“This is Obstruction” Coaching video 2004

Rules of Hockey

At end of the 2003 season Hockey Australia produced an umpire coaching video on obstruction which I have incorporated into the above video. There can be no doubt that the second incident shown included both obstruction and physical contact offences by the player in possession of the ball, but the first incident, featuring an ARG player in possession showed play that has never been considered obstructive.

It is true that umpires have generally been more inclined to ‘see’ obstruction when the ball is carried to the left of the body, but regardless of which side of the body the ball is carried, if it is kept to the front of the feet it is highly unlikely there can be an obstruction offence.

Moreover, body obstruction of an opponent who is behind the play (i.e. is not her own goal-side of the ball and the player in possession of the ball), is an impossibility, no matter how close to the ball that player may be.

It is still possible in such circumstances for a ball holder to be guilty of obstruction if an attempt by a tackler to play at the ball with her stick is fended off by the stick of the ball holder or by her leg or hand/arm to prevent contact with the ball which would otherwise have occurred, but a ball holder having her body positioned between an opponent, who has been by-passed, and the ball cannot be guilty, only because of that positioning, of an obstruction offence. Clearly the coach did not understand the Obstruction Rule. I wonder what he would have made of this current approach to blocking and ball shielding to prevent a tackle by an opponent? Bewilderment? Probably.

Going back to the first video above, had the player in possession been running towards her own goal she would have been obliged to keep the ball beyond the playing reach of any closing tackler, but she was moving towards her opponent’s goal and even if she did pull the ball back (which she did not) that action would not have been an obstruction.

The tightening up of the Obstruction Rule with the addition of “(sic) A player shall not move…. into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it.” which occurred in 2009, was a “too little too late” attempt by the FIH Rules Committee to prevent the type of play, common by then, seen by the BEL player in the final action of the first video above. As can be seen in the video this addition, which reinforced what was already in the Rule, was completely ignored by umpires. In fact in these circumstances umpire are far more likely to penalise the tackler for attempting a tackle from a position where it it is not possible to play at the ball without making physical contact – a position which the ball holder has deliberately ‘engineered’ with just such an outcome in mind.

Amazingly defenders will sometimes hold the ball against their own base-line in the circle and then attempt to shunt sideways along the line and out of the circle while shielding the ball from opponents with stick, leg and body to prevent a legitimate tackle, without being penalised with a penalty stroke, which would be the correct decision in such circumstances, there being nothing accidental about such actions.

obs 9a

Here is some interesting coaching from 2014. The coach is instructing player to place the ball behind their left shoulder when carrying the ball to their left hand side in order to use the body to protect the ball. He is in other words coaching them to breach the Obstruction Rule.

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