Field hockey officials reflect on unusual fall season

  • Greenfield’s Madyson Kuchieski, left, holds possession of the ball defended by Turners Falls’ Paige Sulda during field hockey action earlier this fall in Greenfield. Staff FILE Photo/Paul Franz

Recorder Intern
Published: 12/3/2020 6:19:45 PM
Modified: 12/3/2020 6:19:34 PM

High school field hockey in Massachusetts looked quite different this year. Teams were only allowed seven players on the field, there were no penalty corners and players were mandated to wear masks. The 7-v-7 model has been used for overtime in the postseason, giving a few teams experience with the format, but the overall change was quite significant.

For field hockey officials however, local refs said there was not a major difference in their jobs this fall. Masks were considered part of the uniform and the 7-v-7 format, though different, has been seen by most officials in the past.

The biggest change, however, seemed to be the difference in how a penalty corner was perceived.

“In field hockey, a corner is a great offensive opportunity,” offered Katie Hopp, an official from Hatfield who works in the Gill-Montague Regional School District. “In ‘COVID-hockey,’ however, it became more of a defensive opportunity. In this situation, it is quite difficult to score a goal because it was only a 25-yard hit. All advantage was taken away.”

This change in style led to an adjustment from the officiating crews, allowing players more time to get shots off.

“Many of us let kids play through as much as they could in the circle before we had to blow the whistle,” Hopp explained. “It was actually a bigger disadvantage to call the corner than to let them play through.”

The changes for the fall 2020 season did not seem to impact the length of the game, in fact Hopp and fellow official Megan Cloutier both agreed that the games became much shorter as a result of the modifications put forth by the MIAA.

“Ironically, the games have gotten much shorter,” said Cloutier, who lives in Turners Falls. “We don’t have postgame interactions and most of the time, when the game ends, there are no conversations, so we’d just leave.”

Cloutier, who played field hockey at Greenfield High School and Western New England University, said she saw the situation through the eyes of a participant. In an unusual fall season, she said she understood how difficult it was for many schools not to have fans at games.

“I really felt for the kids that played through this,” she said. “Especially for seniors, the external support is crucial at this age. And for parents, they were either limited to a certain number of games or none at all due to COVID. Even if they got to see a game, they were usually asked to watch from a distance that wasn’t appropriate.”

With constant 7-v-7 action, Hopp said she noticed fatigue becoming more of a factor than in past years.

“With the changes to corners, there was a lot less stoppage time,” Hopp said. “Also, with only seven players on the field, everyone is moving at any given point, so I saw a lot more players come off exhausted after a play because they’d been moving for so long.”

Though the situation was tough, Hopp said her style of teaching through officiating has not changed. In her mind, the changes enabled her to help players learn more about the game.

“A lot of teams I’ve seen during this pandemic have taken the season as one of opportunity,” she said. “With that, there were lot more people getting on the field to play and kids are beginning to try new styles of play and expand their horizons.”

As a local college season for field hockey did not happen this year, both Hopp, who also officiates lacrosse, and Cloutier worked strictly high school games. Hopp officiates in both Vermont and Massachusetts, two states with very different rules for field hockey.

“In Vermont, they have penalty corners and 11-on-11s,” she said. “It’s definitely different because even though I was officiating one way in Massachusetts, I had to remember that when I was in Vermont, I would call corners and they were actually regular corners.”

Officials often receive the blunt of criticism during a game, but both Hopp and Cloutier said they felt coaches and players were nothing but supportive of the modifications that helped make a fall season possible.

“In the months that I officiated, I never had to deal with any issues from either coaches or players,” said Cloutier. “They were very supportive of the changes.”

Hopp agrees, saying that players took extra precautions to make sure they did not come into close contact with her during games.

“Whenever I had to touch the ball or place the ball somewhere else, they always made sure to step back at least 10 feet to avoid close contact,” she said. “They have all followed the necessary precautions.”

Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
Fax: (413) 772-2906


Copyright © 2020 by Newspapers of Massachusetts, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy