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Interpretation of a blocking foul

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Interpretation of a blocking foul

Postby cfilion » Wed Jun 19, 2013 12:07 pm

Hey all,

One of my players brought up a situation and I thought I knew the correct interpretation of the rule but after re-reading it, I'm not 100% sure.


We are playing zone defence, Defender is a side mid. A pass is thrown from a handler on Defender's side of the field, and as he is going towards the path of the disc to attempt to defend it (not towards a player), a player from the opposite team steps into his path to block him from making a play on the disc. The disc is the caught further up-field by the intended receiver. Defender would have been in excellent position to make a defensive play on the disc, had the blocking player not intercepted his path. Nothing was called, but a casual conversation between Defender and blocking player starts and blocking player agrees that had Defender called a pick he would not have contested (Absolutely the wrong call).

My interpretation is that H.3.C.1 applies:

Blocking Fouls:

When the disc is in the air a player may not move in a manner solely to prevent an opponent from taking an unoccupied path to the disc and any resulting non-incidental contact is a foul on the blocking player which is treated like a receiving foul (XVI.H.3.b).

I think the call of a foul hinges on two things:
1) Whether or not contact happened
2) Was the blocking player making any attempt at the disc

In this case I think there was incidental contact as Defender had to stop very abruptly to avoid bowling over the blocking player (but still ran into the blocker lightly) and the blocking player made no attempt on the disc (was not even looking at it).

Conclusion: Foul, turnover if uncontested?

In the case where Defender were not attempting to make a play on the disc, the next rule (H.3.C.2) applies as a general foul, no turnover.

I get fuzzy if there's no contact, is that just a good offensive block-out?

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Postby atanarjuat » Wed Jun 19, 2013 12:21 pm

Yes, XVI.H.3.C.1 applies. And yes, the "correct outcome" hinges on the (ultimately inscrutable) intentions of the offensive player.

(i) If the player was taking a position for at least some purpose of making a play on the disc, there is no foul.

(ii) If the player was wandering aimlessly and happened to enter the wrong spot at the wrong time, there is no foul.

(iii) If the player had no purpose other than to impede the defense, the resulting contact would be a foul.

The defender has to decide what he thought the player was doing when he entered that space and make the call accordingly and "immediately" (XVI.A). Since the player ultimately attempted no play on the disc, I'd be inclined to call a foul.

If there is no non-incidental contact, though, then by definition, there is no foul. I wouldn't even call it a block-out; it's just a non-event. Note that non-incidental contact is merely contact that affects continued play (however light it may be). So there has to be some, and it has to be related to interfering with the defender's attempt on the disc.
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Postby cfilion » Thu Jun 20, 2013 2:45 pm

Thanks for that. Allow me a hypothetical situation follow-up question if you will? In my initial post I had indicated that a pick call would have been the wrong call, and that was due to the intended receiver being very far away from the defender. What happens in a slightly different situation:

Zone defence, a big swing pass is in the air to the handler. As that swing is in the air, the defender is near two offensive players (both within three meters) playerA closer to the handler and playerB further away. Defender correctly asses that playerA is not a threat for the up-line continuation throw (why personA is not a threat is irrelevant) and moves to defend playerB. PlayerA moves in such a way to block the path of the defender to playerB, making it impossible to "guard" playerB.

Outcome: Pick?

I think it all hinges on when the defender is considered to be "guarding" playerB, which is complicated in a zone defence situation.

I'll just quote the rules and give my thoughts:

XVI.I Picks:
1. A pick occurs whenever an offensive player moves in a manner that causes a defensive player guarding (II.G) an offensive player to be obstructed by another player. Obstruction may result from contact with, or the need to avoid, the obstructing player.

II.G Guarding: A defender is guarding an offensive player when they are within three meters of that offensive player and are reacting to that offensive player.

In the situation I outlined, the defender would have been within three meters of both A and B. While the swing pass is in the air, the defender decides to defend B and starts heading his way, he is now "guarding" B. Any obstruction by A is now considered a pick.

If the path to B was already obstructed before the defender decides to switch targets, does that change anything?

I suppose this also raises the question: can a defender playing in a zone defence (or even man?) be considered to be "guarding" more than one player at a time? If he is looking in the direction and reacting to both players, is he considered to be "guarding" both, so that any obstruction towards either player is a pick? (I don't know why two offensive players would ever be cutting/hanging out in the same close space on the field for more than a few seconds, but hypotheticals, right?)

Hopefully that made sense and is at least slightly interesting of a question!
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Postby atanarjuat » Thu Jun 20, 2013 4:21 pm

In general, it is possible for picks to occur even in zone defenses. That said, it is not a pick (at least, not one I would let go uncontested) in the situation you've described.

That is because, in this description, the movements of the offense did not *cause* an obstruction that *needed* avoidance. Really, what happened is that a changing situation motivated the defender to take a new position relative to Player B. Player A happened to cross a path that the defender suddenly wanted to take for that purpose. That is not in itself a pick. The defender was not reacting to Player B at the time (i.e., "guarding"), but to a situation.

The dual test we must administer is:
(i) was an obstruction *caused* by the *movements* of the offense
(as opposed to circumstances, or decisions by the defense)


(ii) was avoidance of the obstruction *needed*

Now, if Player B also cut somewhere at the same time, and the defender understandably needed to react (see definition -- guarding), and Player A was in the way of that obvious reaction (necessitating an "avoidance"), then you could call a pick. Those are the circumstances wherein picks occur in zones -- in those windows during which defenders are briefly playing man-to-man.

However, the fact that it was not a pick does not preclude the possibility that it was a blocking foul. That is a different question altogether, though.

If the path to B was already obstructed before the defender decides to switch targets, does that change anything?

Technically, no -- but the small subset of circumstances under which I could envision this being a pick just shrank. It matters entirely on what Player B is doing and whether the defender is reacting rationally.

can a defender playing in a zone defence (or even man?) be considered to be "guarding" more than one player at a time?

Technically, yes -- there is no limit to the number of people a given defender can guard. The hard part is persuading an audience afterward that you were guarding as many people as you claim in the fleeting moments during which that fact was relevant.

I would like to add here that the pick rule is especially subjective in its application. I would rarely categorically say something "is a pick" or "is not a pick." It is really a question of how readily I would assent to calling it or how vigorously I would contest it.
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