USA Field Hockey Weekly Report-Week of July 18, 2011

July 19, 2011, 1:33 p.m. (ET)


USA Field Hockey Weekly Report-Week of July 18, 2011 

In last week’s weekly report, I promised to bring to your attention the recommendations made by the recent USA Field Hockey Club Task Force and ask for your advice and input on those recommendations.
I am a big task force guy. Task forces are essentially peer groups that make recommendations on issues we have in common within  the organization. In the many years I have had direct involvement with Olympic sport national governing bodies (NGBs) and after having established nearly a hundred similar task forces for various issue areas in four separate NGBs, I must say that the USFHA Club Advisory Task Force was the most notable. The group assembled for the task force was continually on target for the task at hand, and provided great analytical processes in order to come to their conclusions. The processes included interviews, surveys and data we provided through national office records.

The recommendations they have made will certainly have a substantial impact on the future growth of this sport. That is why it is so critical for you to offer up opinion on the recommendation areas. So, here goes:

In coming months, we anticipate announcing many positive developments to the structure of the club game. In accordance with our Strategic Plan, we undertook a process in the first two quarters of 2011 to better understand the club game, and the needs and vision of the many stakeholders. Thank you for all who have participated in this process which included literally hundreds of conversations in one-on-ones, group meetings, online surveys, the discussions and recommendations of the Club Advisory Task Force (CATF), and much deliberation and analysis from the folks in the middle who are responsible for acting on all this thought, the national office staff.

The underlying theme of any changes that are proposed are to better provide for growth in the club game. This singular theme underpins all that has been discussed and all outcomes that may follow. We understand that, upon approval, as these developments are rolled out there may be some inevitable disruption that change brings. Yet if we can all keep in mind the underlying goal of growing our game I hope we can all enjoy the journey even though there may be some growing pains.

In the months of May and June, the members of the USA Field Hockey Club Advisory Task Force met each Tuesday evening with much thoughtful and robust discussion to address the brief given to them which was to:

        I.            Provide advice on the operation of the 2012 USA Field Hockey National Club Championship qualifying system

     II.            Provide advice on upgrading the USA Field Hockey National Indoor Tournaments, their qualifying events, and the Qualifying process.

   III.            Provide advice on creating a system to eliminate or modify the legacy system applicable to USA Field Hockey’s National Hockey Festival.

The full report and recommendations can be read here. Below is a summary of how USA Field Hockey will be acting on the recommendations once agreed upon as well as a number of additional developments.

        I.            In 2012, there will be qualifiers for the USA Field Hockey National Club Championship (NCC) termed Regional Club Championships (RCCs). It is intended that they will be hosted in each region of the country and all eligible member clubs may enter one team per age group. In 2012, the club teams will be U19 and a U16 (not U17 as is this year) and we hope to include a U14 division as well. The NCC will be a 16 team tournament with the winner being crowned National Champions. There are many details to be firmed up based on the recommendations of the CATF. We will be inviting all organizations to bid to host an RCC (contact to make sure you are on the list to receive the bid info) and will look to set the RCCs in September. The RCCs hosted will be played most likely in May and June preceding the USA Field Hockey National Club Championship in late July of each year. This is a very exciting development in our sport and will provide a true competitive elite level tournament for our young athletes.

     II.            We will be making some modifications to the National Indoor Tournament (NIT) which will serve to make this growing part of our sport fairer, and the experience for all of higher quality. We will propose to do away with the lottery system that has been in place. Instead all, or nearly all, places at the NIT, will be awarded to teams that qualify out of Qualifier tournaments that share a more consistent format. At both the NIT and the Qualifiers, higher standards of courts, court size, boards and umpiring will be set. And we are really looking forward to encouraging the introduction of a U12 co-ed division.

   III.            Perhaps the most substantive development is the proposed change we will make in registration for the USA Field Hockey National Hockey Festival. Since I undertook my position at USA Field Hockey eighteen months ago, the one reoccurring theme I have heard more than any other is a general dissatisfaction with the registration policy for the National Hockey Festival. The CATF has recommended we do away with Legacy  and Pool Winners having automatic teams in Festival. This is not a proposal we have taken lightly and we have considered the feedback of all Member Clubs. For Festival 2012, the registration is proposed that each eligible Member club, within certain parameters (the detail of this process is being worked on and will be sent to Club Member contacts in due course), will have the opportunity to send at least one team to the National Hockey Festival in either the U19 or U16 division. This system will enable all member clubs and member athletes the possibility of competing in the largest field hockey tournament of its kind in the world (to be clear the process is as is for the upcoming Festival in November 2011).

There is also a IV. which is an important development, not on the original brief to the CATF, but a key outcome of their discussions and an important component in enabling USA Field Hockey events to thrive which is player affiliation.

   IV.            Starting this late summer we propose to be enforcing Player Affiliation. What this means is that each member may affiliate with one Member Club and only participate in USA Field Hockey events for that Member club throughout the year. The club game has grown in recent years and together with this growth has been an increase in intensity of competition with a resulting number of issues around athletes and which club they play for (i.e. there have been issues of players jumping from one club to another). In line with other sports, the CATF is recommending to require members to affiliate to a specific club. There will be an Open Registration period of August 1st to September 15th of each year starting this year where athletes may switch clubs on their membership profile on  . After September 15th members may only be on the rosters of their affiliated club in USA Field Hockey events in 2012 onwards) until the following Open Registration period (note that Festival 2011 is excluded from this process). All members will be emailed full details of this policy and instructions in coming weeks.

So, there you are. The set of recommendations set forth from the CATF have been thoroughly vetted and are now before you. If you do have thoughts regarding the recommendations please submit them to USA Field Hockey’s Simon Hoskins ( by Wednesday, July 27, 2011.

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno: “A report says that a growing number of Americans are worth $1 million. The bad news: last year they were worth $5 million.”

Have a great week!

Steve Locke

Executive Director
USA Field Hockey