NewsBehind the Whistle

Behind the Whistle: Ball Hitting the Foot in Open Space

by USA Field Hockey

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

FIH/USA Field Hockey/NCAA Rule 9.11:

Field players must not stop, kick, propel, pick up, throw or carry the ball with any part of their body. It is not always an offence if the ball hits the foot, hand or body of a field player. The player only commits an offence if they gain an advantage or if they position themselves with the intention of stopping the ball in this way.

NFHS Rule 8, Section 1, Article 1.o:

Fouls include the following…Advancing – using any part of the body to propel, deflect or stop the ball to a team’s advantage.


Note: Even though the wording is different in the two rules book, the application of the rule is exactly the same.


A player in blue takes a free hit from the top of the circle passing to her left. Her teammate receives the ball then passes back to the original taker of the free hit. This player receiving the ball does not touch the ball in any way with the stick and the ball directly hits the player’s right foot stopping it from going behind her. She is in open space. The umpire calls a penalty corner as the player was in the circle and did gain an advantage by the ball hitting the foot…Proper Application


In this scenario, and many like it around the field, since the player totally misplayed the ball and it hit the foot directly, it would have traveled well behind her had it not hit the foot. The player actually gained an advantage because the foot stopped the ball that otherwise should have been stopped by the stick. Even though this player is in open space, she still gained an advantage as 1. She would have lost control of the ball and 2. A defender was positioned (running into the circle) to challenge for the ball had it not hit the foot. Be sure to be looking at the big picture in this type of situation and not just that a player is in open space when making the decision.

Additional Guidance:

This type of situation happens often near the sidelines where the ball would have gone out of play had it not hit the foot. If the ball would have gone out of play had it not hit the foot it is a foul. If the player is in open space and would have maintained control even though the ball hits the foot it can be played on.


Video clips and photos are being utilized for educational purposes only and not meant to critique individual players, coaches or officials.