Can You Kick the Ball in Field Hockey?


The goal of field hockey is to advance the ball down the field and score using only your stick to make contact and advance the ball unless you are the goalie. The goalie can use any body part necessary to stop an opponent from scoring the ball before repossessing it. 

You cannot kick the ball in field hockey unless you are a goalie stopping a shot or do so unintentionally and in a manner that doesn’t give your team an advantage over the opponent. 

If you want to understand more about what happens when you kick the ball in field hockey and other penalties, we laid out the fouls and resulting punishments below, as well as who enforces the rules and how one may get sent to the penalty box or ejected from the game.  

What Happens if You Kick the Ball in Field Hockey?

According to the International Hockey Federation’s rule book, kicking the ball in field hockey usually results in an “advancing” penalty for the player who kicked the ball. Two exceptions are (1) if they are the goalie stopping a shot or (2) if the player unintentionally kicked the ball and didn’t give their team an advantage. Advancing is called on any player who moves the ball forward without the use of their stick. The punishment for the penalty is either a free hit, a penalty corner or a penalty stroke. 

Free Hit 

Free hits occur for the opposing team when a player commits a penalty that isn’t inside the scoring circle. For many penalties, the free hit occurs at the location of the foul. For the free hit, the penalized team must have all players stand outside of a five-yard radius around the ball. This is the most common result of a kicked ball that occurs in the regular field of play. 

Penalty Corner

A penalty corner is awarded to the attacking team when the defending team commits an illegal action inside of the striking circle or is deemed to have purposefully knocked the ball over the end line and outside the field of play. This may include a player, either intentionally or unintentionally, kicking the ball out of play. 

Once the violation occurs, one attacking player lines up to take a free hit at a spot on the end line that is at least ten yards from the closest goal post while all other offensive players have to position outside the striking circle.

Four defenders and the goalie stand behind the end line until contact is made with the ball, at which time all players may rush into the striking circle, and regular play resumes.

Penalty Stroke

A penalty stroke is awarded to the attacking team when the umpire determines that the foul or violation stopped what would have been an almost certain goal. An offensive player gets to attempt a penalty shot seven yards out from the goal with only the goalie to beat. If the player beats the goalie and puts the ball in the goal, they earn a point. 

Who Decides the Penalty?

Two neutral umpires decide when either side has committed a penalty and whether or not to give the offending player a green, yellow or red card. Umpires usually decide to officiate one half of the field and let the other umpire get the remaining half. According to the NCAA, different cards are given to players who the umpires deemed to have committed an intentionally malicious act or a dangerous act that put another player at risk, or if they believe that a violation was committed unintentionally. 

  • Green Card: A green card is just an official warning to a player not to commit an illegal action. It has no punishment outside of the results of the foul committed that resulted in the card being shown.
  • Yellow Card: A yellow card is given to players that the umpires deemed to have committed too many penalties or intentionally did something against the rules or possibly to put another player at risk. Players who have been shown a yellow card get five minutes in the penalty box. 
  • Red Card: A red card is given to players who the umpires believe committed an extremely malicious or illegal action that either gave a team a massive advantage or put a player at risk. Umpires may also show a red card if a player has repeatedly committed fouls and been given multiple cards. Players shown a red card are immediately ejected from the match. 

What are Other Types of Fouls in Field Hockey?

In addition to advancing, several other violations can occur in field hockey and result in a player being shown a card or possibly being sent to the penalty box or ejected from the match. According to the International Hockey Federation’s rule book, here are the penalties and violations with their resulting punishments. 

High sticking or sticks

The umpire may call sticks if they deem that a player raised their stick in a dangerous, or possibly dangerous manner, near an opposing player. This penalty results in a free hit if it occurs in the regular field of play, a penalty corner if it occurs in the striking circle, and a penalty shot if the umpire deems it was an almost certain goal. 

Backsticks

This penalty occurs when the umpire determines a player struck the ball with the curved back of the stick. This penalty results in a free hit if it occurs in the regular field of play, a penalty corner if it occurs in the striking circle and a penalty shot if the umpire deems it stopped an almost certain goal. 

Hockey Stick Interference

This is called whenever an umpire sees that a player hit or effected an opposing player’s stick with their stick. This penalty results in a free hit if it occurs in the regular field of play, a penalty corner if it occurs in the striking circle, and a penalty shot if the umpire deems it affected an almost certain goal. 

Obstruction

An umpire calls obstruction if they believe a player illegally uses their body or stick to prevent the opposing player from reaching the ball. This penalty results in a free hit if it occurs in the regular field of play, a penalty corner if it occurs in the striking circle, and a penalty shot if the umpire deems it stopped an almost certain goal. 

Third-Party Obstruction

This foul occurs when a player creates an illegal pick by standing between the ball and an opponent to give their teammate an unobstructed hit on the ball. It results in a turnover and a free hit for the opposing team unless the penalty occurs in the striking circle.

Undercutting

The umpire calls this against a player who they believe elevated the ball maliciously or dangerously. It results in a free hit for the opposing team or a penalty corner if it occurs in the striking circle. 

Final Thoughts

Field hockey is a complicated, active, and intense sport. Because some of the calls are subjective, it may take time and experience to understand the intricacies of each penalty or punishment. 

Goalies and regular field players also have different sets of rules they have to follow, so it may seem confusing as to what the exact rules of the game are unless you are a field hockey veteran. 

However, this guide should have given you a better understanding of the penalties and punishments associated with not only kicking the ball but also other violations.

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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