Field Hockey Sticks To Growth Plan
By Greg Mellen
Depending on what part of the world you hail from, hockey may bring up one of two different visions: the ice version, played in colder climates, perhaps on a frozen lake during winter; or the field version, which to many is a Northeastern novelty that conjures images of coeds at prep schools or elite colleges running around a grassy field wielding a long, hooked stick.
In truth, field hockey has a strong international presence. The sport’s governing body, the International Hockey Federation (FIH), has 132 national member federations. The sport has been played in the Olympics by men and women since 1908 and 1980, respectively, and today it is estimated that upward of 3 million people play the sport globally.
In the United States, the Northeast is still the major hub of field hockey, though through the efforts of USA Field Hockey, the national governing body based in Colorado Springs, the sport is beginning to grow. While high school and college participation are relatively stable, the club level is booming. The largest club tournament, the National Hockey Festival, run by USA Field Hockey, is once again expected to draw more than 200 teams to the International Polo Club in Palm Beach County, Florida, over Thanksgiving weekend. Also popular is the USA Field Hockey–sanctioned Disney Field Hockey Showcase at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida, which recently sold out slots for 192 teams in five minutes.
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