What do defenders need to do to not infringe the 5m on free hits? We cover the basics in this part 1 of 2 (or more, don't judge) on 5-metre calls in this #RuleyTuesday.
Are your feelings mixed when meeting 5-metre mishaps? Don’t fume, we’ll free your mind on this #RuleyTuesday. Let’s do this!
Hey friends! I’m Keely Dunn of FHumpires, back with a hot take on one hockey rule. If you’re an FHumpires fan and love your Tuesdays to be Ruley, please consider enrolling in our $3/mo. fhu3t Green membership. We appreciate your support!
We’re back on the green (or blue) carpet in this first of two parts where we explore what defenders can and can’t do when their team has had a free hit called against them. To do so, let’s first walk through rule 13.2(b).
13.2 Procedures for taking a free hit, centre pass and putting the ball back into play after it has been outside the field:
All parts of this Rule apply as appropriate to a free hit, centre pass and putting the ball back into play after it has been outside the field.
b) opponents must be at least 5 metres from the ball
If an opponent is within 5 metres of the ball, they must not interfere with the taking of the free hit or must not play or attempt to play the ball. If this player is not playing the ball, attempting to play the ball or influencing play, the free hit need not be delayed.
A Truly Free Free Hit
Now, a little bit of philosophy. The whole point of 13.2 is that this is what makes a free hit actually “free”. When a player has committed a foul that has disadvantaged their opposition, we award a team penalty that gives something more than just possession of the ball in order to balance those omnipresent scales of justice (#shirtable). By imposing the requirements of 13.2, we’re giving time and space via the 5m rule.
Time and Space
Time is provided because a player who takes a free hit has a certain amount of time before an opposing player can get to them. This time restores equity on the field because that player can advance, get ahead of an opposing player, or pick out a pass they may not have had access to before. Space is provided not only in that 5m zone around the location of the free hit, but a player caught inside that zone can be effectively eliminated from being an active part of this moment of play, so the space they’re blocking behind them also opens up.
And remember: when we’ve awarded a free hit, we’ve made the decision that blowing our whistles and imposing these restrictions was the best way to reset the scales of justice, rather than allowing play to continue, aka advantage. That means we have to be vigilant about making sure the advantages of a free hit actually get experienced by the non-fouling team. If we don’t, teams will get frustrated and also be encouraged to keep breaking the rules because the scales don’t get appropriately rebalanced.
Taker of Free Hit Can Reclaim Their Time
Now we’ve got the principles in mind, let’s clarify the framework. Opposing players can’t interfere with the taking of the free hit or try or succeed at playing the ball if they are caught within that 5m zone I mentioned earlier. The player taking the free hit doesn’t have to wait for their space to be given, they can reclaim their time by going ahead and playing as though that player isn’t there: within the bounds of safety parameters.
What do I mean by that? Well, thanks to physics, we know that mass can’t just disappear and that holds true on the hockey pitch as well. You may see an attacker trying to bowl straight into a hapless defender who is trying to make themselves small and making no attempt to block space or play the ball with their stick. The player in possession could actually be causing danger and should be penalized accordingly. The same goes if that attacker smacks the ball with venom at a defender who can’t get out of the way. On the other hand, if the situation is less dangerous but still messy due to poor understanding of the laws of physics on the part of the player on the free hit, resetting the play may be required, with some extra intervention on your part to communicate how you feel about messy free hits. Ain’t nobody got time for those.
Influencing the Play
What does influencing the play actually mean? When you take the context of the granting of extra time and space into account, influencing equals actively taking away attractive space. When possible, there’s an onus on the defender to actively get out of the way, or when it isn’t possible, to make themselves “small” or unobtrusive so as to minimize their mass and not take away too much space.
Here’s a good example where a caught defender steps off to the side enough that she’s not taking away the straight line to the goal for the ball carrier. As she’s retreating she makes no attempt to play the ball or cut off more space with her stick, gets back the required 5m and makes a legal tackle at that point.
Further, an attractive space is an advantageous lane or channel the team in possession might want to use. That could be a straight line to the goal, or to continue dribbling in the same direction with their momentum, or passing through a lane to an open teammate. Consider that this attractive option doesn’t have to be the MOST advantageous one, but might be choice #2 or 3 or down the line a bit more. We’re not the coaches; decision-making is not our job to enforce. But, if the choice of the player is one that isn’t advantageous at all and seems to only be an attempt to earn another foul or provoke you as the umpire into awarding a team penalty, remember that the manufactured foul rule was removed from the rule book years ago.
To deal with this silliness you’re going to rely on the Golden Rule of 12.1 and not award a foul because the team hasn’t been disadvantaged by the other team breaking the rules, they’ve been disadvantaged by their own silliness. Or it could be dangerous, as I mentioned earlier.
Here’s a scenario where a player actively moves inside the 5m zone and cuts off an attractive passing lane from the player taking the free hit who is looking for an open teammate. This is a breakdown of play and depending on what level you’re umpiring at, you have a few different options on your control ladder to send the message that you won’t be seeing that again.
More Than One Defender
Things get a lot more challenging when there’s more than one defender in the frame. You may be confronted with one player who is caught within the 5m and must not interfere until the ball has travelled 5m, but then another defender who is 5m or more away from the taking of the free hit who can close and attempt to play the ball immediately after the free hit is taken. The key is to widen your vision as soon as you blow the foul, take an inventory of which defenders are ok and which are not, and use your voice to communicate precisely who is not ok. Once you’ve said something like, “#2, step back or you’re not 5” and #2 steps in too soon, you’ve got an intervention on your hands. If not #2 gets to the ball quickly, you know they’re fine and you’ll also communicate that to the players.
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Chau for now!
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