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Archive for December 19, 2006

Dec. 19, 2006 — A call to arms, again

bandyplayer.JPGIs this to be the face of field hockey in the United States? It might be unless enough members of the National Federation’s rules committee vote against mandatory headgear and perhaps link any rules change to the current ban on field hockey headwear in force under Le Federation International de Hockey.

Pictured above is a participant in the game of bandy, a game with ancient roots played mainly in northern Europe where a sheet of ice the size of a soccer field can be formed. Eleven players on skates use small curved sticks to propel a round ball into a goal seven feet high and 11 1/2 feet wide. Sound familiar?

Only in this game, the action is much faster than even the highest level of Test field hockey. Skaters can, at full pace, reach 30 miles an hour. Shots may top 100 miles an hour. Almost all players wear helmets, but have also gone as far as wearing the eyeshields and a mouthguard you don’t see in professional ice hockey.

As we have said over the past few years, the integrity of field hockey is at stake when it comes to the mandatory imposition of headgear — goggles, soft helmets and the like. Votes were taken in 2005 and 2006 to try to impose eyewear, and both failed — the latter after a compromise in the exclusion zone around a free hit.

Any mandatory eyewear rule threatens American competitiveness on the world stage just as the national developmental system is beginning to yield world-class players at the high school level; two teenagers in our system have already amassed almost 50 senior caps the last two years.

At the same time, however, you will notice that players coming from areas with mandatory eyewear such as public schools in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and private schools in the Independent School League and the Virginia Independent School League, have been at a disadvantage when it comes to selections for things like the high-school All-America team.

Serious injuries have occurred to players who wear eyewear, since they have been given a false sense of security without being taught how to play defense properly and safely, and athletic departments have been given a free pass when it comes to the proper maintenance of bumpy and illegally-cut grass pitches.

To counter the call for goggles, we’ve developed a public safety campaign to build awareness of proper tackling, and exposed those doctors who have naked conflicts of interest. The problem is that you are beginning to see the influence of judge-shopping doctors in other places. One is in our national governing body of ice hockey, which mandates that coaches wear helmets during — practice. We’re talking about practice.

Now that you’ve stopped laughing, it’s time to act again. Dig up those old faxes you might have used in the past and send them into the National Federation again. Make your voice heard to your coaches, your state governing bodies of athletics, to USA Field Hockey. Also, try to encourage your local coaches’ association to pass a resolution calling on the state athletic governing body to adopt FIH rules and ditch Federation rules.

They’re going to keep voting on this resolution until they get it through; it’s up to us to stop it.