TopOfTheCircle.com

Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Archive for Field hockey

March 8, 2018 — A quiet reboot

One reason why the number of scholastic girls’ lacrosse teams has caught up and surpassed the number of field hockey teams like a dragster passing a Model T is the ground game that U.S. Lacrosse has perfected over the years, holding clinics in places near and far, and repeating them as needed until the sport is adopted in local school systems.

USA Field Hockey had a number of splashy initiatives in the last decade with names such as You Go Girl and Stick Starz, which have seemingly not moved the needle in terms of the popularity of the sport in non-traditional areas.

But in the last few weeks, this space has gotten wind of some growth initiatives of some promise. This winter, there has been an indoor field hockey program, supplemented with USA Field Hockey-branded equipment, taking place in Nashville, Tenn.

And in a couple of weekends, there are going to be a series of clinics surrounding the USA Field Hockey Summit in Baltimore.

These aren’t the kinds of splashy promotions which raise expectations — sometimes unreasonable and unhealthy ones. Instead, these are grass-roots initiatives which are intended to get some of the finest coaches and players in the American field hockey universe to get involved in a meaningful way in non-traditional communities.

There is still a long way to go. Think of this: the three American states with the most high school field hockey teams are Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey. The three main high schools in their respective state capitals — Trenton (N.J.) Central, Harrisburg (Pa.), and Albany (N.Y.) do not have field hockey. (Mind you, there is the case of Harrisburg Susquehanna (Pa.), which does have the game, but the sending area is Susquehanna Township, a pi-shaped* area that surrounds the Harrisburg city center.)

For the very survival of the sport as a going concern, it’s time to finally break through the socioeconomic barriers that have held up the development of the sport and its athletes. It was the same when this website was started in 1998, and it’s disheartening to see the lack of progress.

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* The Greek letter π, not “pie.”

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March 5, 2018 — A former U.S. national-teamer plans a lateral move

Barb Marois, former captain of the 1996 Olympic field hockey team, has had a successful 18-year career as the head field hockey coach at York (Maine), to the point where the team won four state championships and spun a streak of 58 straight victories.

But with her daughter Kylie Nelson-Marois entering her junior year at nearby Dover (Maine), Barb Marois has made the decision to step down from York with an eye towards joining the staff of Dover (N.H.) head coach Sarah Michaud, according to Seacoast Online.

“The opportunity to be part of my daughter’s experience and share that with her, the window of opportunity is closing for that so that is what spurred the decision,” Marois told the paper. “It was mostly opportunity and timing, knowing how much time there was left and knowing if I continued to coach at York I probably wouldn’t get to see her play.”

Hence, the change of not only venue, but a change in state. York and Dover are a mere 10 miles apart across the Piscataquis River down towards their shared border with Massachusetts.

“It was one of hardest things I had to do just knowing the decision I was making was going to be sad for them,” Marois said. “It was sad for me, but it was something I felt right about even though it hurt, too. It was very tough but the opportunity I have to be involved with my daughter and her team — that won’t be around for much longer.”

March 1, 2018 — Border War II

The U.S. women’s field hockey team now knows what it must work on in order to be able to compete with the Argentinas and Hollands of world hockey.

Especially given the fact that it suffered two defeats in four matches against an in-form Canadian side which had not beaten their neighbors to the south in 18 years.

Now, I understand that the American side has been tinkering and experimenting with the lineup in order to try to give experience to the members of the player pool.

The thing is, the U.S. has more than $20 million of resources backing the team, plus nearly 80 NCAA teams acting as a de facto feeder league. And in the last 10 years or so, there have not been as many top Canadian U-19 players coming to the U.S. to play in the NCAA.

Where have they been going? To the ragamuffin U Sports league, which has a mere 10 teams?

Apparently, whatever the Maple Leafs have been doing, it is working.

 

Feb. 26, 2018 — Firing up a new resource

Starting today, we’re going to try a little something new.

I’ve had this dormant Instagram account, @totc, for several years, and I’ve seen the use of this particular social media tool mushroom across the Internet.

What are we going to do with it? We’re hopefully going to use it as a primary tool for short video transmissions about things that happen in the middle of the day that we don’t cover in the blog. We’re hoping that we can bring you short updates or commentaries to add to the experience.

So, mark your Instagram accounts to follow @totc, and have at it.

Feb. 21, 2018 — An 18-year streak falls by the wayside

Judging by some of the field hockey competitions that are happening later this year, Canada would appear to be in fine fettle heading towards the Commonwealth games, but the United States women have a bit of work to do before its appearance at the FIH World Cup.

That’s because Canada beat the U.S. in the first of a four-match Test series in Chula Vista, Calif. by a score of 4-3. It was the Maple Leafs’ first win over the States in some 18 years.

To be fair, this is very much an experimental U.S. lineup that is being rostered for the Canada series. Sitting out are veteran goalie Jackie Briggs, central midfielders Michelle Vittese and Katelyn Ginobli, and attacker Jill Witmer, and they will presumably be part of the action in future Tests this year leading up to the World Cup.

Then again, this is a chance for other players in the U.S. talent pool to gain experience. Mary Barham, who led the U.S. effort at the indoor World Cup, is in the mix along with the Duke wunderkind Margaux Paolino. Also in the U.S. pool is Syracuse senior Laura Hurff, who is also splitting time with the school’s women’s lacrosse team as it chases an elusive national championship.

But I think the person who make the biggest difference down the line is the inclusion of Tara Vittese. One of the top goal scorers in the history of scholastic field hockey, Vittese is a physical presence and a magician with a field hockey stick, and she is being asked to show what she can do on the international level.

Given what I have seen from some of the post-Bam boom in youth field hockey, I’m interested to see what she can do.

 

Feb. 19, 2018 — Feeding an enormous pool

This past weekend was the U-14 Division of the National Indoor Tournament, where 192 teams were entered in 32 pools at Spooky Nook.

And with an average of 10 players per indoor team, this is nearly 2,000 athletes in the U-14 Division.

That’s an eye-opening figure; I don’t remember a U-14 tournament so large on the indoor side.

Is this the product of what had been a heretofore untapped market? Or is it a groundswell of popularity for middle-school field hockey?

Makes me wonder.

 

Feb. 15, 2018 — Two out of three ain’t bad. Or is it?

This morning, I hit the TV button on the remote control, pointing it at the leftmost of the three monitors I keep attached to various devices in order to get my news and information.

There was no click in response, but there was one from the middlemost monitor, which sometimes activates when I aim the remote incorrectly.

“Uh-oh,” I thought. “Bad logic board.”

Since buying the monitor back about three years ago, I have changed boards once every 18 months or so. This will be the third change. Repair of digital TVs is remarkably simple; I did my brother’s TV a few years ago, and I have kept mine in working order with just a careful inventory of screws, a flick of my fingers on the connecting ribbon, and about 45 minutes of my time.

But until I get a new board (or actually take some time to figure out exactly what component keeps failing so that I might get something less faulty), I have to rely on my other monitors.

My rightmost monitor, which I attach to my laptop, can get many more video streams than it used to because news sources have figured out that getting their product out into the mainstream is better than hiding it behind a subscription wall.

The middle monitor has a Roku attached to it, which is an electronic device slightly larger than a deck of cards. It streams hundreds of video sources, everything from sports to horror movies. The Roku is where I will watch the majority of my field hockey and lacrosse during the NCAA season, so I’m not terribly worried about losing the left monitor for a few days.

So, why do I have three monitors? The same reason Lyndon Johnson had the same setup in his Oval Office: to see what was going on in the world.

Plus, these small flat-screen TVs are incredibly cheap compared to the luxury models that some people are getting for their houses. Some of them are pretty nice, but I don’t need that much screen size. I can only focus on a finite area at any one time, and I’d rather have a smaller screen so I can see everything.

Which makes it fun whenever there is an event like an Olympics, a World Cup, or your average weekend in NCAA lacrosse or field hockey. Having three games on simultaneously — in the same sport — is an experience not to be believed.