Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Oct. 31, 2015 — Detente, or digging in?

Though the resignation earlier this year of USA Field Hockey executive director Steven Locke has resulted in a loss of weekly communication from One Olympic Plaza, there is a monthly newsletter posted on website of the national governing body.

Earlier today, the latest version of said newsletter was published. And buried in the midst of lists of dates and photos was this:


USA Field Hockey will not be holding an all-encompassing, sport-specific convention as previously intended for March 2016. While it is an initiative that we believe will be of great value to the sport, we feel we do not have the time and resources at this current date to produce an event that meets our high standards. We will shift our focus to planning an annual convention starting in 2017. Thank you for your understanding.

For years, the National Field Hockey Coaches’ Association was the go-to place in order for field hockey coaches at all levels to pursue professional development, to learn about technologies entering the game, and to honor and celebrate the heroes and heroines of the sport at the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.

But earlier this year, there were entries in USAFH Board minutes suggesting that the national governing body was moving along with plans for its own national convention; one entry in the minutes said that a hotel contract had been negotiated and signed.

The cancellation is therefore as sudden as it is mysterious. What’s going on here?

I’d like to think it’s a sort of field hockey detente; a lessening of tensions. If you view what is going on in economic terms, the first shots of a full-scale economic war within the sport of field have already been fired.

It all started with Locke, who wrote a measured, albeit stern, letter to the NFHCA late last year (excerpted in his November 2014 report to the Board) in response to news that it would be starting recruitment tournaments, something which had been under the exclusive purview of USA Field Hockey.

Then again, it could be seen as a pattern of USA Field Hockey retreating and retrenching — something it’s done before. When USA Field Hockey’s contract with Disney was ended after the 2015 tournament, it scheduled a tournament on President’s Day Weekend of 2016 in Sarasota.

This means that there are not going to be one, but three field hockey tournaments in Florida this coming winter. There’s the NFHCA’s tournament in Naples, Disney’s tournament in Orlando, and USFHA’s tournament in Sarasota. And there will also be three showcase events on Thanksgiving weekend: the National Festival in Florida, plus two Shooting Stars tournaments in Downingtown, Pa. and in Midlothian, Va. that are run by College Connection, a company owned by former U.S. women’s national team coach Pam Hixon.

My hope is that the extra recruiting events will not represent the existential threat raised in Locke’s letter, but will instead bring more of these kinds of events to the fore. After all, during the summer months, you can barely go 10 miles without encountering group of kids either going to or coming from an organized sports tournament of some kind. Most are soccer, baseball, and softball, but you also see plenty of lacrosse teams in the mid-Atlantic. Field hockey? An afterthought.

Hopefully, with cooperation instead of conflict between entrenched interest groups, the sport can grow.


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