USA Field Hockey is: the national governing body (NGB) for sport of field hockey in the United States and is based out of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Its mission includes promotion and growth of the sport in this country in both youth and adult teams. USA Field Hockey also has the goal of enabling United States athletes to achieve sustained competitive excellence in Olympic, Pan American Games, World Cup and other International competitions.
Sports Destination Management: How is participation in field hockey these days?
Steven Locke: We have been seeing growth; in fact, over the past four years, there has been a seven percent increase in participation. We think it’s a burgeoning sport.
SDM: What kind of growth initiatives are going on right now?
Locke: One thing we’re doing is trying to increase the participation of boys and men in the sport. Right now, the sport is mainly associated with women and girls. There is a stigma associated with men and boys’ versions of the sport; we sometimes hear ‘Oh, do you have to wear a skirt to play it?’ In high schools in the U.S., there are about 60,000 players but there isn’t a single high school team for boys – not one. There also aren’t any college scholarships for male field hockey players so that doesn’t help. It’s interesting – on the international level, field hockey is a male sport. In some countries, it’s a male-dominated sport. The International Hockey Federation says it is the fourth most participated in team sport in the world on the male side.
SDM: What other sports are male athletes being guided to instead of field hockey? Do you see any specific competitor?
Locke: Lacrosse, rugby, soccer – there’s a lot of competition among all sports to get players, male and female. I think it’s also just the reality of funding, and the lack of a pool of men. Our goal is to grow the number of boys playing field hockey in the U.S. Right now, we have 200 playing. In a year’s time, we’d like to have 1,000 boys; in five years, we’d like to see a total of 5,000.
SDM: How are you going about reaching the male population?
Locke: We just recently completed a $50 million training facility, Spooky Nook Sports, or The Nook, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. It is a multi-sport facility but we are the only national entity associated with it, and we have staged a number of big events there. One thing we’re planning to do is stage some international events for men at The Nook. It’s a great facility, and we are making an effort to showcase it for both genders.
SDM: What other participation initiatives do you have in place at USA Field Hockey?
Locke: We’re making efforts to make field hockey more diverse. We’ve just started offering a program called You Go Girl, which takes financially challenged athletes and teaches them the game, with the goal of helping them earn college scholarships. The program is only two years old, so we don’t have numbers to report yet; we are still going through the process of teaching the game. We do have some very promising athletes, so we are looking forward to seeing this program develop.
Another program we have is a youth development initiative called FUNdamental Field Hockey. We’re actually trying to get kids involved earlier – the program is for ages 6-12, and it includes kids of both genders.
SDM: What challenges exist for the sport?
Locke: I think the general public is not as aware of the outdoor or the indoor game as we’d like them to be. Field hockey is an Olympic sport for both men and women in the United States. Ultimately, our challenge is to make the US teams more successful on the Olympic front. If you have heroes and heroines there, people become more aware of a sport and want to participate in it.