THE FIELD: The game of field hockey is played on a rectangular field which is 100 yards (91.4 m) long and 60 yards (55 m) wide and is divided by a center line and a 25 yard line in each half of the field. The game is played on both grass fields and on watered down artificial turf (astro) although, for serious play, only astro is used because it is totally flat and obviously far faster than grass. The goal cages are 4 yards/12 feet (3.66 m) wide and 7 feet (2.13 m) high and there is a striking circle measured out 16 yards from each goal post. This striking circle (semi-circle) is also known as 'the circle' or the 'D' and a goal can only be scored from a shot taken within this semi-circle. The ball cannot be lifted into the circle but must be brought in on the ground. GAME LENGTH: A field hockey game consists of two halves of 35 minutes with an intermission of 5-10 minutes. The game is continuous (as in soccer) with no time-outs, until a call by one of the two umpires (there is one umpire for each side of the field) or delay because of an injury. Although goals occur more frequently than in soccer (a game which hockey is sometimes compared with: 'soccer with sticks'), field hockey is usually relatively low scoring.
TEAM SIZE/OBJECTIVE: The game is played by two teams of 11 players - 10 players and 1 goaltender. Although there are set positions (forwards, backs, wings etc.) the composition of any team is at the discretion of the coach (what positions players play at). The object of the game (not that surprisingly) is to have scored more goals than your opponents by the game's end, with one point being awarded for each goal scored as in most games of this nature.
GENERAL RULES and INFRACTIONS/FOULS: All players are only allowed to use their sticks to touch the ball, with the exception of the goalie who may use any part of his body to save a shot. The goalie may also play the ball with various parts of his body, most notably his feet. However, this is only true when he/she is within the 'D' - once the goalie is outside of this area they are treated the same as any other player and must abide by the rules for players.
The following are some of the major rules/fouls/infractions of the sport. Most fouls are penalized by giving the opposition a free hit from the point of infraction, however if the infraction occurs within the 'D' a short corner or penalty shot may be awarded. For current updated rules, please check the FIH web site.
Advancing the ball with the hand instead of stopping it dead is a foul, as is stopping the ball with the body or foot. The goalie is the only player who may use any part of his body to stop the ball (most notably his feet)
Dangerous use of the stick (raising the stick above the shoulder while playing the ball) and hitting the ball in a manner which could lead to dangerous play
Hooking an opponent's stick
Obstruction rule - a player is not permitted to obstruct an opponent by putting his stick or any part of his body between the opponent and the ball or by running between the opponent and the ball. In virtually every other sport, shielding the ball with one's body is an integral part of game strategy. However, this is not allowed in field hockey where all players have an equal chance to gain control of the ball as it is dribbled or passed down the field.
SHORTS CORNERS & PENALTY SHOTS: Short corners (also referred to as penalty corners): The majority of scoring opportunities in each match come from penalty corners (also known as short corners because of the position that they are taken from). A short corner is a free hit by an offensive player from a point on the goal line at least 10 yards from the goal. All attackers must be outside the circle before the hit is taken (picture 1) and a maximum of five defenders (4 players and the goalie) may be behind the goal line (picture 2) while the remaining defenders must be positioned beyond the center line. No defenders, both those behind the goal line and behind the center line may move until the hit has been taken. The attacking team is free to use any positioning for its men on top of the circle, and different positions are used to try and fool the defenders as to where the shot is going to be taken from.
To aid in this visualization, there are 3 pictures below which may make it easier to understand the positioning mentioned above. In picture 1, a group of attackers can be seen at the top of the circle awaiting the ball to be hit to them from a point along the goal line. In picture 2, the goalie and defenders can be seen waiting for the ball to be hit. As soon as the ball is put into play the defenders will charge out - depending on the style of defense being used , the defenders will run at different members of the opposition attempting to steal the ball and break up the play before a shot can be taken - if a shot is taken it is up to either the goalie or a defender to stop the ball. A short corner is awarded for: Any breach of the rules by a defender within the circle that would have resulted in a free hit to the attacking team if the breach had occurred outside the circle.
Any breach of the rules by the defenders outside the circle but within the 25 yard line.
An intentional hit over the goal line by a defender from any part of the field.
A penalty shot (also known as a penalty stroke) is awarded for any intentional breach by the defenders in the circle or for an unintentional breach by the defenders which prevents a sure goal. For a penalty shot an offensive player stands seven yards in front of the goal mouth (refer to the field diagram for the area in question) and the goalkeeper on his goal line. All other players remain beyond the 25 yard line. The offensive player then shoots the ball in any style he chooses, but is not allowed to move his position or the ball - i.e. the ball may only be touched once.