A large field, some curved sticks, netting wrapped around tubing and a cadre of passionate athletes, in this case female athletes who love competition. It’s field hockey and it is one of the most popular, unpublicized youth sports in our area. Increasingly, thousands of young athletes, primarily young women with more and more males, are playing the sport. It has become one of the most popular sports in the high school and college ranks as it offers wonderful challenges, agility, speed and opportunity when played at highly competitive levels.
Not knowing a great deal about the sport and only having watched a few short minutes of a high school game last year, I did some investigating and found myself intrigued. Fact is, I was glued to my computer watching game highlights while writing this, and thought I would share some information from my search into the “field hockey phenomenon.”
A little history lesson on the sport. Field hockey is one of the oldest sports with its roots going back to ancient Greece. The British Army is responsible for bringing field hockey to much of the world. As soldiers were dispatched out to various locations in the British Empire, they began playing the sport they called “shinty.” Soon, the troops began teaching residents of the countries they were in and before long the sport flourished especially in places like India, Pakistan, Australia, and New Zealand.
With that history it’s only fitting that field hockey was the third-most attended sport at the 2012 Olympic Games in London where the women’s team from Holland won the gold medal. Not surprising when you understand that field hockey is the national sport of Holland. In countries outside of Canada and the United States, field hockey is simply referred to as “hockey.” Meanwhile, back here in America, if you live in Pennsylvania, youth athletes are more apt to play field hockey over any other youth sport.
Want speed and a great workout for a youth athlete? Field hockey players run, walk or shuffle over five miles during a single match. Those of you with a pedometer, that’s way more than 10,000 steps. As for speed, during a men’s match swing speeds can exceed 103 miles per hour. That’s the fastest swing speed in any sport including golf or baseball, and when you consider there are no left-handed sticks and one side of the stick can be used — that’s fast. And for those parents who live the dream of getting your children through college via a sports scholarship, field hockey puts more athletes through college, proportionately, than any other sport.
High schools and colleges in our area have field hockey teams and more youth leagues are popping up in the region. The issue, as is common with youth sports, is the lack of fields as soccer, football and lacrosse are all played traditionally at the same time and use the same type of field. Field hockey nonetheless is a sport growing in popularity and with that comes the same responsibilities and issues that occur in other youth sports. Coaches at the local league levels are encouraged to get their certification and understand the health risks that exist in this fast and furious sport. There, of course will, be those field hockey “little league parents” who think their kids are the stars of the future and league administrators will need to set parameters sooner rather than later.
Page 2 of 2 - As for the athletes, when those sports that get the publicity don’t jazz you — take in a field hockey match and you just never know. See you on the pitch.
Greg Kamp is a 23-year veteran of youth sports as a coach and administrator and is currently the President of Penfield Little League and sits on the board at the District level. He is the host of Youth Sports Now, a weekly radio show on WYSL-AM/FM and also runs Strategy First, his own public relations and marketing business.