Archive for June, 2018

June 19, 2018

The number and positioning of match officials.


On 19th June 2018 on the website the following article was published.- see link:


JUNE 18, 2018, 10:21 A.M. (ET)
By Steve Horgan, USA Field Hockey’s Director of Umpiring

In our fast-paced world of instant communication, social media, internet speeds and cell phone video, the game of field hockey is also moving at warp speed. The game has become so fast with skills from the players never imagined before.That the umpiring mechanics on positioning must change just to keep up with it. With the addition of video review at the top FIH Levels and now domestically at the NCAA level, umpires will need to learn different angles and sight lines in order to have the best chance of getting the calls correct. Thus, eliminating the frequency of reviews or questioning by players in crucial situations mainly inside the circle.

The teachings from years ago had umpires taking a path of running down the “alley” and curving into the circle just ahead of the play as it comes toward them. The first change is that there is no more “alley” as the rules have basically eliminated that aspect of the game. The second change is the need for umpires to take a more direct path toward the circle as the play enters the 25-yard area. The past teaching also instructed umpires to “anticipate” the play, but did not actually give the guidance on how to do this. The new thinking on anticipation is based not only on the actions of the players, but also angles and sight lines to be created by umpires. After analysis of the video review process at the top level, it was determined that the number of video reviews and umpire misjudgments was directly due to umpires moving into a “hot spot,” or place to make a decision instead of being there comfortably to make that crucial decision. Even though this analysis was done with video review, it was determined that the same mistakes or misjudgments are made during games with no video review. When the video review or camera shows a decision, especially inside the circle, there have been way too many times that the umpire is not in the picture. Therefore, more than likely, they are not close enough or not at the right angle to make a clear judgement of the situation.

To make this new concept on umpire positioning work, there will be a number of “old school” ways of thinking that will need to change. First, the distance between umpires will increase as both will look more to protect their circle versus an over concentration on the midfield. The midfield cannot be lost in this concept. Umpires will be required to make some decisions from a little more distance than they are used to in the center of the field.

Second, with the speed of the game and the constant turnaround of play, umpires will need to stay in their circle longer before traveling up field behind the play. Instead of immediately heading out of the circle on an arc toward the sideline and up, a more direct straight path up field should be used, provided the space is open. If this space is occupied, then there is more of a chance of the ball returning inside the 25-yard area, which would mean more importance to stay closer to the circle than before. Going wide actually creates more distance from the play for umpires. So, a more direct path will actually keep the umpire closer to the play.

Third, as the play comes out from the opposite 25-yard area, umpires are being instructed to be about one-quarter of the field ahead. Thus, at or across the midfield line as the ball crosses the opposite 25-yard line and across the attacking 25-yard line as the ball crosses the midfield line. At USA Field Hockey, we have been teaching to stay ahead of the play as it comes toward you, knowing this may not always be possible. With this new concept there will be more consistency in being ahead and in the right position to make the crucial circle decisions.

Finally, the idea that the trail umpire “must” be down to the opposite 25-yard line area to “help” their partner is not going to fit this model. The trail umpire is primarily responsible for watching off the ball and can do so quite affectively from a little farther away, while protecting the coverage of their half of the field. No umpire is super human or fit enough to keep up with the ball or the way today’s players transition from defense to attack. Therefore, umpires will need a bigger headstart than ever before to be in their circle for the crucial decisions sooner.

With this innovative concept to umpiring, it will take some time for players, coaches and especially umpires to get used to.

Umpires will be looking to create new sight lines from more inside the field than normal and will have to be fitter and more aware of the player’s intentions to keep up with the speed of the game. This is not a concept of less movement or less need to be fit. Actually, if the umpire is in sync with the game and adhering to these concepts, it will create more movement, but less strenuous movement to achieve the goal of being in the right place, at the right time with less stress to make the correct decision.


I have a very different solution to suggest as I don’t feel that anything new or very useful is presented in the above article; much of it reminds me of the situation when off-side could occur only from the (sic) 23m line and that finished in 1997. I think the idea is full of ‘holes’, even contradictions, and we would still have large areas of the field, particularly those on the side of the pitch opposite the umpires and in mid-field, ‘controlled’ from distances of 50m or more (and never less than 30m when the ball is near the left sideline or the half-way line) – making the judgement of obstruction and of contact offences in these areas extremely difficult because of the need to judge the possibility of offence from viewpoints where the foreshortening of distances between players and between a player and the ball (causing opposite problems) is inevitable: these offences are already, in general, very poorly judged. The incident in the video below takes place on the umpire’s side of the pitch and within the 23m area, but even so, largely because of his positioning, he gets the decision completely wrong – possibly a case of umpiring by sound rather than by sight (although he may just have been unaware of the Obstruction Rule – that would not be unusual).

I don’t in any case believe that positioning an umpire close to the right-hand goal-post when play is in his or her circle to be efficient, especially in matches where there are video umpire facilities.That the FIH are trying to remedy the current deficiencies in umpire positioning and the mistakes that arise because of them is however, welcome. The video below shows examples of some of the problems which occur even when umpires are in the currently recommended positions well ahead of the play.

It is noteworthy that the disengaged umpire, positioned near the half-way line in the above video, made no signal in any of the incidents, when “too high – dangerous” signals would have been of assistance to the engaged umpire.

Current Rule

Rule 11 Conduct of play: umpires

Action Amendment

Reason. Two officials are insufficient for there to be an official reasonably close to action around the ball at all times

Current Rule

11.1 Two umpires control the match, apply the Rules and are the judges of fair play.

11.2. Each umpire has primary responsibility for decisions in one half of the field for the duration of the match.

11.3. Each umpire is responsible for decisions on free hits in the circle, penalty corners, penalty strokes and goals in one half of the field.


This is not ‘cast in iron’ other suggestions are welcome.


11.1. An umpire and four flag-officials control a match and ensure that it is played fairly and according to the Rules of Hockey.

The umpire positions and moves in the area between the two shooting circles.

11.2. The umpire has primary responsibility for all decisions.

11.3. Each flag official is responsible for bringing to the umpire’s attention (flagging) a) breaches of Rule b) confirmation of or dissent about any decision made and c) any other matter which may require intervention.

Each flag official is responsible for patrolling one quarter of the playing field and will move in an arc between the near goalpost and the halfway line in that quarter, depending on which team is attacking and on the positioning of the other flag-official on that side of the field. There should generally be achieved at least a three-point view of play on the ball and all play should be viewed from close range by at least one official.

This suggestion is not feasible for application in the majority of club hockey matches simply because there are already insufficient ‘bodies’ available for more than two officials. But at the higher levels, where there exists competition for appointment, it is feasible. The position of flag official could be a useful introduction to high level umpiring or a position an umpire coach mentoring other match officials could occupy. There is however a possible alternative, the introduction of a third umpire running the area between the circles; with two umpires, the central umpire and one other, always confirming for each other the award of a goal or a penalty corner; this could also be an interim step in the introduction of five pitch officials. Too many? Have you counted the number of officials around the court in a top level tennis match – each with far less difficult tasks?


The Tournament Regulations for video referral also require a radical overhaul – see comment with video.




There is too, I believe, need for the introduction of a second whistle to restart the game after it has been stopped to award penalty. I re-present below an article with videos that I wrote some time ago with that suggestion.

A suggested rewrite of a Rule of Hockey

The current Rule 1.4.d

use all the available tools for control

Action. Amendment. Addition The introduction of a second whistle to restart play when play has been stopped to award penalty.

Reason. Clarification. Improvement of control.


The headings below could be greatly expanded for umpire coaching purposes but the primary purpose here is to propose the introduction of a ‘second whistle’ so I will focus on that proposal and the reasons for it.

Rule 1.4.d. Know how to use all the available control techniques (tools).

Positioning     Presence     Body Language     Timing     Whistle     Signals     Voice     Cards

Second whistle.

When a free-ball or other penalty is awarded, play will recommence with a second whistle signal, the first whistle signal having been made to interrupt play and signal penalty. The second whistle signal will be given immediately the umpire is satisfied that the ball is stationary and in the correct position.

The giving of the second whistle signal will not be delayed because players of the team the free is awarded against have not retreated or are not retreating to attempt to get 5m from the ball. If there is such failure to comply with the Rule requirements from the team the free has been awarded against, further umpire intervention and more severe penalty may be required.

Whenever there is a free ball awarded the team about to take it will (as at present) be required to start with the ball in the correct (an acceptable) position and to make the ball stationary. Players sometimes try to gain an unfair advantage by not complying with one or other or neither of these requirements (see videos below). It is far easier and quicker to ensure compliance before such contravention occurs than to stop play and to reset or reverse a free-ball or re-start. One way to do this (not previously attempted) is to make it impossible to continue play until there is compliance.

The utterly absurd allowing of raising the ball by the ESP player into a BEL opponent and then charging into that opponent as he tried to play the ball (two offences) was obviously not properly seen by either umpire (positioning point above) The ridiculous decision by the video umpire (the commentators got it right in a shorter time), supports the introduction of a second whistle as the decision probably hinged on when (following what action) the self-pass was deemed to have been taken.

At present the umpire blows the whistle to signal intervention to award penalty and gives an hand-arm signal to indicate in which direction a free ball has been awarded. Only if the ball is not made stationary or is not placed reasonably close to where it should have been placed when the free is taken will the umpire need to take further action. But sometimes necessary further action, because of non-compliance is not taken, when it should be.

This video, below, is an example of a situation where obliging an umpire to ensure there was Rule compliance and then – and only then – blowing the whistle for a second time to permit play to recommence could have ensured fair play.

The positioning of the ball for what was supposed to have been a 15m ball and the number of touches made before the restart was considered taken are both matters for concern in the following incident. (The umpire then compounded this sloppiness by awarding a free ball to the Spanish side, penalising the ball-body contact of the New Zealand player, instead of, as he should have, awarding a free to the New Zealand team because of the dangerous play of the Spanish player.).

Example. of the ball not being stopped at all when a free-ball (at 15m) was awarded for an infringement within the circle.

In the following incident there was no attempt to make the ball stationary before the self-pass was taken and a team-mate of the taker was not 5m from the ball (a requirement in the 23m area) – defenders were given no opportunity to get 5m from the ball.

The umpire below fails to enforce compliance to the Free Hit Rules, in effect manufacturing the conditions for the penalty corner he then awarded.

Below. The player taking the awarded free below does not allow the defender to retreat from the ball – immediately charging directly into him and then deliberately playing the ball into his feet. (at the time there were some very strange ‘interpretation’ about direction of retreat being applied – and such forcing of contact was an offence)

Below. Play at frantic speed, with neither side attempting to comply to 5m requirements – which caused a break-down in play much longer than a properly taken free ball would have done.

Below. Not retreating the full 5m can be employed as a means to delay play and pack the defence when a free ball is awarded – perhaps an objection to the introduction of a second whistle – but the use of a second whistle ensures opponents are 5m away and the umpire has clear indication when compliance is not taking place and may, where appropriate, upgrade the penalty or award a personal penalty.


In the above and many more similar incidents, some of which would have required telepathy for the players to immediately know in which direction they should be moving, a second whistle would do much to ensure fair play. There is some appalling unpenalised play in the following video. Play that demonstrates the ineffectiveness of distant umpires and poor control of the taking of penalties.…-match-officials/

June 10, 2018

Hockey skills

Shorter version.

It is possibly reasonable to consider that any use of the stick and ball together will lead to the development of ‘touch’, the control of the ball with the stick, and any ball control, no matter how developed, will be of use to a player in a hockey match. But it is for the purposes of controlling a ball in various ways during a hockey match that ‘stick-work’ or ball skills are developed. Aside from entertainment and whatever self satisfaction may be gained there is no use or need during a hockey match for someone who can in practice juggle a hockey ball in the air with the rounded side of a hockey stick. It therefore seems right to assume that coaches should ask their charges to following training routines that will develop relevant, i.e. useful skills and persuade them not to waste time (that could be better spent) doing exercises that have no relevance to the game or are contrary to the Rules of Hockey (for example, from the longer video, dribbling a ball in a pond of water, irrelevant or kicking the ball up onto the stick with a foot, illegal).

It gives me a wrench to see the joy with which small children in the above videos (especially the longer one) are carrying out utterly useless activities while under the impression they are training to play hockey.

I feel the same sorrow for those who spend countless hours honing stick-work (and become excellent in these skills) but completely neglect, the more difficult to master, group spatial and running skills that make up the team-support tasks of the players not in possession of the ball at any given moment in a hockey match – these players despite or even because of their stick skills, will not reach the highest levels of the game. Hockey is a team game, based first and foremost on running and passing skills – the first component for a pass is an available receiver, the second a player in possession of the ball who knows how and when to pass it to a receiver.

The requirement for playing attributes at the higher levels (in no particular order) are:-

Game intelligence. Knowing where to be and when to be there and then what to do next when things go as expected – as rehearsed in training -(which isn’t usually very often because opponents upset plans). It is astonishing how little time some teams spend working on this aspect of play, a laissez-faire attitude is not at all unusual. Such teams will occasionally, fortuitously, put together a four-player move that results in an easy scoring chance and a goal, but they will then be unable to even try to repeat the move (or impossibly a mirror image of it) because they don’t know how they did it (who moved where, when and why).

Passing skills. Delivering the ball at the appropriate time at the correct pace and to the right place, that is in a way that enables a receiver to collect it as he wishes to and when and where he wishes to do so.

Receiving skills. Lead runs, support runs. The ability to receive the ball and continue play without pause.

Stick-work. A hockey player must be able to play by stick-ball touch and peripheral vision. It should be no more necessary for a skillful player to look directly at the ball when in possession of it than it is for a rugby player or an American footballer to do so when they are carrying the ball in the hands. The purpose of stick-work is to be able to take opportunities to pass the ball to a better positioned team-mate. A secondary purpose is to have the ability to hold the ball and elude opponents when there are no useful passing channels immediately available (which should not be often). To put the stick-work of an individual player ahead of team-work and passing and to try to win matches by this means alone is dangerous, in different ways, to both the team and to that player.

Know the Rules of the game – really know them: buy or download a current rule-book and learn what is written in it. Get into it, take up umpiring.

Physical Fitness. Speed, quickness, agility, flexibility, strength, stamina, are requirements, they are not optional.

Mental fitness. Good anticipation (game reading), determination, enjoyment.

Defending – probably the most difficult skill of all, is a combination of the other skills, but the passing skills have different aims (but like passing defending is generally carried out by coordinated player movement). Defending requires that opposition passes are anticipated (or even provoked) so that interceptions can occur. Tackling requires exceptional timing to avoid fouling the player tackled and to also avoid injury.

Training Cones.

I was fortunate with training cones, they had not been invented when I started playing hockey and my initial stick-ball training consisted mainly of running as fast as I could between (what are now the 23m lines) and the half-way line with the ball in contact with the stick, and with minimal rotation of the stick head, which was a bit tricky on a grass pitch cut for soccer. My teacher at school, whom I never saw with a hockey stick in his hand, had us look to where we were heading and not directly at the ball and initially that was good enough to allow me to play in the school team – I could avoid running into opponents by going wide of them and I was fast enough to run away from them if they let me get wide of them. I had only one dodge, a sharp sidestep to my right and reverse drag, but it worked tolerably well.

In my final year at school I joined Blackheath HC and it quickly became apparent that if I was to progress to the higher X1’s I would need more than just one dodge and good running speed. Fortunately there was a large back-garden at my home and as long as I cut the grass and rolled the lawn my father was happy for me to use it for dribbling practice. I started with a dozen house bricks spaced the length of my foot apart (about 10″) and began to walk the ball between them. I quickly realized that the rather haphazard grip I used on the stick was not precise enough and that I was no longer looking up as I moved with the the ball, so I devised the method of ascertaining correct grip and ball position that I have described in the article linked to below the video.

With a few weeks of daily practice I had increased the number of bricks in my ‘wall’ to fifty and I was able to sprint the length of them with the ball in close control. I varied it by ‘snaking’ the bricks and putting in some fencing slats at intervals (2m to both sides) and I would transverse these by either turning my hips to follow the ball or by taking shunt and hitch side-steps. The following season I was in the club 2nd X1 and (keeping up my practice) in the year following that in the First X1.

There was no team coach at the club and no mid-week practice. Hockey was played at the weekend – we played in a match (on a superb grass pitch) and that was it. I felt a lot of frustration at this because I knew that even just talking about what we were trying to do would be helpful, but that was the way things were and there was nothing to be done about it except to read any hockey coaching books I could get my hands on. I read The Theory and Practice of Hockey by the New Zealander Cyril Walters, cover to cover more than a dozen times. His passion for the game leapt from the pages. Soccer Coaching the modern way by Eric Batty was a gem of a discovery, which is still worth reading (soccer tactics in the 1960’s were ‘light years’ ahead of what could be seen on a hockey pitch). I found the later The Science of Hockey and The Advanced Science of Hockey by Horst Wein tougher (more technical) reads but well worth the effort.

I dislike cones because they are too forgiving (a house brick is only 4″ wide and of similar length to a foot – I never while I was playing ever intentionally played the ball into an opponents feet), but also because, for some reason which I cannot pretend to understand, players do a drill run around the cones with the feet as well as avoiding them with the ball.  Stride length and stride frequency then mimics the rapid short movements of the stick and ball when there is no reason at all why they should do so. Players must be able to stride long and freely even when moving the the ball from side to side with short rapid movements. From this point of view free running over 23m at top speed (especially on a bumpy surface) is far superior for skill development to ‘tip-toeing’ around cones – which also leads to posture and vision problems. These problems can be seen in the shorter initial videos above in the part showing youngsters pushing and pulling balls around cones on a very poor grass surface – this sort of practice drill, with poor posture and ball position, is not only a waste of time it is counterproductive, it is actually detrimental to the development of the necessary skills – as is spinning round and around with the eyes down.

The other problem with cones or any other type of small object, is that a mindless response, the same alternately each time, is trained into a player moving with the ball. This is good in one way, ball handling becomes automatic (and by touch rather than sight) and the mind is free to focus on other things, like the positions of team-mates. But it has its downside, it does not prepare a player for anything different. No cone ever retreats in front of the player in possession of the ball or makes a feint or a jab tackle. There has to come a time when the cone is replaced by a ‘tame’ opposing player and eventually by one who is trying very hard to win the ball. It is during such tough one-on-ones, in width limited lanes, (when the Obstruction Rule should be very strictly enforced by the trainer – no ball shielding permitted) that players learn the value of a passing opportunity – which they don’t have. There is in general too much cone training (an activity a player can do in isolation) and too little realistically contested ball-move training.

I owe the circumstances of my hockey playing education to an African dictator. The insane and brutal  Ide Amin caused Indian Africans to flee from Ugandan and some of the surrounding countries and many of them came to the UK. Some of them, who were international level hockey players, ended up at Blackheath HC and the late Albert DeSousa formed the Lusitanians HC with these and Goan players as a core.

The ‘Lusies’ played ‘at home’ on the Redgra pitch at the UK National Recreation Centre at Crystal Palace in South London and I immediately joined them to take part in hockey the standard of which I had not even seen before. Happy days (even if hockey was often played in a cloud of red dust and the pitch was cruel to anyone who fell on it)

The highlight for me was in 1972 when the ‘Lusies’ were due to play a training game against the Great Britain team three weeks prior the Olympic Games. For some reason (a car break-down I believe) the GB team were a player short and during the knock-up before the match the GB manager approached and asked me, as he put it “as the only non Asian” in the Lusitanian team, if I would like to fill in for the missing GB player. I doubt I would have played at all as the ‘Lusies’ had a large squad out and of course everybody wanted to play against the GB team. (This was in the days before rolling substitutions, substitution was done in the manner it now is in soccer, from just two reserves) so I was delighted to accept his (very temporary) offer of a GB team place. The GB team was drawn almost exclusively from the then recently formed (1969) London League, so I knew all the players via club hockey, but it was still a great and novel experience to put on a GB shirt and line up with them, even if it was only to play against my own club. One of the Lusitanians, Rui Saldana, was in the GB Squad but played for the ‘Lusies’ that day, so there was a balance in the numbers swapped between the teams, if not in the talent. Rui was at that time the most composed player on the ball that I had ever seen; I still had my ‘L’ plates on display.