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Archive for June 28, 2021

June 28, 2021 — The perfect demographic for Athletes Unlimited

Last week, USA Field Hockey picked a cohort of 35 players for a U-22 squad, from which a team will be selected to play at the 2021 Junior World Cup qualifier in Chile in late August.

It’s a difficult squad to not only assemble, but to keep together, since the qualifier bumps into preseason play for many of the players’ college teams.

But I think this group is more than just an age-group national side. I think it could form the basis of a possible professional field hockey league in the United States.

Athletes Unlimited is an organization which gives women athletes in softball, volleyball, and lacrosse a platform and forum not only for playing professionally, but for marketing and other purposes.

AU is picking up where the National Professional Softball League, the Premier Volleyball League, and the Women’s Professional Lacrosse League have left off, and have been using social media to gin up interest in their nationally-broadcast games.

There is some chatter out in the Twitterverse about bringing back a competition similar to the Harrow Cup, which began play in 2013.

An Athletes Unlimited league would run similar to the other sports: a pool of players are divided into an even number of teams (four, six, or eight). The teams would have no coaching staffs; the players would control all aspects of their teams, such as training, substitutions, and strategy.

During AU games, players are awarded points for various metrics. In an AU field hockey league, this would mean counting up goals, assists, whether a player is on a winning team, and also perhaps other metrics such as completed passes and steals. The top players within the league, regardless of team, become captains for the next week and select the following week’s rosters. This means that no team has a set color or team identity, and players which may be teammates one week might be rivals the next.

It is a format which you might not think would work in a structured environment such as a field hockey team. But it has seemed to work in volleyball and softball, which also have a great deal of structure within the usual team.

Now, the women’s lacrosse league is going to start within a month. Because of the free flow of the game, I think the AU model will work really well and the natural talents of the athletes will determine which teams will do well.

I think that can happen in an Athletes Unlimited field hockey league.

Now, to make it happen.