Field Hockey Rule Change Turns Halves To Quarters

High School field hockey games will be played in four quarters instead of two halves beginning this spring season.

This change was one of several rule revisions recommended by the National Federation of State High School Associations Field Hockey Rules Committee at its January 13 to 15 meeting in Indianapolis. All rules changes were subsequently approved by the board of directors.

“The NFHS Field Hockey Rules Committee continues to strive to find ways to improve the ease and use of the rules for officials and coaches,” said Julie Cochran, NFHS director of sports and liaison to the NFHS Field Hockey Rules Committee, “which is evident in many of the changes made for the 2020 field hockey season.”

The move from two 30-minute halves to four 15-minute quarters will allow teams to maximize their play for the entire match, according to the committee, providing student-athletes with breaks for rest, hydration, and strategizing. There will be a two-minute break between the first and second and third and fourth quarters, and a standard 10-minute halftime break.

The rules now detail the start of a game with a center pass and the restart of play by a center pass following each goal by a player of the team not scoring. As a result of the change in periods, the committee removed language pertaining to the starting and stopping of the game clock. Consequently, the sport no longer features timeouts. The rules previously stated each team is permitted two 90-second timeouts per game. Cochran said the committee adjusted team timeouts in an effort to keep the game fluid.

The rules committee also made significant changes that clarify the intent of penalties found and added definitions of cards related to coaches’ conduct. The number of penalties in the code has been dwindled down from six penalties and a note to three, and includes the removal of definitions for each offense. The penalty rules were also expanded to clarify when a penalty card is issued, and it also defines green, yellow, and red cards. The newly-adopted third penalty details restarting play when a foul is called prior to clock stoppage, when the ball goes out of bounds, and if no foul is called prior to clock stoppage.

The rule regarding uniform bottoms was also adjusted to reflect recent changes in high school volleyball rules. Players must wear like-colored uniform bottoms, which include styles like shorts, skirts, kilts, or pants, provided shin guards are visible. The home team must wear solid, knee-length white socks/sock guards, while the visiting team must have a dark, contrasting color. The committee’s actions also included defining the use of player numbers, which also must be a solid, contrasting color, and feature no more than two digits. In field hockey, players are permitted to wear a single-colored short or long-sleeved shirt. If worn, home-team undershirts must be white. The visiting team’s undershirt must match the color of the jersey or be black or a dark color. All players on a single team who choose to wear an undershirt must wear the same color.

Shadowing, the act of being within playing distance of an opponent and following the player’s movement on the field without impeding progress, was also introduced among definitions of techniques within the rules book. The criteria for completion of a penalty corner during extended play will also now mirror the procedures for ending a penalty corner during regulation play.

“I think the shift to quarters is going to be interesting,” said Sherry Bryant, Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association associate director and chair of the NFHS Field Hockey Rules Committee. “From an educational athletics point of view, a standardized break between quarters to address health and safety of athletes provides consistent opportunity for coaching, all while enhancing the excitement and flow of the game. It seems like a true win-win scenario.”

A complete listing of the field hockey rules changes will be available on the NFHS website at www.nfhs.org. Click on “Activities & Sports” at the top of the home page and select “Field Hockey.”

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