Many sports can’t be played in the rain, and sports that use lots of metal equipment end up getting rained out fairly quickly when stormy weather approaches. But field hockey has a more complicated relationship with water than most sports.
Field hockey can be played in the rain until the turf becomes sodden. Additionally, if weather conditions are cold and rainy, coaching officials and umpires will often call the game to ensure the health and safety of the players.
Field hockey is more tolerant of rainy conditions than many other sports, but that doesn’t always mean the game will go on in the rain. Read on to learn more about when field hockey games are permitted in rainy conditions and the limits that must be reached for them to be canceled.
Is It Permissible by Game Rules to Play Field Hockey in the Rain?
Whether it’s permissible according to the game rules for field hockey players to play in rainy conditions is entirely dependent on the rules of each independent league. Some field hockey leagues have more strict rules about rain play than others, mostly for reasons of safety.
According to the National Field Hockey League, games in field hockey can be canceled on account of “unplayable rain,” which is determined by the game officials at least three hours before the start of an official game. (Source: National Field Hockey League)
In unofficial field hockey matches or exhibitions, the rules are quite a bit more lenient when it comes to whether or not players will take the field in the rain.
Many factors determine game cancelations in unofficial leagues, such as:
- How long the rain is expected to persist
- How saturated by water the field has become
- The temperature of the playing field and the likelihood of snow or sleet
Rain is not considered a game-breaking occurrence in field hockey, but it does affect the ability of players to play safely in some cases. Because of this, field conditions are typically assessed before each match a few hours in advance to determine whether they present a hazard or not if conditions are wet.
Why Can Playing Field Hockey on a Rainy Pitch Be Dangerous?
The main reason why field hockey games get rained out is that game officials determine the rain has caused unsafe conditions on the hockey pitch.
If there is only light rain in the forecast or rain doesn’t begin until mid-match, a game of field hockey is usually allowed to continue unless weather becomes inclement or severe storms are predicted. Only excessive rain, rain that accompanies lightning, or rain that during freezing weather will typically cancel a match.
There are several reasons why a field hockey game might get rained out on account of rain because of safety:
- The wet pitch can cause running players to slip and fall, significantly increasing the risk of injury if a player falls and lands awkwardly on a limb or their neck and back. This can lead to broken bones or skeletal injuries.
- Wet patches on the pitch can cause the hard field hockey ball to bounce erratically, which not only affects the ability of the players to play but can also increase the chance of someone accidentally catching a field hockey ball in the face.
- Wet pitches can increase the likelihood of impact injuries. Slipping around in the mud in field hockey can be fun, but these kinds of sliding tackles can also increase the risk of something going wrong. This can lead to bruises, concussions, sprained ankles, or worse.
- Wet pitches can cause players to become exhausted. A sodden hockey pitch slows down play, and the added friction of running on a wet pitch means players tire more quickly. Players that are tired make more mistakes and are more likely to injure themselves and others.
- Rainy pitches reduce visibility. In the heavy pouring rain, not only does the field quickly become soaked, it can be more difficult for players to see a small field hockey ball against the pitch, which makes the entire match harder for everyone involved.
- Rain brings lightning. While some rain on the field isn’t a problem during field hockey, there is an issue when thunderstorms arise. The threat of electrocution from lightning isn’t worth playing a field hockey match, and if rainy weather includes thunder and lightning, many officials will call the game off.
As you can see, there are plenty of reasons why field hockey games might end up called off on account of rain, even if most players don’t mind if the pitch is a little wet. (Source: Earth Networks)
The Danger of Frost on Artificial Turf in Field Hockey
Along with the danger of erratic ball movement and the increased chance of slipping, rain-soaked fields are especially dangerous in colder weather, which is common in areas where American field hockey is most popular (in the northern half of the country).
A problem with rain in near-freezing or sub-freezing temperatures is that it can cause patches of thin ice on the field that are difficult to see, causing players to slip and fall. While it is unlikely for field hockey players to become hypothermic during play since they’re exerting themselves, frost harms the turf itself.
Field hockey players may be able to play on a frozen pitch with little effect on their overall performance, especially if they have appropriate shoes for artificial turf. However, a team playing on a frozen pitch can significantly damage the turf, decreasing its lifespan and forcing it to be replaced sooner than necessary.
There are also performance issues that affect safety during field hockey on a frozen pitch. A frozen pitch doesn’t have the same amount of give as a thawed one, which means that players who fall are more likely to be hurt. Also, there is almost no bounce to the ball on a pitch that has been frozen solid by sleet or freezing rain. (Source: Field Hockey Forum)
Why Are Artificial Field Hockey Pitches Soaked with Water?
It might seem counter-intuitive that field hockey matches on natural turf are frequently rained out while artificial pitches in field hockey are wet before matches. Artificial turf has been used in official field hockey matches in major leagues of the sport since the 1970s, and play on these fields is often performed after the field has been wet. So what’s the reason? (Source: Metro)
A certain amount of moisture on the pitch removes friction between the ball and the turf as well as the shoes of the players and the turf, which makes slipping and sliding less likely, not more likely. In natural turf pitches, this moisture is replicated by the grass, which always contains a degree of moisture (unlike artificial turf).
Instead of soaking the field, some schools that sponsor field hockey have field hockey pitches that are covered in sand rather than artificial turf. The significant benefits of a sand pitch versus an artificial turf pitch include:
- The sand pitch can be used for football as well as field hockey.
- It is more environmentally friendly than artificial turf.
- It wastes less water.
In Field Hockey, Rainouts are for Safety
Most field hockey players don’t mind getting a little wet and muddy in the course of a match, but at a certain point, the officials in charge of the game may call a rainout based on weather conditions or predictions. While this may prove a disappointment to players who have been anticipating a big match, cancelations are always made with the safety of the players in mind.