It was about 2005 when Rebecca Kanter, a former U.S. representative to the FIH’s Year of the Youth Initiative, developed a Power Point presentation about how to bring field hockey to places where it does not have a foothold.
Her solution was this:
“Why not institute a buddy system in which high school field hockey players teamed with young field hockey players and took them to see collegiate field hockey on a fairly routine basis?”
This past week, USA Field Hockey, through its You Go Girl program, chose 14 college teams to partner with local communities to bring the sport to girls ages 10-18 in metropolitan areas from Springfield, Mass. to Chicago, Ill., all the way south to Durham, N.C. and Louisville, Ky.
The U.S. colleges participating range from NCAA Division I champion Princeton to Bay Path College, a small Division III school that is sharing duties for the Springfield site with Division II American International College.
But many of the U.S. cities that are being served have a field hockey presence already, such as Baltimore, Philadelphia, Louisville, and Rochester. I had envisioned the program going to some of the hinterlands of the game such as South Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Iowa, and Indiana to have the likes of Limestone, Rhodes, Hendrix, Iowa, and Ball State or Indiana bring the game to their communities, none of which currently have the game in their high schools.
The 14 choices seem to be risk-averse — the program doesn’t explicitly have a boys’ component (something which is being left to FUNdamental Field Hockey and Stick Starz), and the program tasks university teams for outreach rather than clubs in Seattle, Hawaii, Florida, Atlanta, and Arizona. Persumably, those are next.
But one of the site choices is a very interesting leap. Princeton University, the NCAA Division I champion that has a pair of Olympians on its team, is tasked with bringing field hockey to the New Jersey capital, Trenton. It is a city of some 83,000 people that now 73 percent black or Latino, up from about 58 percent in 1985. It is a place of urban blight in which the estimated teenage pregnancy rate, according to one set of statistics your Founder was privy to, was 68 percent in 1995.
Field hockey is not played at Trenton (N.J.) Central, the city’s lone public high school, and supposedly has never had the game as a varsity sport. And it’s the lone public school in the Colonial Valley Conference that doesn’t have the sport. In your Founder’s talk with legendary Trentonian field hockey writer Jim Davis back in 1999, he came up with an interesting formula for introducing the game to Trenton.
What you really need is some black players — of which there are not many — to go to the inner city and say, ‘Why don’t we try field hockey?’ That’s what happened to softball 20 years ago. I think it would behoove a lot of black schools to look into having field hockey because it’s a great sport. But you can’t do it without a dedicated teacher in the system who knows the sport.
Princeton University’s side, for all its accomplishments on the pitch, may have a difficult time of it without some help. Then again, the Tigers did set a goal of winning an NCAA championship last fall, which it did. Bringing the sport to a place which has never had it as a varsity sport may be just as big an achievement.