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Archive for December 19, 2018

Dec. 19, 2018 — The FIH takes a club out the bag, in a matter of speaking

In the strategy manual of international field hockey, there are a few things you can do if your team is behind a goal or two in the last few minutes of the game.

Aside from adding an extra chaser to your high-line of pressure, or packing the midfield, there is one strategy that has always been available under the Rules of Hockey.

That strategy is to pull the goalkeeper for an 11th field player. Under international rules, a team can send on a player with a different-colored shirt to give that player goalkeeping privileges — a “kicking back.” Or, the player can have the same shirt as teammates and play as an 11th outfielder.

But starting Jan. 1, FIH has written a mandatory experiment into the new rules, outlawing the kicking back.

In other words, if the team short a player is able to earn a penalty corner against a team choosing to use 11 field players, none of the five defenders will be able to stop the ball with a foot or leg, and must use the stick to make a deflection or stop — a task which is about as thankless as the goalkeeper in hurling, who has to use a flat stick barely larger than a field hockey stick to guard an area as large as a soccer goal, and rarely uses a mask while doing so.

I have heard a few explanations about why this rule was rushed into place.

One is the continued controversy of oversubstitution in indoor hockey, where teams will sub out the goalkeeper to make it a 6-on-5 outfield situation when a team has the ball; it resulted in rules limiting goalkeeper substitutions during an indoor match.

I think the primary reason is to enhance player safety. Though kicking backs are required to wear a throat protector, chest protector, and helmet on corner defense, the protection is not quite the same as afforded a fully-kitted goalkeeper. Commodio carditis (a sharp blow to the heart muscle that can result in fatality) is a danger for players not used to wearing a chest protector.

The rule also, for the moment, takes out the need for coaches to train up, and strategize for, a purely defensive specialist.

I know a handful of coaches who won’t be happy about this development.