Executive Director Weekly Report February 19 2013

Feb. 19, 2013, 7:46 p.m. (ET)

USA Field Hockey Weekly Report-Week of February 19, 2013

Glad to be back. Earlier this week, USA Field Hockey announced  the renewal of my contract. It is to extend through the end of 2016. Firstly, allow me to express my appreciation to the USA Field Hockey Board of Directors and to all of you for your confidence. Over the last three years, together we have accomplished a lot. A quick look includes:

  • The development of numerous task forces composed of constituents to tackle issues within the organization
  •  The development of a sustainable youth development program (FUNdamental Field Hockey…in its first year nearly 20,000 youngsters between the ages of 7-12 were exposed to the sport. 39% were boys)
  • The modification of FH Life magazine to be more a coffee table magazine with articles that hold interest over time and the inclusion of beautiful photography, and the revision of the look and feel of our website (www.usafieldhockey.com) to provide quick moving, content heavy, newsworthy topics
  • The development of over $1,000,000 in sponsorship partner investment for the first time in the history of the organization. Included were several non-industry sponsor/partners, a real indication of recognition by the American mainstream sports audience
  • The ongoing increase in participation of Futures, the USA Field Hockey collegiate and Olympic pipeline program. The program has a new competitive component and we will be looking toward revisions of its curriculum in the near future
  •  The development of a new fundraising program including the employment of a new fund raising manager. This program is critical to help underwrite new programs to introduce the sport to new populations throughout the USA.
  • The development of a new Home of Hockey in Lancaster, PA. The Home is in the hotbed of hockey; is massive; and will offer us great capabilities to continually build the sport domestically and internationally
  • The creation of a new diversity program, You Go Girl! This is a critical program for the continuation of the sport. As the demographic of the USA population continues to change dramatically, we will need to introduce the sport to current minority populations throughout the country or, if we do not, we will be rendered as an insignificant niche sport in America.
  • The development of a new recruiting program and educational efforts to attract new umpires into the sport. A portion of this new impetus was the hiring of a new full-time Commissioner of Umpires for the sport
  • A complete assessment and then readjustment within our high performance program was conducted and initiatives were implemented after the disappointment of our performance at the London Olympic Games
  •  After eight years of deficit spending within the organization, beginning three years ago we began developing revenue positives so to add to the very limited reserves on hand
  • And, there are likely a number of other progressions made that just do not readily come to mind.

Thank you, everyone, for the progress we all have made. Our intent is to continue on that upward trajectory for years to come.

The IOC Vote Last week, the International Olympic Committee’s executive committee (consisting of 15 members of the IOC’s total Board) voted to remove wrestling from the Olympic program beginning in 2020. That decision was a shocker. The reason for wrestling’s removal was to solidify the base of 25 sports on the program and to possibly allow a new sport applying for entre’ onto the program access. A base sport must be removed from the program in order that a new sport be allowed on (bear in mind we see new “sports” on the program all the time…like BMX bicycling or rhythmic gymnastics…but those “sports” are considered disciplines of existing sports). It is sort of cut-throat I suppose, but it is a way for the IOC to keep the program contemporary. Aside from the politics of it all, there is a legitimate need to contemporize sporting events as even the Olympic Games are in competition with properties such as the X-Games, Gravity Games, etcetera. The idea is to maintain/gain young eyeballs, and for the Olympic Games not to be known as the Old Fogy Games.

So, that brings us to field hockey. Equally shocking to those of us who analyzed the IOC’s vote was that hockey ducked a bullet as the sport was also considered for elimination. How can that be? There are several reasons. One is that we need to gain greater support at the IOC executive committee level. The FIH will be working on that and I presume will be successful as both Leandro Negre’, FIH’s president, and Kelly Fairweather, the FIH CEO, are very adept in developing support and are both highly charismatic. But, perhaps, the biggest issue is the game itself. Hockey purists will maintain forthrightly that the game must stay the same with no modifications as the game is already a beautiful ballet full of tactical approaches and the historical aspect of the game must remain in place. Yep. And, they are right. But, the reality is that most of the mainstream audience has a short attention span; has difficulty understanding the nuances of the game; and most audiences love scoring.

Modern Pentathlon, an old military styled sport that many expected to be removed from the program, survived. Why? They developed incredible political relationships on the IOC’s Board, and, importantly, modified their sport into a one day event that with simplified rules became more appealing. Plus with the one day of activity, the cost for conducting the event was substantially reduced.

Back to hockey again. What should be done if anything? Here are some thoughts. Should the game have fewer players to reduce costs (e.g. Rugby7s v 15s); should the pitch be shortened to speed up the pace? Should the game be shorter in time played (remembering that short attention span thing)? Should we play on such an expensive water-based turf (a potentially inhibitor of growth on a global scale)? Should, somehow, there be more scoring?

All of those and many other possibilities are interesting speculations. Time will tell, and it will be interesting as our international federation reckons through the meaning of the IOC vote and how it may or may not affect the look and feel of the game for the future.

The first contingent of our national team athletes arrive in Rio tomorrow. The World League 2 competition features six teams with the top two progressing to World League Round 3. Competition gets underway for the men on February 27 and the women on March 4.

Last week we announced a four year sponsorship with AstroTurf, a great company committed to growing the sport with us and we look forward to working with AstroTurf on a number of fronts in coming weeks and months. 

Nominees for the USA Field Hockey Ethics and Judicial Committees Several weeks ago in this report a solicitation was made to members who may be interested in being considered as a member of the USA Field Hockey Ethics Committee or Judicial Committee. This upcoming Friday is the deadline for the receipt of interest. If you have an interest, please send the indication of your interest with a resume to Alva Serrette (acoghockey@aol.com), chair of the USA Field Hockey Nominating Committee. The nominating committee will screen the candidates and recommend viable candidates to the USAFH Board of Directors for further consideration. Again, the deadline for the receipt of interest will be Friday, February 22, 2013.

Late Night with Jimmy Fallon: “A college student in Pennsylvania is suing her school for the C+ she got in English class. She said, “I'm suing whoever's responsible for this!” And her professor said, “Don't you mean WHOMEVER?”

Have a great week!

Steve Locke
Executive Director

USA Field Hockey