USA Field Hockey NEWS Houston School Eager...

Houston School Eagerly Awaits Internationally Certified Turf

Oct. 05, 2020, 1:50 p.m. (ET)

On October 3, 2019, history was made in Texas as Miami University and Towson University met on neutral ground in the first-ever NCAA field hockey game in the Lone Star State. While the action unfolded at Saint John’s School in Houston, the surrounding crowd was a mix of sport enthusiasts, parents and young, excited field hockey aficionados.

The match also put the next step in motion for a movement that has been quietly rising around the city for the past several years: growing the game.

Just over one year since the historic matchup at Saint John’s, Episcopal High School in Bellaire, southwest of the Houston metro-area, is expected to unveil a field hockey-exclusive turf of their own that was spearheaded by parents and the school community. Previously, student-athletes held matches on one of the school’s grass fields which doubled (and tripled) as a home for soccer, lacrosse and football practices year-round.

Jason Grove, Episcopal High School’s Athletic Director, is one of many that can’t wait to see this long-term project open up more opportunities for the sport around the city, especially in an area where he has observed field hockey has grown in interest exponentially from the sidelines.

“This is my eighth year and I am originally from Central Pennsylvania,” said Grove. “Field hockey has always been important to me. My sisters played and I have been around the sport for a long time.”

Although the turf project is rather new in nature, Grove gave a lot of credit for the growth of the game in Texas to Tina Edmonds, Texas Pride Field Hockey Club’s Director.

“Tina Edmonds and I came in somewhere around the same time [to the Houston area],” continued Grove. “She was just able to make the sport explode through Texas Pride. She had athletes from around the city and extended areas from southeast Texas to San Antonio playing for her. She has done an excellent job in growing the sport.”

“Field hockey has grown tremendously over the past eight years throughout the city of Houston,” said T. Edmonds. “All of it can be attributed to the support of the schools and families throughout our community. Episcopal High School families have gone above and beyond to provide the best training surface possible for the players. Having an FIH certified water-based turf at Episcopal will make a huge impact on developing the sport further throughout the city and state for years to come.”

Tina’s sister, Shelly, is the current head varsity coach at Episcopal and has played an equally important role in the development of the game and her student-athletes.

"The enthusiasm for our EHS field hockey team has grown tremendously over the past six years," added S. Edmonds. "We have grown as a team each season, which has only added to the support for our program. Our Episcopal community takes our students interests to heart. If the students buy in, the parents buy in and support it. When it came time to decide on a field, our parents wanted to provide the best for our players. We are excited to utilize this field and all that it offers. By providing this space, we believe our athletes can not only compete at a higher level but see more high-level games. We also look forward to the opportunity of providing more high-level field hockey to the Houston community. It is a very exciting step for athletics at EHS as well as field hockey in Texas."

With the pair helping pave the way locally, the school was also ambitious to raise the bar for the sport themselves following the success of Saint John’s School and their turf field years ago.

“It got the point where the Episcopal field hockey community felt strongly about having a sport-specific field and committed to funding the project through donors and friends of the school who are passionate about girls’ sports,” noted Grove.

When the opportunity came to expand the school’s fields and facilities, parents in the Episcopal field hockey community, many of whom also connected with Texas Pride, banded together to help raise funds for an exclusive water-based turf field. But they didn’t stop there, as the group also wanted to go the extra mile and have the field internationally certified.

The school is currently waiting for the turf to arrive from overseas and estimate completion near the end of October, roughly one year since the historic NCAA game just 10 minutes northeast at Saint John’s School. In the meantime, Grove was happy to report that while the concerns surround the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic still linger, student-athletes, including field hockey, returned to practice in August and have been exercising extra caution and care as they practice in masks and take frequent water and sanitation breaks amid the ever present Houston heat and humidity.

As Grove added, the children have been restless not only to get back onto the field, but to welcome their new game changing turf. Combined with the efforts spurred by the Edmonds, the sport boasts a highly optimistic future in a state that once never heard of the game.

“We are eager to see the sport continue to blossom in Houston,” said Grove. “We are excited to potentially take the next step and host some type of international friendly match or series.”

"I am ecstatic that this great sport is growing, not just in players, coaches, umpires and fans, but in fields," said Chip Rogers, USA Field Hockey's Board of Directors Vice-Chair and Miami University Assistant Coach. "More fields leads to more opportunities, and more opportunities leads to more participation. It was a true honor for me to be a part of the first collegiate field hockey game in the state of Texas last year, and I'm excited to think that the construction of a new field might bring more colleges down to Houston, thus increasing the collaboration and expanding our hockey community."