Several weeks ago my wife and I got a call from Missy Meharg the head coach of the University of Maryland field hockey team asking us to serve on the Board of Trustees for the USA Field Hockey Foundation. As parents and grandparents of field hockey players and an active supporter of the game through our activities at Lafayette College we were indeed interested to further promote the game nationally. We have seen an evolution not only in Field Hockey over the last 30 years, but in women’s sports in general. However, since field hockey in the United States holds a special place for women as a scholastic and collegiate sport, we believe its promotion can play a.unique role in supported athletics for women.
Within days, of Coach Meharg’s phone call, the chair of the USA Field Hockey Foundation, Pam Stuper, the Head Coach at Yale, made a visit to our house to explain the role that the Foundation plays in the promotion and development of the sport.
My wife can remember field hockey of the 60’s, not only playing on grass, but with restrictive rules, and in her case it was purely an intramural sport in high school, with a similar role in colleges. It really wasn’t until Title IX and the intercollegiate explosion of the sport, on the collegiate level, that the game started to take off. Ironically, it was an Olympic sport for the longest time, introduced to this country at the turn of the century.
As the opportunities for competition increased, rules were modified, playing surfaces improved the game, which demanded improved athletic skills. At Lafayette, women were first admitted in 1972 and field hockey was one of the first sports offered. It was played on an undulating grass field, a far cry from the technically superior astro-turf 12 presently in use. Today, virtually every Division One field is of this type. In fact, a NCAA sanctioned post season game is mandated to be played on that or similar surfaces. Lafayette had an initial schedule of about 4 games,there were no lights, no stands and few fans to watch the games.
Likewise the governance of the sport evolved as the athletes improved. Today, there is even a new professional league which will provide funding and competition for our highest elite players.
It’s within this context that Pam and I decided to become members of the Board. At first you may think it’s responsibility is just to fund the Olympic Team. Today, it defines its mission as, Grow the Game, Serve Members, and Succeed Internationally.
It’s the first element that attracted us, because everything follows from that. Under the able chairmanship of Pam Stuper, this energetic Board, along with the Board of USA Field Hockey has mapped up a series of events to serve the sport at many levels.
For example, there is a first ever Field Hockey Summit being held in Baltimore March 16-18. ( See the USA Field Hockey web site for details). It is designed to promote and develop the sport not only for current participants but future generations, uniting the community and harnessing everyone’s passion through a shared weekend experience. There are three days of clinics and presentations for umpires, coaches, players, and fans. It would be too cumbersome to detail all the events here but I urge you to go the web site and click to see everything that is offered. Included in the weekend is a gala dinner where people will be inducted to the Field Hockey Hall of Fame on Saturday.
Yes, the Foundation still supports the US national team with generous grants and events, but I think it and US Field Hockey will be totally served by Growing The Game!! As the 2020 games approach I can see the excitement build and Pam and I are excited to be a small part of it. We live close by Spooky Nook, the national practice facility for the team, and it gives us an extra incentive to go and cheer on these hardworking athletes who represent our nation so admirably!!