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Archive for October 9, 2017

Oct. 9, 2017 — Setting a new tone; is a new course far behind?

I didn’t want to let too long a time go by without acknowledging something I saw on the USA Field Hockey website.

It’s an announcement about the 2018 Futures program, and it is a news release which goes out of its way to invite the participation of boys and young men as young as 11 all the way to the U-19 classification.

“We are excited to offer the Futures Program to male athletes in coordination with boys’ development and the Olympic Pipeline,” says Lisa McCoy, Director of Futures and International Events. “Futures will allow boys as young as age 11 an opportunity to train, practice skills and develop in the game of field hockey in all regions.”

Futures is an off-season curriculum that was developed in the early 1990s to not only give players more touches and playing experience, but also serves as the first rung to national-team development.

Of course, the route to the High Performance level is much more complicated than it was 25 years ago, but the goal is the same: to identify players for further training and development.

It was understood that only girls and young women participated in the program, with only a handful of exceptions in recent years. But this press release sets a tone.

What do I mean by that?

By specifically inviting an entire gender, USA Field Hockey is doing something that not many people involved in the sport are doing, which is bringing up gender as a subject.

Because the game of field hockey has been pretty much a single-gender enterprise since 1901, rulebooks could be printed that would say, “Field Hockey Rulebook” rather than “Girls’ Field Hockey Rulebook” or “Boys’ Field Hockey Rulebook.”

In theory, everything was genderless. That is, until young men started playing for field hockey teams where there had previously only been young women.

Yes, there has been some extreme rulewriting and rulebending which has been designed to try to take boys and young men out of the game, especially by state high-school associations.

But I think something has happened in the last two years or so, especially within the American field hockey intelligentsia. Even as the American women have improved, so have the U.S. men. But the men’s team has had players who either were not allowed to participate for their high-school teams, or caused a degree of controversy when they did.

I especially think of Brandon Karess, the fine men’s national team goalie from Allentown William Allen (Pa.), who has gained international notoriety for his proficiency in defending penalty shootouts.

With trained Futures players coming through the U.S. system, who knows how good a future men’s national side could be?

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