TopOfTheCircle.com

Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Archive for Field hockey

March 29, 2020 — A piece of the Rock, departed

Julie Swiney arrived at Slippery Rock University’s field hockey program at a vulnerable time in the program’s history, which dates back to 1976.

By  the time of Swiney’s maiden season in 2010, Slippery Rock was just coming off a Title IX lawsuit. The original 2006 suit not only reversed the university’s decision to disband the team, but a follow-up three years later resulted in incremental program improvements for women’s sports at the school.

Swiney’s program had also managed a mere seven wins in the four years leading into her maiden season in 2010. But in the decade of the 2010s, the Rockets improved to the point when it made the postseason four times — more times than in the sum total of the previous 35 seasons of SRU field hockey.

This is what makes her resignation from the program notable. Though the program is a mid-level team in the nation’s strongest NCAA Division II conference, it was a well-coached team, and program you had to prepare to play the Rockets every time out.

She will be missed.

March 23, 2020 — The emptying of another balloon

Over the last few hours, hopes for a 2020 Tokyo Olympics have taken a number of hits as individual governing bodies have called for a postponement in the wake of the worldwide Coronavirus contagion. This has led to a wholesale pullout from Australia and Canada in the last few hours.

As things stand now, this has knocked down the number of teams in the Olympic field hockey tournament by three. But it also has effects in other sports such as basketball, track, and swimming.

Now, it’s been said that the International Olympic Committee has been considering a meeting to decide on a postponement plan in a month. But somehow I think the spread of the virus will force even this dinosaur of an organization to make the needed choice.

March 20, 2020 — The shutdown of a sport

The current COVID-19 contagion has forced an unprecedented worldwide response from the sports world. Aside from Australian Rules Football and the National Rugby League, every sports event worldwide has been postponed or cancelled.

And following on from the decision of The Football Association in England to suspend all competition in soccer — everything from Sunday pub leagues to the Premier League — USA Field Hockey made an unprecedented decision this afternoon:

… based on the information that is available from the experts in the medical community and government agencies, as well as members in the sports community, USA Field Hockey has decided to suspend/put on hold all USA Field Hockey activities.

This would curtail the United States’ participation in the 2020 FIH Pro League, and it would result in there being no National Futures championships, no National Club championships, no Bash at the Beach, or National Championship tournaments.

For the thousands of athletes looking forward to summer hockey, this is, frankly, the least of their concerns. Hundreds of thousands of students nationwide are not in school and are distance-learning through electronic means. There are all manner of disruptions to American life, from closed shopping malls to grocery shortages. A little thing like the cancellation of a field hockey tournament pales in comparison to the COVID-19 virus and its effects on populations around the world.

How this all shakes out, of course, depends on how effective the current public health messaging is.

March 13, 2020 — The Pro League’s last chance, likely

If you’re reading this, you haven’t woken up from a bad dream from the last three days.

Fears of the spread of coronavirus have resulted in the cancellation or postponement of thousands of religious, cultural, and sporting events nationwide and even world-wide.

This includes the FIH Pro League, world field hockey’s run-in to the 2020 Olympics. This year’s version has been beset by one outside event after another, whether it was the death of U.S. assistant coach Lawrence Amar, weather concerns, and now the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

After weeks of speculation and concern throughout the world of sports, the FIH decided today to postpone all fixtures until after April 15th, to allow countries to try to flatten the curve of contagion.

This, of course, postpones the United States’ next two matches against China, which were scheduled for early April in Chapel Hill, N.C.

But the FIH, in an attempt to save the FIH as a competition, is not going to allow lost matches to disappear into a regulatory ether. Instead, FIH is allowing the national governing bodies of teams affected by postponed matches to reschedule them, with the proviso that Pro League matches have to be wrapped up by the Tokyo Olympics.

 

March 10, 2020 — Corona-crazy

The last few weeks, news outlets and water-cooler conversations have been all about COVID-19, which is commonly known as the novel coronavirus.

Short of a vaccine or other treatment, which won’t be available until later this year at the earliest, there have been measures taken by governments, businesses, universities, and even sports leagues.

Italy, which has a densely-populated and aged population in the northern third of the country, has instituted some draconian measures which have sometimes seen police cars going into residential neighborhoods rounding up citizens who have dared to go outside for a breath of fresh air.

Italy’s Serie A, one of the most lucrative soccer leagues in the world, has been playing games in front of empty seats so that spectators won’t circulate the virus.

Don’t laugh. This is also happening in the United States. It was announced that, because of a couple of coronavirus cases in the greater Capital District of New York, that a quarterfinal tie between Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Harvard would also be played without spectators.

Harvard, the oldest institute of higher learning in the U.S., made major news today when it became one of a growing number of schools — about 50 at last count — to empty its campus of students and hold classes on a virtual basis for the rest of the spring semester.

This has, of course, had an affect on some athletic teams. Amherst, Hartwick, and Middlebury have suspended their athletics programs temporarily. A number of lacrosse players from Boston University had fallen ill last weekend, but none tested positive for COVID-19.

One team which is not being affected is the U.S. women’s national field hockey team, even as the beleaguered FIH Pro League has lost 18 fixtures on the men’s and women’s sides due to health concerns. But at 2:20 p.m. this afternoon, USA Field Hockey issued this statement:

In concern for the well-being and safety of our players, coaches, umpires and their families, our National Office has been closely monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. We are working with the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to be informed and provide the latest advice.

At this time, all competitions and programs will continue as scheduled. Should there be any change to our position, we will update all parties involved immediately.

The States are scheduled to play China twice in a month’s time, at Karen Shelton Stadium. But the next large-scale competitions that USA Field Hockey will present will take place in June.

And I think a lot is going to take place between now and then.

March 8, 2020 — The final walkaway

Part of the promise of the Home of Hockey, when initially proposed a decade and a half ago, was that the United States would become a prime hosting spot for international events such as the Champions’ Trophy or the World Cup.

That, regrettably, never came to pass.

And a month after the departure of the U.S. women’s national team and many ancillary events from Spooky Nook Sports, it was announced that the United States would be hosting a major international tournament.

Only the location that will be hosting the 2021 Indoor Masters World Cup will be The Training Center in Spring City, Pa., home to the nation’s most dominant youth field hockey club, the WC Eagles.

The planning for the bid, according to a United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee release, started in December 2019 and the committee zeroed in on the greater Valley Forge area of southeastern Pennsylvania, 50 miles east of Spooky Nook.

Thing is, as wondrous as The Nook was as a field hockey space (especially indoors), the fact that it wasn’t even thought of as the first choice for the Indoor Masters World Cup tells you all you need to know about the relationship between the sport and The Nook in the last six months or so.

March 6, 2020 — The desultory trend

This week, it was announced that Kathleen Wiler, the 13-year field hockey coach at Kent State University, was filing a lawsuit against her former employer alleging wage discrimination.

Wiley had, throughout her tenure at the school, had unqualified success in coaching the team. The Flashes finished above .500 during her tenure at a mid-major school and was able to get within a whisper of the Final Four in 2014, but ran across the very Connecticut team that would win the national final.

She had filed a pair of employment grievances late in her tenure as field hockey coach, alleging Wiler unequal pay and working conditions prior to her filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She filed a second complaint when the university refused to address the allegations.

I find it interesting that Wiler filed the lawsuit mere months after the kerfuffle when Temple and Maine were not allowed to settle their overtime game held at Kent because of a fireworks display. Predictably, Kent State University investigated itself and found no wrongdoing.

The untoward behavior towards women athletes at the University has been alleged for years. Toxic behavior on the part of males at the university has been alleged on some message boards, far beyond the monetary discrimination alleged in Wiler’s lawsuit.

With this lawsuit seeking class-action status, I’m interested to see what else is uncovered.