The New 23m (Corner) Restart - Field Hockey

  • April 9th, 2015
  • Jon Royce

With the New Rules already in play in the Southern Hemisphere and Euro League, we ask senior coach Jon Royce for his initial thoughts on training and playing with the change of rules.

7.) Ball outside the field
7.4 When the ball is played over the back-line and no goal is scored:
b. if played unintentionally by a defender or deflected by a goalkeeper or player with goalkeeping privileges, play is re-started with the ball on the 23 metres line and in line with where it crossed the back-line and the procedures for taking a free hit apply
With the ball being placed on the line, the re-start is effectively within the 23 metres area and the provisions for taking a free hit are applicable

extract from FIH rules 2015

Moving the ball to the 23m line has certainly opened up angles for the attacking side and avoided the sterile long corner situation. It is early days yet and it will be interesting to see what develops in the next year or two. Despite the best intentions of the FIH the fundamental problem remains: in such a threatening position on the field most teams playing in quality competition will elect to defend with at least nine and probably ten outfield players behind the ball, a very difficult situation from which to create a clear cut trap and shooting opportunity.

Given this factor teams are looking for deflections at goal or deflected passes into the circle. This essentially means high ball speed by a hit, slap or sling fling towards goal. Defenders aren't daft and goalkeepers will ensure the route one pass to goal is screened off by a combination of midfield players and the spare defender taking up a sweeping role.

Field Hockey 23m Restart New Rule Fig.1At the Euro Hockey League finals this April, teams generally looked for an opportunity to switch the ball and move the defence (making defensive trapping more difficult) before putting the ball in the circle (Fig 1). A real threat of high ball speed seems essential to penetrate the circle. High ball speed and a credible threat mean that a player must close the player about to deliver a pass; this potentially leaves a gap behind the player closing (because other players will wish to remain screening). Uhlenhorst Hamburg showed this inclination (Fig 2). Field Hockey 23m Restart New Rule Fig.2 The problem is that the player receiving in the pocket has to pre-scan, trap, post-scan and deliver a pass in less than two seconds: meanwhile, players off the ball have to time their movement to combine in this exceptionally narrow time frame.

As the defence tends to cover the centre of the circle there should in theory be space to the outside. Wingers dropped deep are the first obstacle.Field Hockey 23m Restart New Rule Fig.3 Second is the speed at which the defence will shift to the side under threat. Once again, the player about to play the ball into the circle has a split second to receive and pass, indeed to effectively enter the circle the pass will probably need to be played first time (Fig 3), this limits the speed of the initial cross-field pass when passing right to left. With a cross field transfer from left to right the initial pass can be hard if a deflection is used into the circle. In both these scenario's the margin for error is slight. Defenders are fully aware of their need to mark and step in front even before a pass is played. Hockey's lack of a third dimension, a shooting circle, extended reach with a stick and a narrow pitch make these situations very challenging. For these reasons like so many rules, it will work reasonably well at lower levels but is unlikely to solve the problem at a higher level.

I wonder whether in the discussions at FIH they thought through the rule with reference to Basketball and the introduction of a 3 point line. The 3 point line forces the defenders out leaving space on the inside. If this is not achievable in hockey because of danger then the only answer is to limit the players in the circle. Hockey rules at present favour deep packed defence in the very area where space is needed. Look at the scores in the later stages of the EHL, most of the goals disappeared.

In short, coaches could expend a great deal of time working on a ten versus ten situations in the attacking 23m area without ever really appreciably increasing the percentage of success. In the EHL the conversion rate at corners was 20% or so. That's a seven five situations from 16yards with in theory an uncontested first shot on goal. What will be the conversion rate ten versus ten from the 23m line?

Have your say: Join the discussion here: New 23 yard hit rules in our answers section. If you have any more coaching questions for Jon Royce please post them online.

This post was written by Jon Royce, a head coach with over 30 years coaching experience at the highest level:

  • FIH Grade 1 Coach (30+ years hockey experience)
  • England Men's Head Coach (1997)
  • England U21 Men's Coach (1995-97)
  • GB Women's Head Coach, Sydney Olympics (2000)
  • Head of Hockey at Bede's School and Brighton and Hove HC
  • Jon Royce - Coaching Credentials

Top image credit Chris Hills on Flickr.