NewsBehind the Whistle

Behind the Whistle: Player on the Ground

by USA Field Hockey

Each week, USA Field Hockey's Umpiring Department will provide video clips for educational purposes on recent plays/calls.

Please take a close look at the video. Notice…In the circle, the defender in black goes down on one knee then lays flat on the turf…You make the call!

Also, remember this is an angle of a camera and not that of the umpire.

A. Penalty Stroke as the defender prevented the attacker from moving forward and playing the ball while on the ground

B. Penalty Corner as the defender used the back stick to play the ball unintentionally

C. Long Hit as there is no foul by either player and the ball is just played unintentionally over the end line by the defender

D. Free hit to the defense for the stick shielding by the attacker while the defender is on one knee

E. None of the above

There are a number of possibilities here depending on what the umpire saw in real time.

Just as a reminder, this is a video and not the angle for the umpire at the moment of the play. USA Field Hockey truly appreciates the conversations that were taking place on social media related to this clip.

The umpire is in a good position to see the play clearly. Umpires can only call what they see. Also, it is not a foul to play the ball while on the ground provided no danger occurs. As we run through the clip…if the ball hit the defenders foot and hand at the same time, a penalty corner would have been appropriate. If the attacker created a stick interference, then a free hit out would have been appropriate. If the defenders body, while on the ground, impeded the progress of the attacker, a penalty stroke would have been appropriate. If the defender unintentionally uses the back stick, a penalty corner would have been appropriate. If the defender is the last one to touch the ball before going over the end line, a 23 meter restart is appropriate

So, there is no one correct answer to this week’s clip. The umpire here did not see anything from his angle that caused danger, impeded or obstructed a player or anything intentional, thus the play went on and a 23 meter restart was awarded.


In a situation like this, umpires need to call the first thing they see as a foul as there is no possibility of any advantage in this tight area of play. As in this and in many situations, the umpire is very close to the play trying to assess and process a number of parameters in a very short timeframe. This is a great example of the intricate nature of umpiring in a high pressure situation with a number of possible outcomes
Bottom line: Umpire be strong, be confident and call what you see in the moment as this umpire did.

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