USA Field Hockey Weekly Report-Week of April 25, 2011
Last week’s ruling by the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS) (the trade organization for all fifty state high school athletic associations) to require goggles be worn by high school hockey players really created a rise from a wide assortment of individuals. We at USA Field Hockey, wondered why the NFHS would make such a ruling in light of their rules-making committee being against it. On the other side of the ledger, the NFHS sports-medicine advisory committee recommended the rule for mandatory use of goggles. Typically the ilk of sports-medicine advisory committees, who are risk management conscious and litigation weary, is to recommend rules for all things that appear to provide safety. Ultimately, it was the NFHS Board of Directors who measured the recommendations from both the hockey rules-making committee (against) and the sports-medicine advisory committee (for), and ruled in the end for the mandatory use of goggles. The NFHS ruling will be initiated at the beginning of the 2011-12 scholastic year this fall. Although USA Field Hockey is the national governing body for the sport, it is the NFHS who make the rules for the sport in high school jurisdictions (this is the same across most sports).
There are obvious outcomes to this ruling. One is that there will be confusion. Both USA Field Hockey and the International Hockey Federation (FIH) have specifically ruled approved FIH/USA Field Hockey goggles may be used for medical purposes only (the FIH) or at the athlete’s discretion (USA Field Hockey). With the NFHS ruling for mandatory use, and having a differing standard than FIH/USA Field Hockey for goggles, one can only imagine the confusion that athletes, parents, spectators, umpires and coaches will experience as each moves to and from high school, college, USA Field Hockey and international events.
As many of the goggles allowed by the NFHS appear to have an orientation for lacrosse (i.e. with cages and other devices that hinder peripheral and downward vision), there is a significant issue. Lacrosse is an aerial game with the ball in flight most of the time. Field Hockey is a ground-based game with the ball on the ground most of the time. To cause limitations in vision is never a good idea in a fast moving game with a fast moving set of objects (balls and sticks). Lacrosse goggles are not designed for a ‘ground’ orientation, and often their safety apparatus inhibit vision. With limited downward vision, it is the presumption that wearing lacrosse-type goggles will cause athletes to bend their heads downward more than normal (so to see the ball better) opening themselves up to collisions with other athletes. Concussions caused by those sorts of collisions is unusual currently in the high school game. But will that be the case as time moves on? With concussions being the current topic de jour in sport, why add to the dialogue?
Last week we issued a special weekly report spelling out the NFHS ruling and what was and was not an approved USA Field Hockey/FIH goggle. That report stimulated interesting comments. Among the comments were two from athletes’ dads who totally took us to task in not requiring goggles. Fair enough. When I first arrived in the job some 15 months ago I wondered the same. But, on the other side of the issue were the numerous comments from coaches, umpires, and experienced athletes who to a person were unhappy with the NFHS ruling; saw it changing the dynamic of the game; saw the potential for increased injury; saw significany skill degradation for athletes transitioning from high school to college (and beyond) and saw that psychologically athletes would think of themselves as impervious to injury when wearing ‘protective goggles’ and perform more aggressively…thereby, causing more potential injury.
High Performance Web-Site Area Now Available We have created a section on our website that is intended to provide information and contact details for players and coaches seeking high performance opportunities and openings in both the United States and Internationally. Periodically, we will receive such requests, and we now have the ability to link players and coaches and openly share such information. As appropriate content becomes available, it will be placed on the site and removed over time. For those interested in posting to the High Performance Exchange, please contact Terry Walsh at firstname.lastname@example.org. The High Performance Exchange section of our website can be viewed by clicking here.
As Futures sessions draw to a close across the country, we hope that this prestigious program has provided all athletes real value. Foremost, we hope that all athletes have had the opportunity to improve their hockey skills. For some, Futures will provide the stepping stone to a deeper, richer field hockey experience. As we move to the Regional Futures Tournaments in May, athletes will be asked to perform at an ever higher level with 646 places on the line to the USA Field Hockey National Futures Championship. From there, selectors, and college recruiters will monitor intently the young hockey talent and, for some, there will be an invitation to go on to a further elite level with Junior National Camp, Junior Olympics, Futures Elite, and/or the USA Field Hockey junior teams. We are rightly proud to be the stewards along with almost 1,000 Futures Coaches, Trainers, Site Directors, and Regional Directors of a very successful elite development program. We continue to make revisions to improve Futures and, with our front office staff of Laura Darling, Paula Conway and Caitie Tornes, are confident we have a great team in place. There is always room for improvement, and I would welcome you contacting me with any suggestions you may have (email@example.com).
Have a great week!
USA Field Hockey