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Archive for December 5, 2019

Dec. 5, 2019 — The sound of silence

About three weeks ago, members of the U.S. men’s and women’s senior national field hockey teams started a petition on the Change.org platform asking the board of USA Field Hockey to re-examine many of the ways it goes about its business.

A couple of things have already happened. One was the firing of women’s national team head coach Janneke Schopman. The second was that the States would be playing its home FIH Pro League matches at Karen Shelton Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C. rather than at Spooky Nook in Lancaster, Pa.

But as the calendar has moved from November to December, there has been a very uneasy silence. Players, staff, board members, have all been extremely hesitant to talk to at least three journalists who have been on this story.

And, quite frankly, if I was to show up in Lancaster tomorrow, I probably wouldn’t get anywhere, either. And with good reason.

These are fraught times as the 100th anniversary of the United States’ first international women’s match approaches. Right now, I am perceiving a number of parties who are representing different interests in the sport, and none of them seem to be able to get the upper hand.

First, the petitioners, which, we can assume, is a pretty good chunk of the current U.S. women’s player pool, with some support from some who have left the team in the previous year or two. After the initial Instagram post, the number of signatories stalled at slightly over 5,500, where it has remained like an occluded weather front.

Second, the board of directors. They, along with the current Board Chair, have been asked by the petitioners to make a number of changes within the sport, even with the U.S. Olympic Committee set to make a funding cut to the national governing body for failing to make the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Third, Spooky Nook. There is now all sorts of speculation as to whether USA Field Hockey is going to leave the facility altogether, even as the two sides plan the replacement of an outdoor turf which the petition has said was “condemned.”

Spooky Nook, oddly enough, is the determinant in this entire situation. The indoor sports complex jumped on a wave of pay-to-play youth sports in this country which, according to year-old estimates, is a $17 billion industry.

Look at that number again, folks. That’s more than twice the gross revenue of the NFL.

And while I don’t have figures in front of me, I’d be willing to posit that the current cash flow of Spooky Nook, through its rec leagues, memberships, and the on-site hotel and restaurant, is enough so that the departure of any and all field hockey activities would not have a long-term impact the facility’s bottom line.

Which is why the silence is deafening in Lancaster. Let’s see where this goes.