The No Off-Side Rule has drastically changed hockey by introducing many more tactical employs
The Good, the Bad and the No Off-Side Rule
The No Off-Side Rule (NOR) remains the subject of heated debate among coaches and players. In his continuing series of articles, Shiv Jagday, the US men’s coach and FIH coach, analyses the pros and cons of the rule.
The No Off-Side Rule came in to play after the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. It’s no secret that it changed the game drastically by introducing many more tactical employs. This forced coaches and athletes to shift their paradigm and look at the game and play it in a different fashion. This resulted in bringing new concepts and giving some of the traditional concepts and tactics a new twist.
This been fascinating and mind boggling at the same time.
A. What’s good about the NOR
It has opened up the game, creating depth. This has given us more added space - 25000 square yards – from 25 yards line to the goal line on both ends of the field.
The forwards are able to get behind the defenders without being penalised for off-side.
Old concepts with a new twist have come into play. In other words the defenders are forced to mark the forwards from the front.
Press tactics have come more into play as it is easier to cover certain pockets of the field, rather than the whole field.
More diagonal crosses are being hit into the opponents’ defensive circles for deflections.
Other advantages continue to be debated:
· More goals are being scored. Is this true?
· The game has become more exciting in one way, boring in others.
· Fewer whistles are being blown which is good for umpires.
· There is more emphasis on speed.
· Open space in the goal circles and other parts of the field are created in a counter-attacking situation.
· When a press is being employed, there are acres of vacant space available on different/other parts of
B. What’s not good is not good about the NOR
Midfield play is being by-passed and more long range passing has come into play.
Play-making moves are being slowly eradicated – it is becoming a dying art.
The most valuable play-making and goal scoring space has become unavailable – it’s over-crowded to a higher degree for longer periods in a match.
C. How has this affected the modern game?
The goal circles are over-crowded for longer periods of the match and strikers also drag their defenders along with them near the base line. According to Richard Aggiss, FIH master coach and former Australian coach, “On the negative side, the NOR has drawn defenders like a magnet back in the circle.”
Further, I’d like to quote Jenn Morris, a skillful and graceful left fullback in her younger days and then a centre half during the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
”I believe that there needs to be a rule to balance the no off-side rule which was introduced to apparently increase scoring. The only problem with that though, is that most teams believe their best chance of forcing a draw or defend a lead is to cram their defensive circle with 11 players,” she says.
The photograph above on the left is from the final of the 2002 World Cup, while the one on the right is from the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Please note the vacant space between the 25 and goal line before the NOR was introduced in the match between the USA and Netherlands women’s teams. It reminds me of the scene where the racing horses start… the excitement is at its peak.
D. Has the NOR helped or hurt the game?
It has been a combination of the both. The problem is not the NOR but the way it has been used and abused to a degree where it has become a self defeating prophecy. Especially occupying and overcrowding the play and making an open space in the circle.
The above two photographs are from the final of the 2002 World Cup and the pool match between India and Pakistan at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. Which game situation has a better chance of scoring a field goal?
When we analyse the NOR under a microscopic eye and its effects on hockey, we come up with mixed views. Some experts are of the opinion that it has taken more from our game than it has given. And some think the other way around.
“The biggest change has been to take the off-side out of the game. Myself and others in Australia never believed it would lead to a huge increase in goals and of course it hasn’t,” Aggiss says.
Ric Charlesworth, the most successful coach in history, agrees with his former coach’s view: “We have had a reduction of goals in men’s and women’s games from Atlanta to Sydney (Olympics). Opponents of the no off-side rule say that with the enforcement of this rule less goals are being scored and we now have everybody defending. A coach’s job is to teach his team to score, to get goals. But we are afraid to take risks.”
I wish every coach thought like Ric Charlesworth – hockey would be so fluid and a beauty to watch.
Will the NOR change?
For those that disagree with the no off-side rule, it’s wishful thinking to hope that there will be change of thinking and hockey will again revert to its former self. It’s highly unlikely that there will be any change but let’s keep our fingers cross for a new version of this rule. For the time being, we have to live with it and enjoy it, whether we like it or not.
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