Posts tagged ‘Obstruction’

November 27, 2018

The Einstellung Effect

The Einstellung Effect (pronounced Eye-stellung)

Einstelling is a German word which the author of A Mind for Numbers  Dr. Barbara Oakley, states means to put or erect a barrier or block a way, (that is not the translation I get on German language translation websites, but I will go with it because it is the inadvertent blocking of the mind by using a particular focus, as explained in her book that, I want to examine)

The Einstellung Effect is a tendency to continue to think in a way that is being used (on a present problem) or has previously been used in making judgements and decisions, which can lead to less-than-optimal decisions or judgments. That is answers or decisions that are incomplete or incorrect.

The effect can be the culprit in failure to find optimal and/or simpler solutions to new problems when we see features of a problem that remind us of similar problems we’ve solved in the past, (or seen others solve in a particular way). The first solutions that come to mind (to put it mildly) tend to follow similar lines to those past solutions/decisions. Those first ideas often get in the way of (block) the finding of better solutions or the making of correct decisions because they prime us to think in a certain way.

Cognitive traps like this may be the result of our natural desire to simplify the way we process information, since simplification saves mental energy. Our minds are cognitive misers, using shortcuts to save cognitive power whenever the opportunity arises (we are naturally lazy or ‘economical’ with effort).

We can fall prey to the Einstellung Effect whether we’re novices or masters in any problem-solving arena (but you have been warned so may not immediately do so here).

Here is an example of a problem where difficulty with the Eintellung Effect is possible.

Read the following sentence and identify how many errors it contains

Thiss sentence contains threee errors

The solution is contained in this pdf along with the remainder of this article:-  Thiss sentence

Video examples

The following clip labours the text of the Rule and suggests improvements to it. I am not convinced that the umpire was even watching, and saw this incident, as he struggled to get back into a position in the circle. His failure to penalise for obstruction and physical contact (backing in and barging) is otherwise inexplicable (a goal was awarded).

https://martinzigzag.com/2018/11/27/the-einstellung-effect/

August 23, 2018

An apparently well umpired hockey match

FIELD HOCKEY RULES

It is amazes me what is now seen as acceptable, even good, umpiring following the ‘interpretation slide’ that occurred after the introduction of the receiving exception to the Obstruction Rule (1993) and the deletion of the Forcing Rule (2011). Umpiring practice has led to hardly any penalising of obstruction (and some incorrect penalising for it when it does not occur) and also, in the other direction, the penalising of nearly all ball-body contact, instead of there being hardly any interruption due to ball-body contact.  It is strange that ‘interpretation’ has almost inverted the proper application of both of these Rules.
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The hitting of the ball at maximum power into the feet or legs of a close and/or closing opponent has never been adequately dealt with. The general attitude to this action seems to be that it is the defender’s (tackler’s) fault for getting in the way – and getting hit in such circumstances is an acceptable and accepted risk – tough players just rub the pain away and get on with the game (but a young novice who is subjected to this sort of treatment might well give up on hockey and instead play, the less painful and more reasonable, soccer – soccer is a contact sport but a player is not allowed to prevent a tackle by giving an opponent a kick in the shin, an action which would be about as painful as being hit with a hockey ball above the shin-pad or on an ankle).

I take the view that unnecessarily (avoidably and often intentionally) hitting the ball at high velocity into the feet/legs of an opponent who is attempting to position to make a tackle is not responsible play, even when taking a shot towards the opponents goal – it is irresponsible (because it frequently causes injury and almost always causes considerable pain to the player hit) and is therefore reckless play. I believe this action ought to be penalised as a forcing offence.

Obviously it is easier just to ‘blast’ the ball through an opponent rather than evading a tackle attempt and then resetting to strike the ball, that takes some skill, but hockey is supposed to be a game of skill.

The easy shove of the ball into an opponent’s planted foot when they reach for the ball with their stick is simply laziness and should not be rewarded with penalty. In most instances of “finding a foot” (how forgiving of what is cheating that phrase is) there is no good reason for the umpire to intervene and play should just continue.

I am not a fan of calling an out-runner at a penalty corner a suicide runner or of the mandatory award of a penalty corner if such an out-runner is hit below knee height with the ball; I think that simply encourages reckless, even dangerous, play and encourages intimidation and that Penalty Corner Rule ought to be deleted. (An out-runner who deliberately uses her body, rather than attempting to use the stick, to block the ball and prevent a shot during a penalty corner, may more rationally be penalised with a penalty stroke and a personal penalty)
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One of the five video referrals from the same match.
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My apologies for the up and down quality of the voice commentary on the videos.

 

https://martinzigzag.com/2018/08/23/an-apparently-we…red-hockey-match/

 


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July 27, 2018

Back-sticks Question

and a rant about obstruction.

https://www.thehockeypaper.co.uk/articles/2018/07/26/womens-hockey-world-cup-are-umpires-leaving-an-open-goal-over-own-referrals

The text below is taken from a part copy of the article by Todd Williams (link above) which was re-published on fieldhockey.com on 27th July 2018.

All four teams can still progress and three of the four (Australia, NZ and Japan) are fighting to top the pool and go straight through to the quarter-finals.

The margins are tight, every point and, in all possibility, every goal will be important in determining who progresses and who has to play in the, wait for it, pre-quarter-final cross-over elimination games, for finishing second or third.

The stakes at a World Cup are, as you would expect, as high as they get.

The preparation has been extensive and intensive but that of course doesn’t guarantee anything. Part of the appeal of sport is the fact that luck will play its part; whether that be the bounce of the ball or the shot off the post or goalkeeper that goes in or stays out.

Umpiring decisions also come into that category and there will always be, and should be, moments in sport where the interpretation of the umpire determines in what direction the play should go.

That said, the successful and effective introduction of the Video Umpire into top-level hockey has given teams at least one opportunity to question whether or not they’ve been on the wrong end of the stick from a big decision.

Seeing goal, penalty stroke and penalty corner decisions questioned and then overturned is now common place and all teams are aware of the need to use their referral, particularly early in the game, with care.

Critically, with the sheer speed of the game, as well as the congestion and intensity of the attacking circle, it makes absolute sense that on-field umpires have this extra resource to help them get as many of the big decisions correct.

That is why, sensibly, umpires also have the ability to make their own referrals when they sense that something they were initially sure about needs a second look.

With all these points in mind, doesn’t it seem a little bit crazy that the final make-up of Pool D, including which team’s tournament finishes then and there, could come down to a goal that was clearly scored off the back of the stick?

By pure coincidence, this conversation actually started on day one, with Japan’s second goal against Australia. With the umpire quite rightly allowing an excellent advantage instead of awarding a penalty stroke, Akiko Kato swept the ball on her reverse into the goal.

The only trouble was the replay showed that it almost certainly had been hit flush, not even off the edge, but with the whole back of the stick. Given that the game was into the last minute and Australia still had a referral, it seemed strange that they didn’t go the Video Umpire.

Barring the extraordinary, they had nothing to lose and, if successful, they might have just saved a goal which, as it has transpired could be worth its weight, if not in gold, in reaching the quarter-finals.

According to one of the Australian coaching staff, this was a rare self-confessed “brain fade” from the Hockeyroos wonderful goalkeeper Rachel Lynch.

The big question for all umpires out there though is what would the decision have been had the referral been upheld? Back to the penalty stroke or a free hit out?

While bettering your goal difference is one thing, gaining a point from a draw is another level altogether and that is why it would be understandable if Black Sticks coach Mark Hager had a polite word of concern to the Umpire’s Manager about Japan’s second goal in their 2-1 loss to Japan.

With NZ pressing for an equaliser, a speculative aerial was intercepted and played forward to Minami Shimazu who rounded the goalkeeper and, on her reverse, hit the ball into the open goal.
The trouble was, as players and umpires through most grades now know, when the ball had been hit by Shimazu, it had risen off the ground with the tell-tale looped trajectory that was slower than the speed of the swing and which almost always means that it’s been “topped” by the back of the stick.

Despite that, the umpire awarded the goal and although NZ scored four minutes later, Japan held on for a hard fought win.

Now, let me first of all say that none of this is Japan’s fault and nor am I questioning the ability of the umpire. It does however seem crazy and somewhat inconsistent that with the use of video at hand, we are talking about such an important goal being allowed to stand when, had NZ been able to refer it, it would almost certainly have been reversed.

I also take the argument that NZ had played their referral card and lost but back of the stick, just like the ball coming off the foot, is the equivalent of football’s hand ball and whether it’s Diego Maradona or Thierry Henry, we all know the justifiable uproar that has caused over the years.

After watching the extraordinary over-complication of VAR at FIFA’s World Cup, I couldn’t imagine for a second finding myself wondering if hockey should adopt any of their methods but maybe this shows that the VU checking the goal that has been awarded and letting the umpire know if there is a problem isn’t a bad idea.

Again, I’m happy to side with the umpire and say that the speed and angle of the play and the crowd noise has prevented her from seeing and hearing the critical clues of incorrect contact but surely we want goals scored with the correct side of the stick, no matter how close or open the goal is.

That is like reading the published views of a 16th Century Skeptic who knew he would be burned at the stake, for stating in plain language and spreading to others, what he really believed.

Does crowd noise prevent seeing?

I find it odd that Todd Williams should write an article about back-sticks and umpiring, especially in relation to Tournament positions at the pre-Quarter Final stage of a World Cup when we recently had a Commonwealth Games Final between Australia and India decided on the failure of an umpire to penalise an intentionally raised hit pass from outside the circle – which is a clear offence – a pass from which the only, and therefore the winning goal, was scored by the Australians with a volley hit from that raised pass . A Tournament Final decided on a combination of cheating and incompetence – where was the protest? Is that umpire in retraining? Are the players (especially the Indian players who should have asked for a video referral and clearly stated why they were doing so) being taught the Rules of the game? The Indian team were under pressure for much of the match and did not at any time seem likely to win, but they did not deserve to lose like that, through the carelessness of an official.

Clip of incidents in the JAP v GER match

I have studied the video highlights clip presented within the article, made a slow motion excerpt of the relevant part and also taken frame by frames stills from it. The first thing that needs to be said is that the video quality and frame rate are such that it is impossible to be certain about anything concerning the striking of the ball. The second, is that I can see no evidence at all that the Japanese player struck the ball with the back of her stick-head. The flight of the ball looks consistent with an edge-hit and perfectly normal in that context. I have no idea how Todd Williams arrived at “a goal that was clearly scored off the back of the stick.”

So what to do about the potential back-stick problems? That’s easy, delete the offence.

“Back-sticks’ is no longer sensibly an offence; and if it is possible to abolish the prohibition on above shoulder playing of the ball and, before that, Rule concerning the raising of any part of the stick above the shoulder, it is simply part of ‘progress’ and common sense, especially when edge hitting has been permitted for years, to allow the ball to be played with any part of the stick. Stick-work would not disappear, in fact it could be expanded, as ball-stick movements not legal now, could be added to the repertoire of those prepared to put in the necessary practice.

In another match, ARG v GER, I cringed as a television commentator, an expert international level player, demonstrated in commentary that she has no awareness of the Obstruction Rule, as she fulsomely praised a GER player for using her body to shield the ball from an opponent. As it happens she was wrong; the GER player collected the ball while facing towards her own goal and then immediately and quickly moved away from her ARG opponent – and the ARG player let her go – allowed her to create ample space to turn on the ball and pass it towards the goal, and from that pass a goal was scored. There was no use of the body to shield the ball in that incident.

Ball shielding is an illegal action carried out when there is an opponent within playing reach of the ball who is demonstrating intent to play at the ball, and who could play at it but for the shielding of it by the body or stick of an opponent – it is specifically prohibited within Rule 9.12.

So back to the JAP V NZ match and an incident shown at the end of the clip. A JAP player in possession of the ball turned to position her body between a close NZ defender and the ball (ball shielding) and then backed into her (a second criterion of obstruction), I am not sure from the video if she made contact but it is possible that she did (a physical contact offence). The NZ player was obliged to move away to give herself room to use her stick to either side of her opponent. The umpire positioned about 3m away saw nothing untoward in the play of the JAP player and allowed play to continue.

I find it absurd that there is ‘hand wringing’ about back-sticks but very few seem to care ‘a toss’ about obstruction. But it is certainly the most important Rule in the book after those concerning dangerous play.

Back-sticks even when there is no attempt from the player doing it to disguise the fact it has occurred, is generally difficult to see and it is frequently impossible to determine if it has taken place, even with video replay. Obstruction on the other hand is usually a full body block – players don’t even much bother with fast and subtle half-turns these days (but see clip below), they are generally blatant and brazen and even slow, when using their body to block off an opponent (also in the clip below).

The only real difficulty, is the speed of the action, the duration of the obstruction. An obstruction that disadvantages an opponent sufficiently to prevent them playing the ball when they would otherwise have been able to do so can occur in a split second – the time it takes a moving opponent who is shielding the ball to have run beyond playing reach. If an attacking player moves her opponent’s goal-side of the ball before she comes to within the playing reach of her opponent and then maintains that position as she moves across her opponent – thus shielding the ball from her as she does so (usually done with the back presented full on to the opponent) – there is no turning action at the position of the defender but there is certainly obstruction.

The video below shows two different kinds of obstruction offence. The first in the first seconds of the clip (and later in slow mo) is by a NED player who runs ahead of the ball and between the ball and an ARG defender. As the ARG defender, unable to play at the ball, accelerates to try to get ahead of her, the NED players slips the ball behind her legs to a team-mate (clever stuff and obviously a rehearsed move). The second obstruction is by an ARG player who simply runs in front of the NED ball holder – between her and the ball -and then props to physically block her off from the ball (rough stuff). I suppose that the umpire played an advantage as the ball ran on to another NED player. I would have awarded a penalty stroke to the NED team for that offence (Oh yes, definitely), if I had not already penalised the first obstruction by the NED team.

So what do we do about this sort of thing? Delete the Obstruction Rule or retrain our umpires and our players?  I can’t accept a deletion of the Obstruction Rule because that would lead to a fundamental change to the playing of the game. Retraining umpires would probably necessitate doing without the services of many of the current FIH Umpire Coaches, for who could retrain them but themselves? They show no sign of changing what they are currently coaching (which is to “take the whistle out of the game” by ignoring Rule breaches).  To apply the Obstruction Rule it is necessary to believe that there is such a thing as obstruction and that it is described in that Rule – and they obviously do not believe these things.

https://martinzigzag.com/2018/07/27/back-sticks-question/

July 8, 2018

Preventing a tackle. Ball shielding

FIELD HOCKEY RULES

 

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The Umpire Manager’s Briefing for umpires at FIH Tournaments. 2017.

 


The Rule.

 

The UMB and the Rule appear to agree that ball shielding to prevent a tackle attempt by an opponent is obstruction but, oddly, the Rule does not use the words ‘to prevent’ but the vague ‘from’. We moreover often hear umpires declaring that a player was not obstructed because he or she was not in a position to play the ball and therefore there could be no legitimate tackle made – even though, as in the videos above and below, that player is at the time within playing reach of the ball, in a balanced position, demonstrating an intent to play at the ball and is only prevented from playing at the ball because it is (deliberately) blocked from him by the stick or body of the player in possession of it.

As a result players in possession of the ball have become skillful at obstructing opponents who are trying to tackle for the ball and nobody expects them to be penalised for it, not even the tackler.

The defender in his turn will shield the ball along the base-line or hold it shielded in a corner with no expectation that these obstructive actions will be penalised – the obstruction shown below was not penalised. This has been going on for a very long time. Everyone knows this situation is a nonsense but nothing is being done to resolve the contradictions. Instead, if anything, excuse is being found not to penalise what is obviously obstruction.

This is not a call for Rule change, even if the minor clarification suggested above  (from -> to prevent) would be helpful, but a call to apply the Rule “As is”. Is there any argument about the illegality of ball shielding to prevent a legitimate tackle attempt? Any doubt about what the Rule or the purpose of it is? Is anyone suggesting that moving to shield the ball from an opponent is legitimate play? I don’t think so. So what is the problem?

 

https://martinzigzag.com/2018/07/08/preventing-a-tackle-ball-shielding/

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May 8, 2018

The Obstruction See-saw

FIELD HOCKEY RULES.

Reducing cognitive dissidence; wilful blindness and confirmation bias.

Let us consider that we are all partially insane. It will explain us to each other; it will unriddle many riddles; it will make clear and simple many things which are involved in haunting and harassing difficulties and obscurities now.” Mark Twain.

I have been driven mad trying to make sense of the the Rules of Hockey, when compared with the current (sic) application of them, particularly the Rules concerning a dangerously played ball, ball body contact and obstruction. I have no difficulty at all in accepting that those who wrote these Rules are not quite sane and that I should feel sorry for them, as well as joining them.

This article is an attempt to unravel the history of the Obstruction Rule and explain how it came to be written as it now is. I will not attempt to explain why it is applied as it currently is, because it is impossible to explain the contradiction of literal word meanings or to reasonably explain irrationality or willful blindness (other than in the legal sense of the term), but examples of current practice will be shown in video and comment about current practice will be included.

The 1986 Rules of Hockey provided the following Rule and Guidance about obstruction. At the time there was nothing on the subject given in Advice to Umpires (a separate section at the back of the rule-book). I am not certain in which year the following Guidance for Players and Umpires was first written but it was the same in 1958 (a year for which I have a copy of the Rules) and probably for a considerable number of years before that. I chose 1986 as a start point because in 1987 Advice to Umpires included in the rule-book for the first time advice on the application of the Obstruction Rule.

1986 Rule Proper
12.1. A player shall not:-
(k) obstruct by running between an opponent and the ball nor interpose himself or his stick as an obstruction.

Obstruction was at this time regarded by the FIH HRB as an offence that a tackler, rather than a player in possession of the ball, was the more likely to commit, but that was a ‘traditional ‘ view which did not fit with fact. Then as now the majority of obstructive offences were ball shielding (to prevent an opponent playing directly at the ball) by a player in possession of the ball.


In recent years obstruction by tackling players, usually referred to as ‘breakdown tackles’ and generally committed together with a physical contact offence have become more common. In the Umpire Briefing video produced for the 2016 Rio Olympics concern was expressed about this kind of obstructive contact and umpires were instructed to watch for and to penalise it. There are some startling examples of umpires doing the opposite, even penalising the player in possession or about to get possession of the ball after he or she had been obstructed and physically impeded.

Examples of Obstructive tackling. 1) Penalty against the wrong team and personal penalty against the wrong player 2) No penalty, despite video referral (When a penalty stroke ought to have been awarded).

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1986 Guidance for players and for umpires.
(prior to 1995/6 set out in the rule-book as far as possible on the page opposite the page on which the Rule Proper was printed).

L2.1 (j) (k) Body Interference and Obstruction.

Subject to the “advantage rule” umpires should be particularly strict on obstruction and other forms of interference dealt with in this Rule. It should be noted that obstruction does not necessarily depend on the distance from the ball of the players concerned.
That last sentence of the above clause is badly misplaced, because for an obstruction (ball shielding) offence to occur, a tackler had, in practice, to be within playing distance of the ball, although the Rule and Rule Guidance makes no mention of this requirement – a curious oversight which caused a deal of confusion and conflict. That sentence should have been placed in the clause relating to ‘third-party’ obstruction and made clearer about the possibility of an offence occurring because the player obstructed by a third party was thereby prevented from reaching the ball when he or she could otherwise have done so

A player, even if in possession of the ball, may not interpose his body as an obstruction to an opponent. A change of direction by a half-turn of the body with this result may amount to obstruction. It should be noted, however, that even a complete turn does not constitute a breach unless an opponent has thereby been obstructed in an attempt to play the ball.

The above clause could usefully be included in the current Rule.

Obstruction occurs at hit-ins and should be watched for carefully.
(the ‘tram-line’ which ran parallel to the sidelines at a distance of 7 yards – all players had to be outside of it when (first a roll-in from the hand) and then a hit-in from a side-line took place – was done away with long before 1986, but the associated Guidance remained in the rule-book. It is possible that it was left in place to save on reprinting costs and umpires were told during verbal briefings to put a line through it (something they are now used to doing with other Rule clauses – even if only in their heads).

A player must not interpose any part of his body or his stick as an obstruction between his opponent and the ball.

Watch too for third party interference i.e. a player interposing himself between his opponent and the ball so that a fellow player has an opportunity to clear or play the ball.

1987

The same Rule and Guidance as previously (see above), but the following was new in Advice to Umpires (which was set out in the back of rule-books):-

BODY OBSTRUCTION AND INTERFERENCE
(Rule 12)

A player may not place any part of his body or stick between an opponent and the ball. Such actions are called obstruction and may also be referred to as screening the ball or blocking.

Obstruction can only happen when:

(a) an opponent is trying to play the ball

(b) an opponent is in a position to play the ball without interfering with the legitimate actions of the player with the ball

(c) the ball is within playing distance or could be played if no obstruction had taken place.
(a sentence, particularly the second part of it, that could usefully be included in current Rule ).

Obstruction may result from the actions of a player from the same team who does not have possession of the ball preventing an opponent from playing the ball. This is known as third party obstruction.

Not every situation, when a player finds himself between an opponent and the ball is obstruction. To obstruct, a player must be active. He will have to move to place himself between his opponent and the ball. If the aforementioned conditions are not met, there can be no grounds for penalising a player for obstruction.


The above clause was the introduction of the idea (it was not Rule but advice given to umpires) that to obstruct the obstructing player must first have moved into a position that obstructed an opponent (rather than a player intent on tackling for the ball moving towards an opponent in possession of the ball). It later found expression in the meme “A stationary player cannot obstruct” and proved to be a stumbling block to the writing of a rational Rule. The idea was later defended by some who declared that a stationary ball holder wasn’t doing anything – shielding the ball while remaining stationary wasn’t considered by these people to be an ‘active’ obstruction – i.e. an action. However being hit with a hockey ball isn’t usually the result of an action taken by the player hit but penalty generally follows (even when it shouldn’t), so was the demand for ‘activity’ reasonable when a tacker was clearly prevented from playing at the ball only because it was deliberately shielded from him or her? I think not.

Obs 130

This clearly obstructive play, with both stick and body, was not recognized as an obstruction offence because there was no attempt to make a tackle – but neither, because of the ball shielding, was there any possibility of the opposing player playing directly at the ball, even though within playing distance of it.

Players who run into the back of an opponent or by any other means try to create the impression that they are being obstructed can be penalised under Rule 12.1(1) (The ‘manufacturing’ offence which preceded the offence of Forcing).

The above “or by any other means try to create the impression that they are being obstructed” was also irrational, because a tackler was (is) obliged to demonstrate they were (are) trying to play at the ball in order to be awarded a penalty against an obstructing player, i.e an obstruction offence has to be forced by means of a legitimate tackle attempt: obstruction cannot otherwise occur – a conundrum is created by the above clause.

This example, below, from a match played in the past few weeks, demonstrates the weakness of ‘active or movement’ arguments. The defender in this case should have been penalised with a penalty corner, there is nothing accidental about his obstruction of the opposing forward. The umpire was oblivious to the offence – trained blindness.

1993

Rule and Guidance was as previously given above.

This was the year of the introduction of a so called “new interpretation” of the Obstruction Rule, which was not a new interpretation of obstruction at all but an exemption or exception to the Rule granted only to a player who was in the act of receiving and controlling the ball.

What constituted obstruction did not change in 1993 in any way except as it applied to a player receiving the ball. The current Rule (2018) still states that a receiving player may be facing in any direction, it does not state that a player in possession of the ball (so not, or no longer, a player receiving the ball) may face in any direction irrespective of the positioning of opponents who are attempting to play at the ball (a clearly written Rule would have ‘spelt’ that difference – the exception – out, instead of relying on deduction and common sense – that  is generally poor deduction and a lack of common sense). See:

https://martinzigzag.wordpress.com/2018/02/10/a-peculiar-interpretation/

The current clause is read and interpreted and acted upon as if the word “receiving” is not contained within it: that is players in possession of the ball are permitted to face and move in any direction irrespective of the presence and positioning of opposing players who are trying to play at the ball from within playing distance of it – which is simply wrong.

 

RULES TECHNICAL INTERPRETATIONS.

1993 BODY OBSTRUCTION AND INTERFERENCE
(Rule 12)

Interpretation of obstruction in hockey has changed significantly over the last few years. The main reasons for this are the increased use of artificial pitches on which the ball and player can change direction quickly, a desire to let the game flow and a wish to develop and protect skills on the ball.

The reasons given in the above clause for change to interpretation were untrue and silly, interpretation of obstruction changed because it had been declared in 1987 that a obstructing player had to move to position between an opponent and the ball in order to obstruct; that was interpreted to mean that players who were in possession of the ball, but stationary, could not obstruct. This was a dramatically different approach from what had gone before, but there was no acknowledgement of this fact other than to, wrongly, declare that there was a new (very poorly explained) interpretation.

There followed some ‘woolly’ statements that demonstrated that the writer knew little about playing hockey (particularly as a defender). There was also the presentation of one way of looking at obstruction (without considering any others). Why ‘The Stationary Player’ and ‘The Moving Player’ were chosen as divisions for Rule Interpretation, is a mystery to me. ‘A Receiving Player’ (the subject of the exception) and ‘A Player in Possession of the Ball’, are I think much more appropriate divisions of circumstances in what was to be a new approach to Obstruction (the introduction of a single exception to the usual application of the Rule).

This note gives guidance on the resulting current interpretation of obstruction. In doing so, it suggests principles which can be applied; it does not aim to be a detailed treatise describing every potential obstruction situation. Indeed, it concentrates on two primary playing circumstances. (flimflam, an Obstruction Rule must be applicable to every potentially obstructive situation and should be fully explained)

The Stationary Player
In the past, only the direction the receiving player was facing was considered rather than what the receiver and tackler were trying to do. (meaningless pap)

Now the principles are:

The receiving stationary player may be facing in any direction.

The onus is on the tackler to move into position, i.e. usually to move round the receiver, to attempt a legitimate tackle. The only time an opponent can reasonably move round a player receiving the ball is when the ball is still a considerable distance from the intended receiver and there is a strong possibility of making an interception before the ball reaches him.

Thus the tackler must not crash into a receiver and thereby try to.claim obstruction, any such action should be firmly penalised.

Having collected the ball, the receiver must move away in any direction (except, of course, bodily into the tackler) (my bold)

The last above clause conflicts with the previous Rule Interpretation statement that a stationary player cannot obstruct. It is also very vague. What does “away” mean? (Away from a opponent intent on making a tackle for the ball?) When? How far away? At what speed? For what purpose?

Accordingly, the receiver is being allowed to collect the ball and proceed with play – with the onus on the tackler to move into position where an attempt can be made to play the ball without contact with the receiver.

The Moving Player
The variations in this instance are vast – so a few principles for making the necessary judgement are suggested.

From here on the advice about application of the Obstruction Rule is not about obstruction but about what a tackler must do to avoid a physical contact offence.

One way of summarising these principles is to consider the position, intent and timing of the tackler.

 

Just as with the stationary receiver, the onus is on the tackler to be in, and if necessary move to, a position from which a legitimate tackle can be made. Even once in the correct position, the following conditions must also be satisfied before obstruction occurs.

There must be an intention to make a tackle. In essence, the tackler must be attempting to move his stick towards the ball.

The timing of this movement of stick towards ball must be precise – because until the moment the tackler is in a tackling position and intent on making the ‘tackle, the player with the ball can move off with the ball in any direction.

This demand for precise movement of the stick towards the ball at the right time and from the right position destroyed the Obstruction Rule. There was nothing to prevent a player in possession of the ball at any moment moving the ball to maintain body shielding of it or at any moment, from moving (turning)  so that the tackler who was about to achieve a position from which a tackle could be made, was no longer able to achieve such position. The tackler who was trying to position to make an attempt to play directly at the ball (“usually to go around the player in possession”) could be made to be like ‘a dog chasing his own tail’ without the ball holder having any fear of penalty for obstruction.

An attempt by a tackler to go around a ball holder to position to make a tackle, simply offered opportunity to the ball holder to turn away with the ball to the opposite side, easily preventing any tackle attempt and simultaneously ‘beating’ the defender while maintaining ball shielding. Defenders then had no option but to stand-off a receiver of the ball who remained stationary or a ball holder who had turned to shield the ball from them but did not then move away. To attempt a tackle was to invite penalty for physical contact (the ball-holder could easily make sure of that) or just as easily turn into the space vacated by the tackler.

This is the essence of the current interpretation of obstruction: allowing a player to receive a ball, play or pass it in any direction, and only penalising him if obstruction takes place at the time a properly-placed tackler is intent on making the tackle.

It is clear from the above clause that ‘a receiving player’ was, until the ball was in control (a very short period in top level hockey), exempt from what would usually be regarded as an obstruction offence, but that obstruction by a player in possession was then a possibility. It is the illegal (because of ball shielding) prevention of a legitimate (non-contact) tackle attempt, when but for the ball shielding, an opponent who is demonstrating an intention to play at the ball, would be able to play directly at it, that is the ‘essence’ (the critical criterion) for an obstruction offence. That was true in 1993 and it is true now. The 1993 ‘new interpretation’ of obstruction did not specifically mention a player in possession of the ball illegally preventing an opponent from playing directly at the ball – it concentrated on tacklers and mentioned obstruction in passing, without explaining what obstruction is. It was in other words, nonsense.

What constituted obstruction by a player in possession of the ball did not change at all in 1993 (or later). But a major difficulty for umpires was judging the moment a receiving player became a player in controlled possession of the ball (and therefore subject to the Obstruction Rule). They ‘solved’ this difficulty by ignoring it, players who were obviously no longer in the act of receiving and controlling the ball but had it in close control (were moving it from side to side with the stick), were permitted to continue to shield the ball without moving away (or even attempting to move away) from an opponent who was intent on making a tackle for the ball – today we have umpire coaches instructing that a player in possession of the ball can legally back into opponents (back into their playing reach) as long as they do not back into physical contact and this opinion is based on nothing more than a quirk of language, the analogy – that a car that backs into another car makes contact with that car (how daft this is as a basis for interpretation for obstruction can easily be illustrated by extending the same analogy, the driver of a car who backs his car into a parking bay or a home garage does not normally keep going until he hits something) .

That is, the player with the ball can play hockey and is penalised only if Obstruction is actual rather than implied.
(I have no idea what the above sentence is meant to convey to a reader, it’s just more flimflam)

1995

The Obstruction Rule was rewritten

13.1 .4 Obstruction. Players shall not:-

a. obstruct an opponent from attempting to play the ball by:

∙ moving or interposing themselves or their sticks

∙ shield the ball with their sticks or any part of their bodies

∙ physically interfering with the sticks or bodies of opponents.

OBSTRUCTION AND INTERFERENCE (Rule 13.1.4)

There was a reformatting of the Rule and Rule Guidance after 1995. The Guidance to each Rule, previously given on the facing page, was not changed at this time but hereafter presented beneath the relevant Rule in italics.

There were two changes to Appendix B Rules Interpretations pertaining to obstruction.

Having collected the ball the receiver may move away in any direction (except, of course, bodily into the tackler).

Here the word “must” was replaced with “may”. This was a huge change although it might, being a change of only one word, appear to be insignificant, but a prohibition (against remaining stationary) and a directive (to move away), were deleted and replaced with a choice. A receiving player having received the ball could now remain stationary if they so wished. This change also removed the conflict introduced in 1993 (the contradiction of the 1987 stationary player meme) but it would have been much better if the 1987 statement which effectively declared that a stationary player could not obstruct had been removed instead of the ‘fudge’ in the above clause being introduced.

At the time it was made the change of word from “must” to “may” was incomprehensible to me and I wrote to the Hon. Sec. of the  FIH HRB about it – without reply. In hindsight, a distance of many years, I can see that it was made to address the 1993 contradiction of the 1987 statement and maintain that statement, a double error that effectively ‘gutted’ the obstruction Rule.

This was added at the end of the 1995 Interpretation of the Obstruction Rule.

Preventing a legitimate tackle by intentionally and continuously shielding the ball with the body or leg is obstruction. Stick obstruction and interference is prohibited; no player may strike at or interfere with an opponent’s stick. The player with the ball may not use the stick actively to shield or protect the ball from a legitimate tackle.

The inclusion of the words “continuously” and “use the stick actively” was worrying but no explanation of either phrase was offered. I believe it was from ‘use the stick actively’ that the odd idea that stick obstruction could not occur if a player had his or her stick-head in contact with the ball, first arose. Umpires have proved capable of ignoring entire paragraphs in a Rule but, then extrapolating an ambiguous phrase from Interpretation into a new (and unofficial) Rule or Rule Interpretation.

By 2002 the officiating of the Obstruction Rule had become such a shambles, that what was by then called Appendix B Rules Interpretations, was revised to include some objective criteria to judge if an obstruction offence was taking place. The Rule wording and the structure of the Guidance and Rules Interpretations remained the same.

2002

APPENDIX B RULES INTERPRETATIONS

Rule 13.1.4 Obstruction

The interpretations of obstruction below allow players to receive a ball, play or pass it in any direction, and only to be penalised if obstruction takes place at the time a properly placed tackler tries to make the tackle.

(No mention there of the exception of the Rule in the case of a receiving player, all playing of the ball and attempting to tackle is rolled into one general – and meaningless – statement: obstruction is not defined)


In a Rule about Obstruction the Rule Interpretation below still says more about a player attempting to tackle than about a player who is or might be obstructing

It is important for umpires to be vigilant in observing the obstructions referred to in the following paragraphs. Players gain unfair benefit and opponents can become frustrated if the obstructions described are not penalised. (this is advice for umpires. ‘padding’ in a Rule Interpretation)

The Stationary Player

The same as previously – post 1993

Then for the first time a description of some of the actions that might objectively be considered to be obstructive actions (actions that had by that time become commonplace) was included in Rules Interpretations. There were of course those with their own agendas – who believed the obstruction Rule ought to be deleted – and who declared on Internet hockey forums that “be aware” did not mean “penalise” (they themselves were not penalising any of the listed contraventions) even though some of the “be aware of” actions that were listed in this Rule Interpretation were mentioned in Guidance as offences.

Umpires should be aware of players who are in possession of the ball who:

back into an opponent;

The meaning of “back into” has lately (2017) become the subject of a bizarre interpretation (again see https://martinzigzag.wordpress.com/2018/02/10/a-peculiar-interpretation/ )

turn and try to push past an opponent;

shield the ball with body, leg or stick and stand still when under pressure;

(which rebutted previous Advice to Umpires “To obstruct, a player must be active. He will have to move to place himself between his opponent and the ball. If the aforementioned conditions are not met, there can be no grounds for penalising a player for obstruction” and also rebutted the 1995 change from “must” to “may” – because if a played is not permitted to stand still and shield the ball when under pressure, then he or she must either move away or not shield the ball if stationary, as a tackle attempt is being made. A see-saw.

Perversely, the above clause, instead of deterring stationary shielding, which generally remained unpenalised, led to the idea that a player who was moving with the ball (or even just moving the ball) could not obstruct, so we had umpires, sincerely believing (because that was what they were coached) that a stationary player in possession of the ball could not obstruct and nor could a player who was moving the ball or moving with the ball. These umpires apparently did not suffer from cognitive dissidence (an uncomfortable feeling that their belief was being contradicted by fact – what was written in the rule-book) and they saw no reason to do anything to reduce dissidence. Their common sense apparently did not tell them that if all the above statements were true then there was in effect no Obstruction Rule because obstruction (except maybe third party) was not a possibility in any circumstances.

drag the ball near their back foot when moving down the side-line or along the back-line;

shield the ball with the stick to prevent a legitimate tackle.

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Third party or shadow obstruction

Players who run in front of or block opponents to deny them the legitimate and feasible opportunity to play the ball are obstructing. This can happen, for example, at penalty corners when attackers run across or block defenders including the goalkeeper.

Rule 13.1.5 Manufactured offence

Players must not be allowed to disadvantage opponents by forcing them to offend unintentionally. Examples of manufactured offences include:

forcing an opponent into obstructing, often emphasised by running into an opponent or by waving the stick over an opponent’s head. This action should be penalised.

2004

In 2004 there was a reformatting of the rule-book (a new book size) and a major rewrite, which was described as a simplification and clarification, but consisted largely of deleting previous Rule clauses and all previous Rule interpretation. The additional criteria added in 2002 were not, as had been expected they would be, included in “Players obstruct if they:-” they were simply deleted. The Rules Interpretations previously given in the back of the rule-book before 2004 just disappeared. The Obstruction Rule and provided Rule Interpretation was then comparatively sparse.

9.10 Players must not obstruct an opponent who is attempting to play the ball.

Players obstruct if they:
– back into an opponent

– physically interfere with the stick or body of an opponent

– shield the ball from a legitimate tackle with their stick or any part of their body.

A stationary player receiving the ball is permitted to face in any direction.

A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction except bodily into an opponent. (my bold italic)

The original “must” now became “is permitted to”, following the change to “may” in 1995. I have no idea why “is permitted to” replaced “may”, it seems an unnecessary change as both have exactly the same meaning, but the FIH HRB could then declare that an amendment had been made to the Obstruction Rule and put a line next to it in the text of the rule-book, even though they provided no reason for the change and the change had no significance. The word “away” was also replaced, with “off” (which does not mean away); this was a fudge which has been interpreted to mean that a player in possession of the ball is allowed to move towards (even into the playing reach of an opponent trying to make a tackle attempt) while shielding the ball, despite that being a contradiction of one of the criteria (back into) for an obstruction offence.

A player who runs in front of or blocks an opponent to stop them legitimately playing or attempting to play the ball is obstructing (this is third party or shadow obstruction). This also applies if an attacker runs across or blocks defenders (including the goalkeeper) when a penalty corner is being taken.

2009

There was one amendment made to the Rule Explanation in 2009. Nothing else in the Obstruction Rule was changed.

This clause:- A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction except bodily into an opponent.

Was expanded, to read:-

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.

Few umpires appear to be aware of this last amendment to the explanation of application of the Obstruction Rule; in fact it added nothing that was not already in place and was generally ignored. Perhaps the FIH HRB wanted to be seen to be doing something, anything no matter how futile, about the way the Rule was (not) being applied. There are still some very peculiar opinions about what is and is not obstruction being coached to umpires, prospective umpires and to players. Commentary to the video below is absurd.

https://martinzigzag.wordpress.com/2018/05/18/contradiction/

As was written in the Rule Interpretation in 1993 “……One way of summarising these principles is to consider the position, intent and timing of the tackler.

Another way would have been to consider the positioning and other actions (including stationary ball shielding) by player in possession of the ball and also of a player in the act of receiving the ball. To have done so would have made more sense as we already have separate Rules which prohibit any form of physical contact – and it is not possible to rule about the position a tackler needs to adopt to make a tackle attempt (e.g advising or insisting that a tackler should “go around” is inappropriate, actually stupid).

The existing Rules, which forbid all physical contact, are sufficient to deal with any physical contact. Once physical contact is taken out of consideration under another Rule (e.g. 9.3 or 9.13). The Obstruction Rule can and should be about preventing obstruction; that is what a player must do or not do to avoid obstructing an opponent: which is preventing an opponent playing directly at the ball when he or she is within playing distance of the ball and would otherwise have been able to play at it.

It was an error (to put it mildly) to introduce in 1987 the idea that could be interpreted to mean that a stationary ball holder could not obstruct an opponent. The error was compounded by swinging back and forth, next, in 1993, demanding movement away by a ball holder who had received and controlled the ball, removing that demand in 1995 (may move away), then reimposing it (watch for stationary ball shielding when under pressure) in 2002, and then (perhaps?) removing it again (is permitted to move off) 2004. This sequence gives a sense of disagreement and discord within the FIH HRB, which there can be no doubt existed (still exists?) and was surpassed in absurdity only by the ‘gains benefit’ fiasco of January and February 2007. 

The original (1987) clause, which appeared to sanction stationary ball shielding (even if the ball was being moved), has not appeared in a Rule or Rule Interpretation since 1992, but it is still regularly trotted out as if current interpretation or even part of the Obstruction Rule. Many umpires will not penalise a player who is shielding the ball to prevent an opponent making a legitimate tackle attempt if that player is stationary and/or is moving the ball. There is now no clear justification for this approach to the offence but, years of “simplification and clarification” have left us with a vague and ambiguous wording of the Explanation of Application for which many interpretations are offered and ‘in practice’ obstruction offences are virtually ignored. The game has suffered as a spectacle, it is at time actually ugly to watch, and so has the general level of stick/ball skills because ball shieding with the body requires little stickwork skill.

Only the last two incidents shown in the video below were penalised (and then one of them with a penalty corner when a penalty stroke should have been awarded) I can find no rational reason why obstruction, even when combined with a physical contact offence, is so frequently ignored. I have a few, but very few, videos showing an umpire penalising an obstruction offence, so there is some ground for supposing that umpires are (or should be) aware of the existence of the Obstruction Rule, but no rational explanation of their general refusal to apply it – other than that they find it difficult to do so (because it is not what their peers are doing) – it is easier just to ignore offences, in spite of the frustration this causes to players who are obstructed and the incidents of physical contact that result from this frustration. One of the reasons for the difficulty umpires encounter is the absence of a clear definition of obstruction within the Obstruction Rule and the absence of criteria – similar to those introduced in 2002 – to use as a guide to correct application.

There have been no amendments made to the Obstruction Rule since 2009 but ‘interpretation’ is ‘a runaway train’.

The Obstruction Rule needs to be rewritten without the previously embedded and hidden conflicts and with clear definition and criteria, here is an attempt to do that.

https://martinzigzag.wordpress.com/2015/10/31/rewrite-rule-9-12-obstruction/

 


https://martinzigzag.com/2018/05/08/the-obstruction-insanity/

February 10, 2018

Attempting to play the ball

FIELD HOCKEY RULES

Attempting to play the ball.

There are two videos about obstruction presented by the FIH Umpiring Committee via dartfish.com which refer to an attempt to play at the ball.

The Interpretation given on the Dartfish website of the above incident is as follows:-
The ARG attacker enters the 23 metres area and just before she reaches the edge of the circle plays a pass which is intended for her team mate. The GER defender tries to intercept the pass, but the ball deflects off her stick. The GER defender regains control of the ball. The second ARG attacker tries to claim that she is being obstructed. The Umpire allows play to continue, because at no point did the second ARG attacker ever legitimately attempt to play the ball.

The GER player who blocks the ARG player who is trying to move towards the ball clearly commits three offences 1) physical contact 2) Interference 3) Third-party Obstruction and whoever wrote the above interpretation, supporting the decision made by the match umpire, lacks not only Rule knowledge but common sense. There was no attempt by the ARG player to play at the ball because she was illegally prevented from getting to within playing distance of the ball when trying to do so.

The interpretation provided on the website with the next video is:-
The GER team try and pass the ball out of defence. The GER player receives the ball and initially moves it out of the playing distance of the ARG player. When the GER player turns with the ball, the ARG player is not actively trying to tackle or play the ball, so there is no obstruction. When the GER player plays the ball over the stick of the ARG player, it runs out of her playing distance for an ARG side-line ball. The contact between the two players’ sticks is accidental and does not affect play.

There is a substantial chunk of the action missing from the actions described in the provided interpretation which can be seen in the video. I have embedded comment in my remake of the video and included slow-mo of the relevant action.

Both of the above interpretations, which declare no tackle attempt was made, are absurd, taking no account of the prevention of a tackle attempt or the illegal thwarting of a tackle attempt as it was in progress (initially, in the second video, by stepping over the stick of the player attempting to tackle as she was reaching for the ball and bodily blocking her path to it). Both interpretations support the decisions made by the match umpires: what a surprise !!

My previous objections to the inclusion of these two videos (and many others) presented as umpire coaching go back to the launch date of FIH Umpire Committee sponsored coaching on the Dartfish website – a potentially great coaching tool is being mismanaged and wasted by those responsible for producing the interpretations, mainly because they ‘bend over backwards’ to support decisions made by match umpires no matter, as in the two examples above, how mistaken they were.

All the FIH Umpire Coaching videos at one time presented on the Dartfish website have been taken down. So many were flawed or simply wrong in their ‘Interpretation of the action’ that I am relieved that this step was taken

Cris Maloney refers in his coaching session (see link below) to “What FIH Umpires are doing” as justification for the interpretation he is coaching. Here is an example of what they are doing.

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This umpire allows the NED defender to ‘crab’ along the base-line and to move into the playing reach of the GER forward while  – deliberately – shielding the ball from her opponent and thereby preventing an attempt by that opponent to make a legitimate tackle.The GER player would immediately have been able to play directly at the ball if the NED player had not shielded it from her in the way that she did.

(moving along a line in this way was an action which umpires were advised to watch for (penalise) up until 2003, when it was deleted from Advice to Umpires without comment. This instruction needs to be restored to the Explanation of application of the Obstruction Rule – along with 2) turning into and pushing past, and 3) standing still and shielding the ball when under pressure – the latter also seen in the video – described ‘watch for’ actions which were deleted at the same time as shielding the ball while moving along a line was).

The umpire does not penalise until a second GER forward attempts to tackle for the ball and is also obstructed in the same way while the first one continues to be obstructed. The penalty awarded was a penalty corner and not as it should have been, because there was nothing accidental about this obstruction, a penalty stroke. The obstructing player obviously had no idea she was committing an offence. Why not?

Common sense should have told this umpire that a deliberate obstruction offence was occurring ‘right under her nose’ long before she did intervene.

(Incidentally the earlier breakdown tackle near the centre of the circle looks like an offence that should have been penalised with a penalty stroke)

 

This following example is worse, the umpire awards the offending NED player (who commits three offences) a free ball.

Cris Maloney (https://martinzigzag.wordpress.com/2018/02/10/a-peculiar-interpretation/) would doubtless have seen the first action by the NED defender after he got possession of the ball as backing into, because there was physical contact, but the FIH Umpire concerned did not. Why not? Will Cris Maloney eventually follow what this umpire, and others, are doing?

On the above evidence, basing Rule application on a clear understanding of the written Rule, obtained by using literal interpretation of the wording, is more likely to produce sensible decisions than copying what other umpires are doing, no matter what level they may have reached, because it is often impossible to know why they are doing what they do – and the “Why?” or “Why not?” is important.

I doubt that the umpire who made the above decision could explain why he did not penalised the NED player for obstruction and/or physical contact, the offences could hardly have been clearer and the written descriptions of them in the Explanation of application of Rule 9.12 are clear enough to be fit for purpose if common sense is also employed.

 

I hope no other umpires will follow these examples.


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https://martinzigzag.com/2018/02/10/attempting-to-play-the-ball/

February 10, 2018

A peculiar interpretation

FIELD HOCKEY RULES

Cris Maloney is a well known, enthusiastic, and well liked umpire coach in the USA. He has produced a number of videos and written three books on the playing and umpiring field-hockey. He has also been involved with Steven Horgan (the Pan American representative Member of the FIH Rules Committee since 2017) in the production of the USA Field Hockey Rules Briefing videos since 2012 – so he should know what he is talking about (even though there has not been a single mention of the Obstruction Rule – the subject of this article – in the USA Briefings for as far back as I have been able to track them: so no mention since at least 2012). It is therefore something of a surprise to discover that he has concocted a bizarre interpretation of part the wording of the Explanation of application of the Obstruction Rule (that turns the Obstruction Rule ‘on its head’) and which he presented in a pre-2017 season coaching session at Eastern. The video clip below is a small segment of that session.

Like the ‘curate’s egg’ what is said is not all bad, the opening statements he makes in the video, about the possibility of obstructing when moving the ball or moving with the ball, are accurate (but see video below for a different interpretation which was previously ‘fashionable’), but he very quickly departed from the rule-book and referred to an offence called ‘Misconduct’ which was deleted decades ago, and also refers to tackle prevention, which is not specifically mentioned in the Obstruction Rule – although instruction about the prevention of a tackle – “if  the opponent could otherwise have played at the ball” – was at one time included in Advice to Umpires in the back of the rule-book and should still be included in the Rule or Explanation of application, but isn’t. Strangely ball shielding when an opponent is within playing distance of the ball and clearly intent on playing at the ball – making a tackle for the ball – is no longer seen (interpreted) as the prevention of a tackle attempt. (That said “attempting to tackle” is presently very poorly defined and absurdly interpreted – see separate article

https://martinzigzag.wordpress.com/2018/02/10/attempting-to-play-the-ball/).

He then, after describing backing in as a contact offence, asks a player to back into him in demonstration, and declares when she does as she is asked, that she is not backing into him (but backing up), as he retreats behind her, because she does not make contact with him. When he stops retreating and the player does back into physical contact, he then declares that she is backing in and therefore obstructing him. The flaw in this reasoning should be obvious as the player with the ball simply continued with exactly the same action – but he did not.

The question that needs to be addressed is “Does ‘back in’ mean backing into physical contact?” Without additional information it is not possible to say because the term is ambiguous. Certainly (as Cris Maloney pointed out) someone who backs into another car hits that car. But, someone who backs into a parking bay or a garage does not normally keep going until they hit something – the terms used are the same and both interpretations can be correct, meaning clearly depends on the context in which the term is used. It is therefore necessary to go to the published Rule to see if there is other wording within the Explanation of application to support the contact interpretation or to make it doubtful or to contradict it.

There are other criteria described and I will set them out without setting out the entire Explanation of application, Third Party etc. 

9.12 Players must not obstruct an opponent who is attempting to play the ball.

Players obstruct if they :

– back into an opponent

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.

The last clause needs breaking down to highlight its component parts.

A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction except bodily into an opponent which can be accurately transcribed into the previously used prohibitive form: – A player with the ball is not permitted to move bodily into an opponent. and  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. transcribes to become A player with the ball is not permitted to move into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it.

Summary

A player with the ball is not permitted to:-

  • back into an opponent
  • move bodily into an opponent
  • move to position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it.

I believe the separate listing of ‘back into’ and ‘move bodily into’ call for different interpretations of the two terms.

Because a player may be obstructed once that player is within playing distance of the ball, ‘back into’ can reasonably be interpreted to mean ‘back into the playing reach of an opponent’ and not only or just back into contact. The separate ‘Move bodily into an opponent’, which is otherwise unnecessary, is then justified as a different action from ‘back into’.

Why then is another action described separately ‘move to position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it’. listed ? Is this not unnecessary duplication? No, one reason is because it is possible to turn (move) into a position between an approaching opponent and the ball without backing towards that opponent and a second, important one, is that if a ball holder is moving into an opponent while shielding the ball – which is likely if there is ‘backing in’ or ‘moving bodily into an opponent’ – it is not necessary for the opponent to be attempting to play at the ball at the time for there to be an obstruction offence; this requirement is omitted from the first two criteria listed. That is a reasonable interpretation because if a player is forced to back away from a moving ball holder to avoid physical contact or has been barged into by the body of the ball holder, an attempt to play at the ball may have been made unfairly difficult or impossible by either of these actions.

I assert that there are sufficient other terms and reasonable alternative interpretation to discard the idea that ‘back into an opponent‘ must mean back into physical contact with that opponent. Backing into physical contact is an offence, but so is backing into the playing reach of an opponent, while shielding the ball but without making physical contact, because this contravenes two other clauses of the Explanation of application 1) shielding the ball  2) moving to position between an opponent and the ball. (both actions separately or together preventing a tackle attempt) 

A difficulty with interpretation might disappear if the Explanation of application was clarified to read –  back into the playing reach of an opponent. but I think it better to expand the clause to include all leading of the ball into the playing reach of an opponent while shielding the ball from that opponent to prevent direct playing at the ball: this would include the common ‘crabbing’ actions – leading the ball with shoulder and/or hip and with a leg. So:- A player obstructs if leading the ball with any part of the body into the playing reach of an opponent, thus shielding the ball to prevent that opponent playing directly at it.

Cris Maloney also presented some very strange ideas in the coaching session (shown in the video below) which appear to be based on this clause from the Explanation of application:- A stationary player receiving the ball is permitted to face in any direction. They are strange because that clause refers only to a player who is in the act of receiving and controlling the ball. A player in possession who is not in the act of receiving and controlling the ball is subject to a player shall not shield the ball from a legitimate tackle with their stick or any part of their body and must, when in possession of the ball but not in the act of receiving and controlling it, take account of the positioning of opponents to avoid an obstruction offence, i.e such a player is not always permitted to be facing in any direction. The shielding clause applies whether a player who is shielding the ball from an opponent is stationary or is moving at the time. That is something Cris Malone mentioned but did not expand upon when he referred, at the beginning of the first video clip above, to players who were moving the ball or moving with the ball.

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In fact the only times, other than when in the act of receiving and controlling the ball (receiving is not ‘in possession’) , a player in possession need not be concerned about the positioning of opponents vis a vis the possibility of obstruction is when there is no opponent within playing distance of the ball or no opponent rapidly approaching who will be within playing reach of the ball before it can be put into an open position or when the ball holder and the ball are the opponent’s goal side of any opponent, (which includes any opponent who is within playing distance of the ball). An opponent who is ‘behind the play’ as described (behind – not own goal-side of – both the player in possession and the ball) cannot, no matter how close he or she may be, be bodily obstructed by a player in possession of the ball (but obstruction of a tackler’s stick, by ‘protecting’ the ball with stick or leg or hand/arm, is still a possibility).

Whether or not a player in possession of the ball is in “a legal position” or is “still in a legal position” when an opponent is attempting to make a tackle does depend on how they respond/position when a tackle attempt is made. The correct response when the group were asked “Is she still in a legal position” as a tackle attempt was demonstrated to be blocked by the body of the ball-holder was “NO”: Cris Maloney should have been explaining why it was “NO”. The “Yes” reply was an example of cognitive dissidence or wilful blindness.

The Obstruction Rule is intended to put pressure on a player in possession of the ball to encourage movement with the ball (dribbling and stick-work) and movement of the ball (passing) – and to discourage physical contact, illegal ball shielding and static ‘play’: it by these means promotes all aspects of skillful play. ‘Diluting’ the criteria for obstruction does the opposite: it ‘dumbs down’ the game so that very little skill is needed to keep possession of the ball. The result is that many players, who are coached to shield the ball whenever possible and do so ‘automatically’ in contested situations, do not develop necessary stick-work and footwork skills or passing skills to properly (legally) play the game.

There is not much backing in taking place during the boring action shown in the video below, so what is seen complies with Cris Maloney’s view of “not obstruction”  – but not with what is written in the Rules of Hockey Rule 9.12.- besides it not being Rule compliant, could anyone want hockey to be played like this?

 

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The answer to that last question is possibly “Yes”. Now nearly everyone plays hockey like this because this, despite Rule 9.12, is the way it is umpired. Are umpires umpiring as ‘everybody’ wants them to or only as umpires want to? In the following video there are many clips showing players shielding the ball while leading it into an opponent in a way that obliges that opponent to give way to avoid physical contact or moving into body contact (sideways or backwards) while ball shielding or going over the ball and barging into an opponent. Only the last two incidents were penalised for obstruction, the first of them the reversal, after video referral, of a silly penalty stroke decision made by the involved match umpire, and the second, after a long delay, when a second player was obstructed in the same way as the first one continued to be – and even then the penalty awarded was a penalty corner and not, as it should have been, a penalty stroke.


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What Cris Maloney is currently coaching is at least two steps ‘behind’ what is now permitted, contrary to the Obstruction Rule, by FIH Umpires. To rescue the game we need to go back three or four ‘development’ steps, to where ball shielding to prevent an opponent playing at the ball, when he or she would otherwise have been able to do so, was considered an obstruction offence, and opponents were eluded or ‘beaten’ by passing and stick-work skills rather than, commonly, by barging and body blocking.

We are no longer trying to understand the wording used in the Obstruction Rule; we are trying to understand the umpiring which is supposed to be based on the provided wording, but clearly is not. What the above umpiring is based on is a mystery.

 

 

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https://martinzigzag.com/2018/02/10/a-peculiar-interpretation/

 

 

October 31, 2015

Rewrite: Rule 9.12. Obstruction.

FIELD HOCKEY RULES

 

A suggested rewrite  of a Rule of hockey. Obstruction

The current 9.12

Players must not obstruct an opponent who is attempting to play the ball.

Players obstruct if they:
— back into an opponent
— physically interfere with the stick or body of an opponent
— shield the ball from a legitimate tackle with their stick or any part of their body.

A stationary player receiving the ball is permitted to face in any direction.

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.

A player who runs in front of or blocks an opponent to stop them legitimately playing or attempting to play the ball is obstructing (this is third party or shadow obstruction). This also applies if an attacker runs across or blocks defenders (including the goalkeeper or player with goalkeeping privileges) when a penalty corner is being taken.

Action. Amendment.

Reason. The Rule is a fundamental element of the fair conduct of a non-contact game and is at present almost totally ignored due to deviant interpretation of Rule purpose and word meaning.

Comments and suggestions are invited.

The Obstruction Rule obliges a player in possession of the ball in contested situations to move the ball beyond the reach of opponents (by dribbling or passing) and to possess the ability, the stick-work skills, to retain the ball while keeping the ball open to opponents who are competing for it.

Hockey is not like soccer in this respect: soccer is a game which permits physical contact in challenges for the ball and also allows a player in possession of the ball to use the body to shield it from opponents and even hold them off, to prevent them from playing at the ball – hockey Rules permit neither action, physical contact nor ball-shielding. That naturally means that hockey is more difficult to learn to play properly than soccer is, but, once in possession of the ball, playing hockey without an Obstruction Rule is akin to playing tennis without an net – it requires little skill and the side/player in possession will almost always score. Keeping possession of the ball when there is no obstruction becomes for competent players almost as easy as it is in basketball, but hockey then becomes duller than basketball (which has generally unenforced physical contact Rules) because the time, shooting and zone limits imposed on basketball players, to prevent endless possession by one side, do not exist in hockey.

The suggested rewrite below is basically the Rule as it now exists, it adds only a clarification of “move into” and the concept of an ‘on-side’ tackler to the existing Rule – the latter something which has always been there but never stated – and restores the original “must move away” in place of the present “is permitted to move off”: a clear instruction replacing an empty statement, empty in that it is neither prohibitive or directive and therefore serves no purpose.

The suggestion has been made as explicit as I could make it, even at the cost of repetition. I have tried to avoid ambiguity. The suggested Rule is of about the same length as the original ‘new interpretation’, (the misnomer give to the guidance which contained the exception to the Rule allowed to a receiver of the ball which was introduced in 1993 – it was and is an exception to the Rule not a new interpretation of the criteria for an obstruction offence, which remained and  remains unchanged) which was previously contained in the Rule Interpretations section in the back of pre-1995 rule-books.

Suggestion.

Rule 9.12  Players must not shield the ball from an opponent with any part of the body or with the stick in a way that prevents or delays that opponent playing directly at the ball when that opponent would otherwise be immediately able to do so.

Shielding the ball to prevent an opponent playing at it is called obstruction and is an action contrary to this Rule of Hockey..

A player in possession of the ball illegally obstructs an opponent with his body or stick when:-

the opponent is level with or own goal-side of the ball (‘on-side’ of the ball)

and
the ball is within the playing reach of the opponent who intends to play it

and
the opponent is demonstrating an intent to play at the ball  

 and
the only reason the opponent cannot immediately play directly at the ball is because the direct path to it is obstructed by (any part of) the body or stick of a player in possession of the ball.

Obstructive ball shielding is therefore an offence that has to be forced by an opponent while demonstrating an intent to play at the ball or while trying to position to tackle, who in so doing shows that the direct path to the ball is obstructed; that is the opponent who is intent on playing at the ball is prevented from doing so only because the ball is shielded by the body or stick of the player in possession of it.

An obstructive offence may be forced by an opponent immediately that opponent approaches to within playing reach of the ball and demonstrates an intent to play at it.

A player in possession of the ball

who is :-

(a)   faced with an ‘on-side’ opponent who is within playing distance of the ball  and who is attempting to play at the ball, may not move (turn) with or on the ball to position any part of the body and/or the stick between the ball and that opponent with the effect of blocking that opponent’s direct path to the ball and by this means or by moving the ball to the same effect, prevent or delay a legal attempt by an opponent to play at the ball. Moving to maintain a ball shielding position, for example ‘shunting’ sideways to continue shielding the ball from an opponent is not legitimate “moving off” or “moving away”.  

A player in possession of the ball who is:-

(b)   beyond the playing reach of a closing opponent who turns on or with the ball to position the body between that opponent and the ball or moves the ball to the same effect IS NOT allowed the time and space leeway, after the opponent has closed to within playing distance of the ball, that is exceptionally, given to a player in the act of receiving and controlling the ball. The ball must be kept beyond the playing reach of a closing opponent OR before the opponent is obstructed in his or her attempt to play at the ball (has come within playing reach of the ball and tried to play it) the player in possession of the ball must again turn on or with the ball to face opponents or position the ball, so that it is no longer shielded.

A stationary or slow moving ball-holder who obliges an opponent who is intent on playing at the ball to ‘go around’ a ball-shielding position to attempt to play at the ball, when that opponent would otherwise be able to play at the ball directly, is obstructing that opponent. (This is almost the opposite of the ‘onus’ on the tackler to position to tackle by going around a ball shielding opponent, which was contained in the original (1993) Rule Interpretation – the onus on a ball holder not to obstruct was in that interpretation ignored)

Within the criteria given above, an Obstruction Offence occurs when a player in possession of the ball, whether moving or stationary, positions the body in relation to the ball or the ball in relation to the body, so that the execution of a legal attempt to play at the ball by an ‘onside’ opponent, who would otherwise be able to immediately play directly at the ball, is not possible without that opponent having to move around the body or stick of the player in possession of the ball in order to play at it.

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A player in possession of the ball :-

must not while shielding the ball with any part of the body including the legs, move into the playing reach of an opponent or move bodily into an opponent, causing contact, or by moving towards an opponent while shielding the ball i.e. by leading the ball with the body, oblige an opponent to give way to avoid body contact (Rule 9.3).

may not interpose his body as an obstruction to an opponent. A change of direction by a half-turn of the body with this result may amount to obstruction. It should be noted, however, that even a complete turn does not constitute a breach unless an opponent has thereby been obstructed in an attempt to play the ball.

 

The Tackler.

A tackle may not be attempted from a position where physical contact will result (Rule 9.13), but obstruction may be demonstrated; it is in fact a requirement that obstruction is demonstrated for an obstruction offence to occur i.e. to demonstrate that a legal attempt to play at the ball is being prevented by an opponent’s ball shielding.

A player who is within playing distance of the ball and intends to make a tackle, but who is not in a position of balance from which a tackle attempt may be made, is for example, facing or moving or reaching in the wrong direction to play at the ball with a reasonable expectation of making contact with it with the stick, cannot be obstructed except as already noted, when evasive movement is forced to avoid physical contact being caused by an opponent in possession of the ball who is leading the ball with the leg or body and thus shielding the ball. When a ball holder moves into an opponent in either of the ways described in this clause the opponent who is being moved into is no longer obliged to demonstrate that an attempt is being made to play at the ball because such moving into will generally prevent a tackler (who may be forced to retreat to avoid contact) from attempting to execute a legal tackle.

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The ‘Receiving’ Exception to the Rule.

Exceptionally, a player who is in the act of receiving and controlling the ball is during this time exempted from the possibility of a ball shielding offence.

A receiving player is permitted to receive the ball while facing in any direction and while either in a stationary position or while moving. Such a receiving player will not be obstructing any opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play at it, even if shielding the ball from that opponent while receiving it. The receiving player, however, having received the ball and controlled it, must in these circumstances then immediately either:-

a) pass the ball away or

b) move away from opponents with the ball to put and keep it beyond their playing reach and/or turn on or with the ball to face opponents, so that the ball is no longer shielded from them.

 

It will be necessary for a receiving player who elects  to turn on or over the ball, after the ball is in control or as the ball is controlled, to:-

a) make such a turn before an opponent is within playing reach of the ball or after having first taken the ball beyond the playing reach of the opponent or

b) create space for a turn having duped the opponent into moving or reaching in the wrong direction, before there has been any obstruction.

 

Once an opponent is within playing reach of the ball the only options then available to the ball holder will be:-

a) to either turn on the ball while moving the ball away from the reach of the opponent (which may be achieved with appropriate foot-work and stick-work ) or

b) to move away with the ball to put and keep the it beyond the opponent’s reach, and then to turn on or with the ball  – and/or to pass the ball away.

 

Once the ball has been received and controlled the receiving player may not,  in a way that shields the ball from opponents who are within playing distance of the ball and demonstrating an intent to play it, dwell on the ball in a stationary position or while so positioned move the ball to shield it with the stick or body and thereby prevent a legal attempt to play at it.

After having received and controlled the ball while facing towards his or her own defence, making feints over the ball while stationary or slow moving or ‘dribbling’, which comprises of ‘weaving’ from side to side without taking the ball beyond the playing reach of the opponent and while maintaining a ball shielding position (thus preventing an opponent from immediately playing at the ball or from positioning to do so), will be considered an obstruction offence.

The receiving exception to the Obstruction Rule facilitates the receiving and controlling of the ball and continuation of play without the receiver who is facing towards his or her own baseline immediately committing an obstruction offence when closely marked by an opponent who is intent on playing at the ball – nothing more.

The ‘Manufactured’ Exception to the Rule.

A player in possession of the ball who plays it to the far side of an opponent (who is, for example, attempting to channel the ball holder or block the ball with the stick or execute a tackle) and then runs into that opponent claiming to be obstructed, has not been obstructed if there has been no movement with the intent to obstruct by the defending player. If there is physical contact the player who was in possession of the ball is in these circumstances the one more likely to have committed an offence. (This was a part of the previously deleted ‘Manufacturing’ Rule which should be restored).

 

Third-Party Obstruction.

A player who is not in possession of the ball who moves in front of or blocks the path of an opponent to stop that opponent legitimately playing or attempting to play the ball is obstructing. This form of obstruction is known as third-party obstruction because the obstructing player often carries out this action so that a team-mate (the second party) has more time and/or space to reach and/or play the ball. It can also be regarded as an impeding offence or according to the circumstances as a physical contact offence.

It is not necessary for the obstructed player to be within playing reach of the ball at the time a third-party offence is committed, it is only necessary that but for the offence, the obstructed player would have been able to intercept the ball or would have been in a position to challenge a team-mate of the obstructing player for the ball and was denied that opportunity. This form of obstruction is often carefully planned to create passing space in mid-field and is often deliberately carried out during penalty corners to a) give the stopper and shooting player more time to set up and make a shot and b) to block line of sight to the ball to defenders. It is in the latter case often a very dangerous action. 

For there to be a third party obstruction It is generally necessary for the obstructing player to move to block the path to the ball of the obstructed player and third party obstruction cannot otherwise occur, but exceptionally, a player in possession of the ball may deliberately use a stationary team-mate as a shield by dribbling the ball very close to him or her so as to impose a compliant team-mate between the ball and an opponent who is intent on tackling for the ball – leaving the tackler, with the choice of going around or stopping or barging into the stationary third player i.e. in an obstructed position, unable to challenge the ball holder for possession of the ball.

Stick Obstruction 

The same principle applies to stick obstruction as applies to obstruction with the body. Positioning the stick between the stick of an opponent and the ball is obstruction if that action prevents the opponent playing the ball. It makes no difference if the stick of the player in possession of the ball is in contact with the ball or not. If, for example, the stick is positioned Indian dribble style with the stick-head over the top front of the ball in contact with and covering it, or the stick is used away from the ball to fend off the stick of a tackler as the tackler’s stick is moved towards the ball. Both these kinds of action are obstructive, if direct playing of the ball by an opponent, who is within playing distance of the ball and is attempting to play at it, is thereby prevented.

It might be asked “what is the point of a rewrite” if this:-

9.12 Players must not obstruct an opponent who is attempting to play the ball.
Players obstruct if they :

– back into an opponent

and these two complimentary statements:-

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. (a pretty good encapsulation of the Obstruction Rule) are already in place?

The answer is that what is written may seen perfectly clear but it is possible, as may be seen in most hockey matches, to either ignore it or interpret it in very different ways, so emphasis on purpose and intent and clarification of wording are required. (What for example, is the difference, and they have to be different to justify the inclusion of both in separate clauses, between back into an opponent and move bodily into an opponent ?).

A second answer is that “for evil to triumph it is only necessary that good people do nothing“. Calling deviant interpretation evil may seem overly dramatic, but I don’t want to see dribbling with the ball in hockey carried out in the same style as it is in basketball – backing into opponents to achieve a scoring position or to a ‘win’ a penalty for a ‘manufactured’ contact foul, but we are already well along that road and unless action is taken to remedy that, these practices will get much worse (although it is difficult to see how some of them could get any worse than they are now).  I am serious when I say that the game has been destroyed; it was not intended that opponents should be ‘eluded’ by shielding and backing in and that sort of play is not attractive or spectacular – i.e pleasant to watch.

The video clips below, two of hundreds of possible examples available, also illustrates why the Obstruction Rule needs to be written more explicitly than it is at present. The player in possession of the ball, who clearly obstructs his opponents several times, was not penalised for these offences in an international level match. The mistaken assumption Cris Maloney et al make (see article https://martinzigzag.wordpress.com/2018/02/10/a-peculiar-interpretation) is to really believe or be prepared to accept, that if FIH Umpires are not penalising such obstructions then not to do so MUST be correct.

 
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The ‘poster boy’ for the latest interpretation of obstruction (where there is apparently no such thing as obstruction even when there is physical contact caused by the attacker) is the shootout. The strength of this meme was illustrated when, in the BEL v ESP match during the 2018 WWC Michelle Joubert did penalise a shooter for backing in during a shootout – there was uproar – despite Joubert being perfectly correct.

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https://martinzigzag.com/2015/10/31/rewrite-rule-9-12-obstruction/