How are free hits awarded in field hockey?
Field hockey is a sport that remains true to its rules. It involves two teams of seven players trying to knock a ball into a net, taking after the very similar ice and street hockey. The main difference, of course, is the fact that field hockey is played on artificial turf, normally indoors. As a way to enforce punishment, penalties are used to promote fair play.
Instead of using "penalty plays" when a foul or penalty takes place, players in field hockey are awarded "free hits." These are simply awarded by the umpire when offenses are committed by the opposing team outside the scoring circles, located around the goal.
Generally, the farther away the player (on the team that didn’t commit the foul) is from the ball, the better the penalty is. "5 meter" penalties, in which the player with the free hit must move 5 meters away from the ball, are awarded when fouls like an obstruction of the goal or other accidental moves are made. These are seen as not being very serious foul plays and are given only short-length free hits. The free hit must be taken within playing distance of the offense with the ball kept stationary in a single spot.
A "15 meter" penalty is awarded for more serious breeches of misconduct, including fighting, dangerous play, and raised sticks. In this case, the free hit will also be taken in place with where the foul occurred, and all players must be at least 5 meters away from the player taking the hit. The ball will be held stationary and the shot will not be blocked.
A free hit can also be awarded if the ball goes out of bounds. In this situation, the ball is placed on the exit point. A player will knock the ball back into play upon making contact with it. Although all players can be anywhere on the court besides the goalie circle, the player behind the ball can choose to aim for the goal or pass it to a teammate.
Once the stationary ball has been touched during a free hit, the ball is put back into play. The player who made contact cannot touch the ball after the hit, yet the defense can run to the ball once hit. For this reason, the bigger the foul, the better the penalty, since the defense must be 5 meters away from the ball. The striker can also not raise their stick to hit the ball, which is in violation of rules and will award the opposing team with a turn-over.
All field hockey teams should learn to benefit from a free hit. When exploited correctly, any free shot will give the team free chances at a much-needed goal. Strikers who know how to correctly maneuver and control a ball should be used for free hits, and players should be ready to resume game play once the free hit has been taken.