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Aug. 12, 2017 — How to fix men’s field hockey in the United States

This evening at Spooky Nook, the U.S. men’s field hockey team won the bronze medal in the Pan American Hockey Federation’s Pan American Cup with a 3-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago.

You might say, given the fact that the States are the third-ranked team amongst the Pan American teams in this competition, that the team finished where it should have.

But the thing is, men’s field hockey in the United States has had six decades in the wilderness. The U.S. men has never qualified for a FIH World Cup, and has only qualified for the Olympics as the host nation since Melbourne 1956.

The reasons, of course, are legion. The game is not offered at the varsity level anywhere in the United States, and boys have faced opposition and barriers to entry from entrenched interests in the sport.

USA Field Hockey has tried a handful of initiatives in order to try to attract more willing male hockey players and keep them in the sport.

But it’s not enough. It’s time, I believe, to invoke “affirmative action.”

As defined in Merriam-Webster, it is an effort to “an effort to promote the rights or progress of disadvantaged persons.”

This would mean intentional action on the part of people in charge of the sport to attract people other than its majority demographic.

While there are a number of commendable efforts which have brought ethnic minorities and immigrant families into field hockey, gender is the 800-pound elephant in the room. I believe that there must be intentional acts designed to bring more organized men’s and boys’ field hockey to the States.

Our national governing body can only do so much, but could help by publicizing more and more boys’ hockey in youth leagues across the country. It could also help by speaking out every time there is a newspaper article detailing the struggle of a teenager looking to play but being turned away by either a school or a recreational programs, simply because of gender.

The goal, ultimately, must be boys’ field hockey played on boys’ teams.

Now, I understand that affirmative action is controversial in many political circles and remains so even today. It’s to the point where the Department of Justice has, according to a leaked New York Times memo, begun soliciting personnel to investigate whether race-based discrimination has been occurring in college admissions.

But for the overall good of the sport, I think affirmative action is what will lead the necessary cultural change necessary in order to lead to acceptance of boys’ field hockey as a construct.

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