What is a 16 in hockey?


Watching the Matches of Hockey has been entertaining for a Huge Audience. So merely watching it or Playing it Physically, it’s much necessary for one to know what does it exactly means when the Umpire blows the whistle for a 16-Yard Hit. By the way, 16 in hockey means 16-Yard hit.

Field hockey girls huddle

Many, if not many then almost every person new to hockey thinks of a 16-Yard hit just another Free Hit, but it’s definitely not. After all, each Free Hit has a different value in Hockey. Not only one or two, but there are various types of free Hits awarded when a Player commits a Foul or hitting the ball out of the Boundary.

All about 16-Yard Free Hit

The 16-Yard Free Hit is awarded to the defending team when a Foul is unintentionally committed in their Striking Circle by the Opposing/attacking team or if the ball is hit over the Backline by the Opponent. Almost every Free Hit is awarded outside the Striking Circle, except the 16-Yard Free Hit, which is specifically used when incidents take place inside the Defending Team’s Striking Circle. As the name states, the Hit is taken from the 16 Yard Line.

Understanding the Concept of a 16-Yard Free hit involves the knowledge of when and why is it awarded, who gets to play the ball, the best technique one can implement, etc. It is one of the most crucial game-changing factors as it can change the outcome of the match in just an instance.

Getting a 16-Yard Free Hit

At the moment of getting a 16-Yard Free Hit, the Umpire will blow his whistle, stretching his arms out to the sides, similar to the wings of an airplane. This signal is for the team as well as the spectators that a 16-Yard Free hit must be conducted. This Signal for Free Hit can be performed by the Umpire on two Occasions.

The first case when an Umpire can signal for the 16-Yard Free Hit is when a Player from the Attacking team Commits a Foul in the Defence Striking Circle.

The second Case for the same signal would be the Instance when the ball is hit over the Backline by the Opponent/Attacking Team.

Types of Foul Leading to a 16-Yard Free Hit

There are several Fouls or violations of the rules that can result in awarding the defending Team with the 16-Yard Free Hit. Some of them are as follows.

  1. Stick Foul 

An Umpire is instructed to call a Foul if a Player misuses his Hockey Stick. Three main Spots where such instances are seen are the back sticks, stick obstruction, and lifting the stick.

What is a Back stick?

Many of us would not be familiar with this concept. Backstick refers to that moment when a Player uses the rounded side of the Hockey Stick. It is illegal to use the Rounded side for a reason and thereafter a Player is instructed and Expected to use the Flat side of the Stick.

  1. Stick Obstruction

The Umpire would immediately call a Foul if found a Player using his stick to hit or block another Player’s stick. It’s called the Stick Obstruction in Hockey.

Field hockey hitting
  1. Lifting the Stick 

If a Player lifts his Stick too high among the other players in the ongoing Game, the Umpire will Blow for a Foul based on the Harmful/Dangerous Play

Aren’t Stick Obstruction and Lifting the Stick the same? This is an Obvious Question as in both cases, sticks are misused for avoiding the Opponent’s Chances of scoring a Goal. Well, they aren’t the same. Even if the Purpose is similar in both cases, the methods are totally contrasting. While Obstructing, the Player blocks the stick of the other Players for preventing the Further Pass of the Ball. Whereas in Lifting, the Player literally Lifts the Whole stick, avoiding the Opposing Player to make further moves so as to prevent Severe Injuries.

  1. Ball Foul

Apart from the Stick Fouls, even Ball Fouls can make a team earn a 16-Yard Free Hit. The main Reason for a Ball Foul is the dangerous lifting of the Ball or Kicking of the ball, resulting in an advantage. This is a common Foul as a Player, when near goal with the ball, becomes so aggressive that he forgets the rules to be maintained for a moment, and rather than passing or going for a ground shot, the Player becomes so desperate to score a Goal that he Lifts the Ball in the mid-air for scoring a Point. Thus, a Ball Foul will be implemented if the Opponent lifts the Ball in the Mid Air in a way considerably Dangerous. This act of lifting the Ball in Mid Air is known as ‘Undercutting’ in Field Hockey.

  1. Player Foul

This is one of the Most Common Fouls seen in a Hockey Match. Umpire calls out for a Foul if found a Player causing obstruction or some other act which Umpire deems not to be Safe. And if this Foul takes place in the Striking Circle of the Defending team, the team is awarded a 16-Yard Free Hit.

Field hockey girls in action

Players Who can take up the 16-Yard Free Hit

In Hockey, each of the two teams consists of 11 players each, and four among those are called the Defenders, known as Goalkeeper, Sweeper, and the Two Backs respectively.

As the 16-Yard Free Hit takes place in the area of the Defending team, only one of the Defenders can play such a move. Usually, one amongst the Back plays the Hit. Two Backs sticks up with the Goalkeeper and the Sweeper and their main motive is to defend their Goal. Each Team has a Right and a Left-Back. Depending on the side that the Ball went out, either the Left-Back or Right-Back will proceed for the Hit.

So, only one of the Backs can Play the 16-Yard Free Hit? Well, not necessarily. If the team’s Sweeper has a more Powerful Hit, then even they can continue with the hit. So either one of the Backs or The Sweeper can fetch the ball and make its way out of the 16 Yard Line once the whistle is blown by the Umpire. 

Also, all the Players are required to stay five yards away from the Ball and the Defender, until he hits the ball.

Field Hockey Girls Play

Proper Use of the 16-Yard Free Hit

Getting a 16-Yard Free Hit is a boon for the Defending Team as it does not only prevents the chances of the opponent scoring a goal at the very moment but also gets a chance to push the ball as far as possible, away from their Goal.

While taking up such a 16-Yard Free Hit, the player must think in terms of speed and energy to achieve these ends, as a Powerful shot is needed to put the ball away from the Goal. Pushes aren’t much Common as it doesn’t have enough energy to clear the ball away from the Striking Circle. So the Defender is required to hit it with much more energy than just a push, as his main motive is not just to stop the opponent from intercepting but also to get in position for a shot at Goal.

Coming to the point of taking a shot through the 16-Yard Free Hit, one must always look for the Sidelines as it is the only area on the field that’s less congested, offering a quick way for the ball to get far away from their Defending Goal. Sometimes, Defender will hesitate before hitting the ball towards the sidelines as it will go out of the play, giving an advantage to the Opponent Team. But in the end, make up their mind to go with the Sidelines as their main motive is to push the Ball way far from their goal and the Sidelines are the only way that can make it possible. 

Overall, 16-Yard Free Hit is a great opportunity for the Defending team to save a Goal against them and clear the ball. It’s one of the crucial aspects of the Game. Making proper use of the 16-Yard Free Hit requires skills and preparation to make sure that it’s powerful enough to push the ball back into the Opponent’s Half and make a chance of Scoring a Goal.