A penalty corner punishes defenders for overly aggressive play.
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In a field hockey match, a penalty corner is used to punish defenders who foul attackers when defending their own goal. Sometimes attackers intentionally try to get defenders to commit a foul. The reason is because during a penalty corner, attackers outnumber the defenders and scoring a goal can be easier. Most teams have special strategies for penalty corners -- all legal and in accordance with the rules.
The Penalty Corner
Field hockey officials award the attacking team a penalty corner when a defender fouls an attacking player inside the striking circle or anywhere within the 25-yard area surrounding the goal. A penalty corner is also awarded if a defender intentionally hits the ball over the back line, or end line. In this case, play restarts with a penalty corner.
Where and How
To start a penalty corner, an attacker places the ball on the back line, 11 yards on either side of the goal. The player executing the penalty corner must have at least one foot outside the back line, and can either push or hit the ball into play. The ball can't be intentionally lifted or lofted.
At the start of the penalty corner all other attackers must stand along the arc of the striking circle, no closer than 5-and-a-half yards from the ball. These players are not allowed to have their feet, hands or sticks touching the ground inside the striking circle. Only five defenders, including the goalie, are allowed to stand behind the back line. Their feet, hands and sticks are not allowed to touch the ground inside the field. The remaining defenders must stand beyond the center line. Once the ball has been put into play, the attackers and defenders are allowed to enter the striking circle.
No shot on goal can be taken or scored until the ball has left the striking circle. The ball is typically hit or pushed into play from the back line toward an attacker standing around the circle. An attacker will try to stop the ball just outside the circle to allow a teammate to hit it toward the goal. In order to count as a score, the ball must cross the goal line at a height off no more than 18 inches, which is the height of the backboard running across the bottom of the goal cage.
Substitutions are allowed at any time with a few exceptions. They are not allowed from the moment an official awards a penalty corner until it has been completed. They are allowed, however, during a penalty corner if a player is injured or the goalkeeper or a player with goalkeeping privileges has been suspended. If a team is playing with only field players -- no goalie -- substitutions are not allowed until the penalty corner is over. During substitutions, players must enter and leave the field within 3 yards of the center field line.
Field players are not allowed to wear protective headgear during the entire match, only a face mask when defending a penalty corner. Players who have goalkeeping privileges have the option of wearing protective headgear when they are within 25 yards of their own goal. The rules state that they must wear headgear when they are defending a penalty corner. Goalkeepers must wear, at the very least, protective headgear, leg guards and kickers, but can elect to wear body, arm, thigh and hand protection. Players are not allowed to switch their sticks from the moment a penalty corner was awarded until it is over. The exception is if the stick is broken and no longer meets the required specifications.
- Jan Kruger/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images