Behind the Whistle: Free Hit Inside the Circle
by USA Field Hockey
Each week, USA Field Hockey's Umpiring Department will provide video clips for educational purposes on recent plays/calls.
Scenario: The team in white is awarded a free hit for obstruction against the team in red inside the circle. The ball happens to travel toward a player in white who taps the ball forward to a teammate. The teammate carries the ball toward the top of the circle. The umpire sees this as the free hit being taken, thus allows a player in red to play the ball before it even comes out of the circle, which turns into a goal for the team in red amid the confusion.
Rule 13.1.b: A free hit awarded to the defense within 15 meters of the back-line is taken up to 15 meters from the back- line in line with the location of the offense, parallel to the side-line
A free hit to the defense awarded in the circle may be taken anywhere in the circle.
Application: It appears the umpire is ready to stop the player in red from playing the ball but then pulls back the whistle and allows play to continue. There appears to be an uncertainty as to whether or not the team in white actually started the free hit from deep inside the circle. From this angle, it appears the team in white is just trying to get the ball to the top of the circle quite legally.
Guidance: These situations can be difficult to judge as some teams will look to take the quick free hit in the circle. Stay focused and be aware of the action of the players, not just the ball being tapped or passed forward. Remember, umpires do not get the benefit of taking a breath even though the play may be relaxed. Be sure that the free hit is taken properly, not guessing after something happens.
Video clips and photos are being utilized for educational purposes only and not meant to critique individual players, coaches or officials.