Spin turn coaching and Rule

Rules of Hockey

The meaning and order of words.

The above video which contains two examples of online coaching of the spin turn to elude an opponent, one by a brilliant international player and the other by two youngsters. They are the same, and wrong in two vital aspects. Firstly no account is taken of a realistic tackle for the ball and secondly, the Obstruction Rule, which should determine how a spin turn is coached once the basic footwork is established, is completely ignored. In other words there is no advanced coaching, it does not go beyond the inactive dummy stage – so that is what is seen in hockey matches.

The Rule is not well written. I will here explain why I make that statement.

Firstly,clauses are incompletely or poorly worded.

Players obstruct if they back into an opponent.

Does that mean back towards an opponent (into the playing reach of an opponent) without making contact) or backing into physical contact? The following clause gives a clue.

Players obstruct if they physically interfere with the stick or body of an opponent.

Backing into physical contact is physically interfering with the body of an opponent and there seems no reason to repeat the prohibition, ergo the first clause is not about making physical contact. But it could be claimed (and is) that this is a subjective interpretation of the wording and the matter is still not clear. So backing with the ball, taking the ball into the playing reach of an opponent could be legitimate except it is difficult to see how that could be done without shielding the ball from the opponent to prevent a tackle attempt, which is illegal. That brings me to the next problem clause.

Players obstruct if they shield the ball from a legitimate tackle with their stick or any part of their body.

Under the heading Obstruction in the UMB umpires are advised to ask themselves the question “Is there movement to prevent a tackle attempt?” and then obviously to take action according to the answer to that question The shielding clause given with the Rule Explanation is not clearly about the prevention of a tackle attempt, when it should be. I think it needs to be reworded to replace “from” with “to prevent”:-

Players obstruct if they shield the ball to prevent a legitimate tackle with their stick or any part of their body.

I believe that follows the intent of the FIH RC when they drafted this ball shielding clause.

The 2004 and 2009 amendments, (the first a rewrite of the Rule and the deletion of all the previous Rule Interpretation previously contained in an Interpretations section in the back of the rule-book), were not properly integrated with previous clauses, so we are taken back to the subject of moving bodily into and/or moving to position between an opponent and the ball when that opponent is attempting to play at the ball.

This is the result of the 2009 amendment (the part from the word ‘or’ onward was added). The first part reinforces that any moving bodily into an opponent – physical contact – is not permitted. ‘Backing into’ can therefore reasonably be seen as a different action i.e. moving into an opponent’s playing reach without making physical contact. The contact Rule clause is otherwise unnecessarily repeated three times in this Rule alone.

A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction except bodily into an opponent or into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it.

That at first sight looks reasonably clear but there is an ambiguity that those who think the Obstruction Rule should be deleted (and such people certainly exist) take advantage of to misapply the Rule or not apply it at all. I highlight the problem below:-

A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction except bodily into an opponent

OR

into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it.

Put like that the clause is not clear, it can be interpreted in several ways because there is no emphasis on “except” when there should be.

The 2009 amendment was simply an extension of the adjoining clause using the word “or”. It is possible to add ‘alternatively’ to get “or alternatively” but the meaning and clarity is not much changed. It is also possible to use “or differently” “or similarly” Which is best? Would a separate clause be the best option to avoid the ambiguous “or”? I believe so. Therefore I suggest, using the negative form previously employed in the Rules as well as change to the wording which does not alter the meaning or intent of the Rule:-

A player with the ball is not permitted to move with it in any way, that will cause physical contact with an opponent.

A player with the ball is not permitted to move into a position which places any part of his body between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play at it.

Are clear Rule clauses too blunt for liberal tastes?

The remaining Rule clause is about an opponent running to position between a player and the ball and about the blocking off of that player from the ball. This is incorrectly described as ‘third party obstruction’. The description is incorrect because such obstructive actions can be the simple obstruction of one player by another, who has moved to position between the ball and an opposing player who would otherwise have been able to play at the ball, but it may instead be third party obstruction, where the obstructed player need not be within playing distance of the ball at the time of the blocking in order to be obstructed. These quite distinct actions require separate clauses and ‘third party obstruction’ needs an adequate description.

In the above incident the GER No.10 is clearly preventing an ARG player approaching a GER team-mate in order to challenge her for the ball. Obviously a third party obstruction. But not according to the coaching provided by the FIH Umpiring Committee who provide a quite difference interpretation to this incident in a coaching video presented via Dartfish.com.

I suspect the interpretation, given within the video (pause the video to read it) was devised to follow the decision made by the match umpire (unfortunately a common occurrence within these productions), which was to allow play to continue, instead of awarding the appropriate penalty corner and personal penalty.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.