It’s hard to deny the things people love about California: weather, hiking trails, produce, beaches, innovation, entertainment, sports teams. I could go on. While I am not from here, I do love this state, and one of the reasons I have called San Francisco home for the past nine years is the California field hockey community.
Across our vast geography, we have teams for all ages that speak multiple languages and represent countries around the world. While we definitely don’t have the most players per capita, we have high-performing talent. In fact, most of the men who represent the United States internationally are from the Golden State. Without a doubt, California’s diversity is what makes it special. Our blend of nationalities, ethnicities, genders and more make this vibrant community a place where we all have at least one thing in common: a sport we love.
I have had countless conversations over the past several years about how to organize all the pockets of incredible fi eld hockey communities across the state. We’ve brainstormed how to keep collegiate players engaged, let international transplants know they have a home, grow the game among players of different socioeconomic backgrounds, get more boys playing and convince public high schools to add the sport.
After years of talk, I was excited to learn that USA Field Hockey was planning a pilot program for State Chapters. In July 2019, I joined the regionalization committee to formulate a plan for local leadership and presented our recommendation at the California Field Hockey Symposium last December to a statewide group of advocates. We received incredibly helpful feedback and kicked off conversations for the California State Chapter in early 2020.
Our Strategic Plan
On April 28, 2020, the California State Chapter leadership team presented its strategic plan to USA Field Hockey’s National Development Director Sally Goggin and a few additional advisors. In addition to my role as State Chapter President, our core team includes Nicole Ng, Vice President; Jessica Hendricks, NorCal Regional Director; and Lindsay Coony, SoCal Regional Director.
We are committed to testing and learning throughout this pilot program and want to operate with a level of transparency that our peers have been craving. We developed our initial plan to prioritize building a large, representative volunteer base to drive community building and to stabilize declining USA Field Hockey Membership. We want to celebrate the diversity of our state and fi eld hockey community, and value innovation and creativity in achieving these goals.
Instead of establishing a set of committees around audiences like high school, umpires, adults, boys, etc., our plan focuses on four strategic areas during the initial six months of the pilot program.
- Quantify: Establish baseline numbers for measuring the pilot’s success through a ‘State of the State’ online survey. We need a clear understanding of the status quo to measure and track our success over time. Our hope is to give every member of this community a voice in the process to better prioritize our key initiatives. Following the results of the survey, we will form task forces roughly aligned with our strategic priorities.
- Communicate: Announce State Chapter and build credibility through transparent, consistent communication about progress against goals. Our first step is to launch the California State Chapter website and host a town hall Questions and Answer session about our strategic plan for interested community members. In the future, we will likely use an email newsletter to share regular updates.
- Activate: Build a representative volunteer base and empower them to be local ambassadors for the State Chapter mission and goals. The field hockey community in California provides a valuable support system and outlet for the physical and mental health of players, coaches, umpires parents and fans. Our leadership of this community is only as successful as the quality and commitment of our volunteers.
- Retain: Make membership valuable through development of programs to meet the specific needs of USA Field Hockey members living in California. Following the results of the‘State of the State’ survey, we plan to launch programs targeted specifically to early high school players and coaches that prioritize online learning and knowledge sharing.
The growth of field hockey participation in California has had its stops and starts. As we prepare to host the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 2028, we hope to capitalize on this moment to build greater interest throughout the state. Recent sport development highlights include:
- High School & Club: In the Bay Area, a new division in the South Bay has five high schools adding field hockey, just two years after the creation of Marin County Athletic League with seven teams. In Southern California, Ventura County has been incredibly successful producing players for the junior and senior men’s national teams.
- Collegiate: Seven universities have co-ed club teams competing in the Western Collegiate Field Hockey Conference. Unfortunately, there are only two remaining NCAA Division I programs at the University of California, Berkeley and University of California, Davis. Stanford University announced it will cut its program after the 2020 season and University of the Pacific ended its program in 2018.
- Adult: In 2019, The Olympic Club (San Francisco) won the United States Field Hockey League (USFHL) Women’s National Championship while San Jose Khalsa won second place in the men’s division for the second year in a row.
Despite the current challenges we face in public health and racial inequality, I’m proud of the way California’s field hockey community has stayed connected throughout our state’s strict shelter-in-place recommendations. Some of the highlights include:
- Players from Coastal Clash in San Diego have taken to the streets to sharpen their skills.
- WC Riptide in Los Angeles partnered with Uru Sports to run weekly sessions with Team USA athletes like Pat Harris and Ally Hammel, and other players from around the world.
- Fog City Field Hockey in San Francisco hosted a virtual Awards Dinner to celebrate their players, and continue to host weekly trivia nights to stay in touch.
- California’s members on the U.S. Women’s Masters National Team have spent the early hours of the weekend doing strength training and drills with their East Coast counterparts through Zoom.
- 79 Field Hockey in Temecula and San Francisco Youth Field Hockey Club provided virtual trainings throughout the spring and are now starting socially distanced trainings.
I would argue that the most disappointing sports cancellation this year was not the NBA Finals or the Boston Marathon, it was the California Cup (Cal Cup). As the longest running international field hockey tournament in the United States, Cal Cup brings our state’s field hockey community together with players from all over the world to celebrate Memorial Day weekend at Moorpark College. Next year, you’re invited. Whether you play in the middle school or masters division, we hope you’ll join us in sunny Southern California to experience this vibrant community for yourself.
For more information about the California State Chapter, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is featured in the Summer 2020 issue of FHLife Magazine. To read more inspiring, knowledge-packed and fun features revolving around hockey, fitness, healthy eating and how to strengthen your game, subscribe to our quarterly publication by clicking here.