a score. To score, a player must shoot the ball into the goal from within the striking circle, also known as the shooting circle.
In high school, only the goalkeeper can raise his stick above his shoulder and only when it’s to save a shot at the goal. Field players are not allowed to hold their sticks over their heads. They cannot play the ball with the back of their stick. There is no tackling or obstructing an opponent who is attempting to play the ball. They’re also not allowed to use their feet or other body part to control the ball, except for the goalie who can use his hands. Players who commit fouls can be cautioned, temporarily suspended for two minutes with a green card, temporarily suspended for five or 10 minutes with a yellow card or ejected from the game with a red card.
Penalty Corners and Penalty Strokes
A penalty corner is awarded when a player on the defensive team breaks a rule within the striking circle or commits an intentional foul outside the circle but within the 25-yard area. Play immediately stops and the offensive team is allowed to set up a play. With five defenders, including the goalie, positioned on the end line, an attacker stands on the end line 11 yards from the goal and hits the ball to her teammates standing at the top of the striking circle. The offensive team can then shoot at the goal.
A penalty stroke often is awarded after a foul is committed that directly prevents a goal. After the lead umpire asks a selected offensive player and the goalie if they're ready, she blows her whistle and the selected offensive player gets to take a single shot from the penalty shot line with only the goalie as opposition.