By: Jane Beall
Assistant Field Hockey Coach
After a recent trip to the Midwest, I was reminded that huge sections of the country know little to nothing about the sport that has been such a major part of my life since I was fourteen. The game is growing, but any conversation with someone not from the mid-Atlantic or northeast about what I do usually sparks the same questions again and again. I don’t mind answering them, because I love to talk about field hockey, but posting here might expand my audience upwards of three, maybe four people. So here’s your primer:
Why do you wear a skirt?
This is probably the number one thing people ask me. I really don’t know. Wikipedia doesn’t even have a satisfactory answer so that must mean no one does. It might be a vestige of field hockey’s origins in the US. Constance Applebee, an Englishwoman, introduced America to the sport in the early 1900’s at women’s colleges like Vassar, Wellesley, Smith and Bryn Mawr. I imagine women didn’t have Nike tempo shorts back then, so they wore skirts and it stuck. I have no idea though.
Guys play field hockey? Nu – uh!
Yu – huh! The idea of field hockey as predominately a women’s sport is pretty exclusive to the United States. In Europe and Asia, both men and women have the opportunity to play the game at all levels, and some of the top players can even make a living competing and by procuring sponsorships. Leagues exist for boys and girls and men and women of all ages and abilities, so field hockey can truly be a lifetime sport; whereas in the United States, a player’s career normally ends when she graduates college. The Euro Hockey League is holding its men’s championships right now and the level of play is just unreal. Check out any of the videos from it here and prepare to be amazed. The US has a men’s national team, but because of the lack of infrastructure and opportunity for boys to play here, it’s tough for them to compete on the international stage. New coach Chris Clements has big plans for development on the men’s side though, so be sure to keep an eye on them in the next few years.
Is the US any good at field hockey?
Heck yes, we are! The Women’s National Team qualified for the Olympics at the Pan-Am games a while back and are London-bound with high hopes for gold. Since punching their ticket, the US women have been training at their home base in Chula Vista and playing some tough international tournaments in New Zealand, Australia, and Spain. If you’re in the Virginia area and would like to show your support, they’ll be playing some exhibition games against Argentina in Charlottesville and Virginia Beach June 18-23. If you can’t make it to a game, for the first time that I know of, one of the US test matches with Argentina will be broadcast live on NBC. This is huge for the sport. And America.
Do you really water your synthetic turf? Why? That’s so weird.
Well, you’re weird. But yes, you water the turf. We at W&L are fortunate to have a water cannon system to wet down our turf before games and ideally most practices. We’re not like the Brady family, pretending to take care of a fake lawn just so we can show off a new pair of bellbottoms to our neighbors. Wetting the turf helps the ball roll more smoothly and minimizes what we call turf-burn, a fairly painful consequence of diving or falling on dry turf. It also takes some of the heat off the surface, which is crucial for two-a-days in August.
Speaking of August, GFH had a great spring season and is rearing to get started on the fall 2012 campaign. While NBC won’t be broadcasting any of our matches this season, be sure to check out a game or two live on the internet!