Dangerous play is hard to define and apply simply because of the numerous factors involved in answering the question “was that play dangerous?”  This is also an area where the umpire has to make a decision based on their perception of the play and if you ever study people you’ll know we all perceive situations differently, usually from a personal perspective.

The most common offence associated with dangerous play is the lifted ball.  It is important to recognise that lifting the ball is perfectly legal in field hockey (hence the use of aerial passes), but when is it dangerous?  The rules discuss players having to take legitimate evasive action for it to be considered dangerous, but there is still a lot of interpretation and guidance required to make a decision.  Usually umpires consider the speed, direction, height and proximity of players when deciding on danger.  An umpire may decide that a ball lifted waist height and slowly travelling past a player 6 feet away is not dangerous, although head height might make it a dangerous situation as would a waist height ball hit at considerable speed.  Quite often there is a wince test, if the play made you wince in anticipation of something bad happening, it was probably dangerous.  Sadly, some umpires consider every ball above knee height dangerous and a small few won’t call it unless a player is physically hurt.  As a general rule, if you play a ball up and it strikes a player on or above the knee, it will be considered a lack of skill (surely you didn’t intentionally try to hit your opponent with the ball?) and therefore ruled dangerous.

Wild swinging of the stick is occasionally penalised as dangerous.  It is not an offence to swing for the ball and miss, although if your opponent felt compelled to dive for cover the umpire should consider whether it was an aggressive bluff (player intimidation) or lack of skill in which case it is dangerous.

Remember NEVER to challenge the umpire if they rule a play dangerous, it winds the umpires up and it is better to have an umpire who is overly protective, cautious and safe.  Remember as a player to be objective and not consider plays solely from a  personal perspective, usually if it’s your shot you’ll consider it skilled and safe, however everyone else might believe it to be attempted murder.

I hope this helps with your understanding of the umpiring decisions on this matter.  Please comment on this post if you have further questions.