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on 20 February 2014
Field Hockey Understanding the Game concerns itself, very successfully, with enlightening the mums and dads with children who play hockey (or the children themselves) and with the hockey education of any casual spectator. While it includes rules specific to field hockey within the American education system, which doesn't apply to me (as a resident of the UK), the passages about those rules are clearly marked and don't dominate the text concerning the FIH Rules of Hockey, which are the rules used in club hockey and in all hockey played in the rest of the world.

This book is better than any other book for umpires or players on the market that I have come across for explaining the rules of the game and it is a useful feature that it is updated regularly to take into account changes in the rules. The author Cris Maloney does his best to steer a middle path and to reflect 'current practice' or 'current interpretation' of the rules, because the FIH Rules of Hockey are far from clear. The phrase '”changes to the rules'” can cause 'red mist moments' to the likes of me, when what is obviously personal interpretation and completely unauthorized 'practice' by those officiating a match is assumed to be rule just because it is applied as it is.

The Obstruction Rule has been blighted since 1993 – when a new interpretation concerning the receiving of the ball was introduced by the FIH Hockey Rule Board (now called the FIH Rules Committee) - with the comment “There has been no change to the Rule, only to the interpretation of it” , The result has been that the FIH published rule is not applied and there is no-one who is able to describe the present 'interpretation' of it – which is unwritten and changes with the wind (presently a hurricane which is blowing it away)

The ball-body contact Rule has been changed significantly since the 1990's, yet here the changes have been largely ignored – including the deletion of a 'catch all' gains benefit clause – and the 'practice' is to penalize almost all ball-body contact instead, as should be the case, almost none.

The problem with reflecting 'current practice' in any book is that the book then becomes an endorsement of it. But the problem with not 'telling it as it is' but as given in the published Rules of Hockey, is that there would then be a disconnect between what spectators and participants see being done during a hockey match or are coached to do, and what is set out in Field Hockey Understanding the Game – so the author is 'between a rock and a hard place' and has taken a pragmatic approach to explaining the application of the above two rules in particular.

That is not a criticism, it is impossible to find an umpire at any level who can explain or justify their 'current practice' or 'interpretation' in the above areas and a couple of others. “It's what everybody else does” is about the best that can be obtained. But read Cris Maloney's very useful and readable book, with a FIH rule book (which can be downloaded from the Internet and printed) to hand, and then – as he advises umpires at the conclusion of Field Hockey Understanding the Game - think about the information you have been given and draw your own conclusions.

Field Hockey Understanding the Game is not a rule book nor intended to be one, even if I have focused on the rules aspect of it, but it is a very useful handbook for umpires as there is a lot more to umpiring than just knowing the rules of the game. That additional information is well presented, everything from appearance, to player and coach management. Field Hockey Understanding the Game will also help to demystify the game for others - and some parts of it are fun, there are a few quizzes, to confound and entertain the reader, included.
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