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Archive for Field hockey

May 24, 2014 — The retirement of a technical genius

Paige Selenski, a quick stick magician who excelled for Dallas (Pa.) and the University of Virginia before joining the U.S. women’s national program seven years ago, today made her decision to retire public on the website The Player’s Tribune.

Throughout her 142 appearances for the senior women’s national team, Selenski’s quickness, toughness, and skills were on display, and she was one of the few in the history of the U.S. women to be able to pull off skill moves on the dead run. For me, she’s one of the two or three best technical forwards in the 97-year history of the U.S. women’s national team program.

She helped the U.S. to some enormous successes, including the 2011 Pan American Games championship over then-No. 1 Argentina. She also was part of the States’ first major trophy in 94 years when they won FIH Champions Challenge I back in 2014. That set the table for an unforgettable run to the Final Four of the 2014 FIH World Cup.

Throughout, she was an exciting and very marketable player who tirelessly did magazines, trading cards, and video promotions. She enters the the medical field, and I’m sure she will have an impact there as well.

BULLETIN: May 19, 2017 — Faced with the evidence, Iowa capitulates

This evening, it was announced that the University of Iowa’s athletic department would be making payments of $6.5 million to both former women’s athletic administrator Jane Meyer and former field hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum, as well as the legal team that won an antidiscriminaton case against Meyer.

It’s a major victory in labor law, one which, frankly, the university and athletic director Gary Barta brought on themselves through entitlement and hubris. Indeed, the attorney general’s office for the entire state of Iowa took it upon themselves to try to bail out the athletic department on, frankly, its power and influence rather than due process.

Despite this victory in court, there are a couple of things that haven’t happened. One, Tracey Greisbaum isn’t getting her job back, according to Jill Zwagerman, part of the legal team. And, apparently, neither is Meyer.

“I don’t know that it would have been a good atmosphere to go back, with Mr. Barta still being there in charge and the way he testified against Jane and Tracey on the stand,” Zwagerman told The Des Moines Register.

In addition, Barta is still — for the moment — employed by the University of Iowa.

But he’s now a person who, because of a management style enumerated and exposed in a court of law, is little better than damaged goods in the eyes of higher educational management.

How long he lasts depends on the university’s realization of that fact.


May 15, 2017 — A 20-year letter

Dear Tiffany:

I can’t believe that it has was 20 years this evening when I was tapped on the shoulder in the newsroom while writing another lacrosse wrap. And it was then when I got the news that you had left us.

I guess part of why your death hit me so hard wasn’t just because it was the first time a coach on my beat had passed away. It was because you taught and reinforced a lesson that I’ll always remember from sportswriting: though the focus should be on the athletes on the field, the coaches often are the ones that make the best stories.

And this is especially true in field hockey, where a lot of the stories are about feminism in the wake of Title IX as well as the ways that today’s coaches are trying to stretch the boundaries of what is possible in this ancient stick-and-ball game.

In the last five years, I have seen a field hockey player break 300 goals, and a lacrosse player break 600 goals. I have seen a lacrosse coach exceed 700 wins, and two field hockey coaches 800 wins.

I have seen 15-year-olds do what adult players could not do in the early 1990s when it comes to body and hand control and what they could do to propel a 2 1/2-inch ball (whether it is white plastic or yellow rubber) into a goal cage.

And yet, behind all of that excellence have been coaches who have been willing to teach a higher level of game to their players.

What I especially have noticed is that coaching trees are extending with deep roots into the high-school and club programs around the country. Coaches with international playing experience are giving that next-level wisdom to their students.

Which is all well and good.

I still, however, find the hard-working player from the mid-table team to be the one that makes the biggest impact, at least on me. What I’m seeing in recent years is that there are not as many schools that were in the situation you were in when you took over Ewing all those years ago. Athletic directors now actually want to have competent coaches in their ranks and not people who would take over for a year, earn a three-month stipend, then go on their merry way to be replaced by another coach the next season.

Leslie (Lehr) Conant has done a good job with what she has been given in her time at the helm. In fact, something happened seven months ago today that you’d have been proud of: Ewing beat a good Hopewell Valley team in double overtime in the Mercer County Tournament.

In fact, that was about 20 years ago to the day when Ewing had a chance to qualify automatically for the state tournament but for Hopewell Valley. These days, a team no longer has to have a .500 record to make the state tournament; a team can simply apply to enter.

I was so hoping that you would be able to see the game grow in Ewing Township thanks to the fire and passion you brought to the program in your short term as head coach.

It’s a fire that I feel every time I read your six-part Game Plan.

But now, I’m hoping you’re carousing and having a good laugh with Jim Davis. Give him my best, would you?

Yours in hockey,

May 10, 2017 — Trying to put the hand back in the cookie jar

Yesterday, an assistant attorney general in the state of Iowa sought a delay in the start of next month’s trial of the University of Iowa in the matter of fired field hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum.

“Defendants will not be able to present an adequate defense in the time originally scheduled by consent of counsel,” wrote George Carroll, the assistant AD. “The number of witnesses and length of testimony will require more than 10 days of trial. The Meyer v University of Iowa litigation demonstrates this reality.”

Oddly enough, the Meyer v. Iowa litigation demonstrated another reality. And that is that the university is just as likely to lose the Griesbaum case as it did the Meyer matter.

Why? The behavior pattern of the university when it came to handling women coaches.

This article, by the people behind the popular radio show Reveal, is devastating. It’s a good read and a good listen.

May 3, 2017 — The drama begins

At noon today, a jury of eight in Polk County, Iowa is to receive the employment discrimination case that Jane Meyer, a former athletic administrator at the University of Iowa, filed against the university. In the claim, Meyer accused the university of demoting and firing her shortly after the firing of head field hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum weeks before the start of the 2014 season.

The closing arguments in this antidiscrimination trial, as reported in local newspapers, are somewhat telling to me.

For one, both assistant Iowa Attorney General George Carroll, and Tom Newkirk, one of Meyer’s attorneys, used more or less the same statement in their argument: “This case is not about Tracey Griesbaum.”

But both attorneys have unwittingly brought up a pretty sizable elephant that has been in the courtroom the last several weeks: the relationship between Griesbaum and Meyer. It was nearly 10 years, in the same courthouse in Iowa City, when a court ruled in favor of six same-sex couples in the Varnum v. Brien case. That case was the one which eventually made Iowa the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage.

Since then, however, there has been a backlash against the judges in that case, and, despite overwhelming support for marriage equality in Iowa in opinion polling, the state is predominantly conservative.

I believe that, especially in an administrative law case such as this, where the legal standard is different from what is found in most courtrooms, that a jury could be swayed by social biases, or they could be swayed by the story of discriminatory practices in the way that Iowa treats male and female coaches.

And that brings up Iowa athletic director Gary Barta, who, like Griesbaum, is not on trial here. But he might as well have been, especially when it was pointed out that, when Barta confronted both Meyer and Griesbaum in separate conversations in 2014, his first question was about their relationship.

But what I also read was a sense of bullying on the part of men in the Iowa athletics department. Football coach Kirk Ferentz, a man who is alleged to have worked his players so hard they developed muscle conditions from overtraining, once expressed outrage over some drawings and mockups of the football team’s practice facility.

Carroll, the lawyer for the university, uttered this during the summations:

Football drives the revenue engine at the University of Iowa.

I’m hoping that the eight people in that jury room are seeing that statement for what it is: a play for power by one sport at the expense of others at the university, and legal protections winnowed away by the good old boys at Iowa, the Supreme Court be damned.

Apr. 24, 2017 — An unusual announcement

There was a dispatch written in yesterday about a male field hockey player making a commitment to a Division I college.

There have been occasions, especially in light-contact sports such as basketball, when male practice players have been brought in to provide competition for a women’s athletic team on campus. Many Division I women’s basketball teams have gotten better by playing against men during practice sessions, getting used to a different level of speed and strength.

Field hockey clubs near college teams are often invited to play friendlies, to show different skill levels, and to generally swap bits of knowledge about the game to get better.

But for Christian DeAngelis, the Doylestown Central Bucks West (Pa.) senior, his path is much different from the one that David Schmoyer took a quarter of a century ago. Schmoyer also played for C.B. West before taking his talents to the U.S. men’s national team in the early 2000s.

Back then, the role of men in developing women’s athletic teams was receiving a certain amount of scrutiny because of their widespread use in basketball. There was a movement in 2007 to ban the practice, but instead the language was clarified as to eligibility and benefits.

I’m surprised that, with the seemingly annual controversies about boys playing field hockey in high school on girls’ teams, that some university hadn’t decided on assembling a formal scrimmage team before now.

Might this be the start? Stay tuned.

Apr. 19, 2017 — Seeking new partners

Since the United States Field Hockey Association partnered with the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women to host a national collegiate championship in 1975, the field hockey Final Four has been a movable feast. The tournament used to range from Princeton, N.J. to Chico, Calif., though more recently, the national semifinals and finals have settled into a somewhat predictable group of sites.

And the tournament has almost invariably been held on a college campus.

Yesterday’s announcement of more than 600 NCAA tournament sites in 84 sports may have made news because of the partial repeal of HB2 in the State of North Carolina, but deep in the agate for tournament sites was a two-year period for Division III field hockey that had a new and unusual name attached to it.

The name is Spooky Nook.

The Home of Hockey, which opened in 2013, has been the home training ground for the U.S. women’s national team for nine months out of the year as well as the site of maybe four collegiate games and a handful of international matches.

Aside from these and USFHA events, however, the two turfs at the Nook lay fallow. But beginning in the fall of 2018, the best of the non-scholarship NCAA field hockey teams will meet there to crown a champion.

It is the first time that the NCAA has hosted its championship at a facility operated by the national governing body of the sport. It’s also the first time a national field hockey championship has been played away from a college campus since the Division II festival in Pensacola, Fla., in 2006. That year, the field hockey championship was held at Ashton Brosnaham Park, a soccer and softball complex.

It’s an interesting development, one which does little to dispel the notion that history tends to repeat itself between the worlds of lacrosse and field hockey in the United States. Women’s lacrosse, this spring, is playing its NCAA Division I semifinals and final at a site not owned by a college or university: Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots football team.

The Division III tournament also has another interesting future home: in the fall of 2021, the site will be Hendrix College in Conway, Ark.

The people running Division II women’s lacrosse have a similar kind of geographic notion in bringing the tournament to unconventional sites. In 2019, the tournament will be held in Allendale, Mich., home of Grand Valley State University. And in the spring of 2020 and 2022, the tournament semifinals and final will be held in St. Charles, Mo., at Lindenwood University.

In comparison, the Division I women’s lacrosse committee seems to love holding its tournament in Maryland. After the previously announced 2018 tournament at Stony Brook University, the tournament will spend three out of the next four years at Homewood Field at Johns Hopkins University. The lone interruption is a short detour up Charles Street to Towson University for the spring of 2021.

The next five years in field hockey sees Louisville hosting the Division I and III tournament in 2017, but only the Division I Final Four returns for 2018, followed by appearances at Wake Forest, Old Dominion, and Michigan.

In Division II field hockey, Millersville also gets two future tournaments in 2019 and 2021, with Bloomsburg in 2020. But in 2018, the Division II tournament will be part of a Division II festival centered in Pittsburgh. While the host of the field hockey tournament will be Slippery Rock, it’s unknown whether the campus, a mere 55 miles due north of the Steel City, will be the site of competition.

The hosting opportunity for Slippery Rock is an enormous boost for a program which was on the chopping block 11 years ago.