Field Hockey Game Duration
Field hockey is a fast-moving, dynamic sport played by men and women around the world. It’s a game of tactics and quick decision-making, governed by a strict set of rules, played at different levels, and the game’s duration varies according to the level of play.
The length of a field hockey game varies from 50 to 70 minutes, depending on play level. Collegiate games are 70 minutes, while professional games and public school games are 60 minutes, and junior school games are 50 minutes in duration. However, a tie score can result in extra time and shootouts.
Rules are set by an international body whose role is to modernize the game continually. The rules relating to the time-length of quarters, halves, and breaks have recently been reviewed to streamline the game. Read on to discover how they are intended to do so.
Field hockey has long been an Olympic sport. The Fédération Internationale de Hockey (FIH) is the international governing body. It’s a game for young and old, men and women.
In the USA, field hockey is predominantly played by women. In contrast, around the world, it is played equally by both sexes. Its popularity emerged from its historical predominance in England and has strengthened significantly in Belgium, Holland, Australia, Germany, and Argentina.
Its developmental roots are at junior levels, where it’s played from young ages and encouraged in schools and youth associations.
Most field hockey in the US is played at high schools or colleges, and the game’s popularity as a spectator sport is growing, with increased crowds at games and viewership on television. For further reading, see “Why Is Field Hockey So Popular in other Countries?“
Recent rule changes by the FIH have introduced changes into the length of field hockey games. Since January 2019, the following stipulations have been agreed upon for game time.
When considering rule changes, the FIH uses a system of “Mandatory Experiments”, where suggested changes are played in international matches as a test case to improve the game.
These “experiments” are reviewed before publishing a new rulebook, and they decide whether they are adopted, changed, or deleted. The FIH rulebook is updated every second year.
During the 2018 World Cup, feedback from players and coaches was used to make modifications designed to streamline the game. This resulted in changes made to the time format designed to make the game more free-flowing and give advertisers more opportunity at defined breaks.
At professional levels, game time is 60 minutes. There are now four quarters played of 15 minutes each instead of 2 halves, as was previously the case. There are 2-minute breaks between these quarters and 10 minutes for halftime.
At the collegiate level, field hockey games are 70 minutes in duration. Games are still played in 2 halves of 35 minutes each with a 7-minute halftime break.
In high school games, the game is played for 60 minutes, consisting of 2 halves of 30-minutes each. Field hockey at the junior level, for children from 5 to 12 years old, is 50 minutes each with halves of 25 minutes each.
Umpires make every endeavour to ensure the game is as free-flowing as possible, and controlling the game requires strict adherence to timekeeping rules. Each game ends with a winning team, decided by extra time beyond the standard duration if so required.
Two field hockey umpires control the game, each officiating a separate half of the field. A timekeeper and record keeper may be present to assist the umpires.
A match consists of 11 players per team who take to the field, and play commences with one team hitting the ball from the halfway line (source). Players are required to play to the whistle instead of a horn, as in some games.
A midfielder will either start with a center pass or by hitting the ball into play to get the game underway. The second half or subsequent quarters also begin this way. A five-meter space must be observed between the defenders and the midfielder when this takes place. For more about this, read, “How Does a Field Hockey Game Start?“
Visible clocks have been introduced as the official game clock and must run to zero (source). The on-field umpires and the reserve umpire are required to keep a back-up clock. If the clock malfunctions, the timekeeping from on-field umpires or the reserve umpire will apply.
Timeouts for quarters have been removed from the rules. Until recently, two timeouts of 90 seconds were permitted. The change to the game’s division into quarters and the exclusion of timeouts give the coaches more opportunity for interaction with the players.
Sponsors also have an opportunity to screen ads on a more regular basis during quarter breaks and at halftime. The elimination of timeouts has meant four extra minutes of playing time. This also allows for the clock to be stopped for penalty corners.
Where the game is played in two halves, one timeout per team per game is allowed for two minutes. The umpire normally calls the timeout during a dead-ball occasion or after a goal, but an umpire or a player can call a timeout. The clock is stopped during a timeout, and this time is not part of playing time.
In the event of a game that ends in a tie, professional games must go into extra time of two halves of seven and a half minutes each. The game ends as soon as a goal is scored. If still tied at the end, a penalty shootout follows where five players from each team take alternating turns to try and beat the goalkeeper.
In college and high school field hockey, matches sometimes end in a draw, and at other times, extra time or shootouts may be played. The approach varies from tournament to tournament.
In the event of a shootout at any level, this comprises five players from each side taking alternating turns to take a penalty stroke. During a shootout, the player has eight seconds after the whistle to beat the goalkeeper. During these eight seconds, the player can retain possession and shoot as often as they want.
Stoppages occur when the ball goes over the backline or sideline. Restart rules when the ball is out of play are as follows.
If the ball travels over the sideline, the opposing player restarts with a shot into play within five yards of where it went out.
If a defensive player accidentally sends the ball over the backline, a long corner is taken from five yards of the corner flag on the related sideline where it passed over the backline.
If an attacking player hits the ball over the backline, the defensive player restarts with a hit into play on the 16-yard line (source).
A bully-off takes place to restart a match when time or play has been stopped for an injury or any other reason where no penalty has been awarded. The bully is taken close to the ball’s location where play was stopped but not within 15 yards of the backline or 5 yards of the circle.
The ball is placed between two players, one from each team. They face each other with the goal they are defending on their right. They start with their sticks on the ground to the ball’s right and then tap the flat faces of their sticks together once just over the ball.
After this, either player is permitted to play the ball, and all other players must be at least five yards from the ball.
According to rule 9.17, players may not delay play by time-wasting to gain a competitive advantage. When this happens, the umpire can penalize the offending team.
An add-10 advantage is given to the non-offending team if a delay-of-game foul is called. The referee is then permitted to provide the fouled team with a free hit with the advantage of placing the ball 10 yards closer to the goal it is attacking.
If a team delays the game when returning to the field, the captain can be carded for the game’s delay.
There are some permissible delay tactics like waiting for support, controlling the tempo of play, or simply slowing down the play when in the lead by maintaining possession for long periods and keeping the ball from opponents.
These strategies are common to field hockey and are employed for different purposes and at different stages.
In the free-flowing game of field hockey, the game’s duration depends on the level at which it’s played. Excluding any extra time, professional and high school games are 60 minutes long, collegiate games 70 minutes, and junior-level field hockey is 50 minutes.
The implementation of visible clocks helps players, officials, and spectators keep track of time. Short timeout breaks between quarters provide time for team talks, and umpires encourage the quick restarting of the game after stoppages.
Infringements are closely watched, and time-wasting is penalized. The fast rate at which the game is played results in an exciting event each time and, before you know it, the game is over!