Trailblazers. Legends. Olympians.
On Saturday evening, more than 250 individuals gathered for a night to remember at the USA Field Hockey 100th Anniversary and Hall of Fame Celebration. A night to honor the men and women, athletes, coaches, umpires, leaders, administrators, volunteers, families and friends, all who have dedicated so much to the association and our sport this past century.
Pam Stuper, USA Field Hockey Foundation Executive Director, served as the emcee for the program and she started by Honoring the Past.
The United States Field Hockey Association (USFHA) officially formed in 1922. The evening was a celebration of the past, from our humble beginnings to present day. Constance Applebee, also known as “The Apple,” brought the game to the United States and began governance of women’s field hockey. Six years later in 1928, the Field Hockey Association of American (FHAA) was founded to govern men’s field hockey. In April 1993, the USFHA and FHAA merged to form the United States Field Hockey Association, later renamed USA Field Hockey.
The saying, “it takes a village,” may be cliché, but it is true for USA Field Hockey. The past 100 years would not have been possible without the strategic thinkers in governance, and the selfless volunteers who dedicated their time and the efforts throughout the years.
Grateful for the Present
The energy in the room was palpable. So many field hockey legends were in attendance. A highlight of the evening was a special video that compiled images and clips from the past and showcased how the sport has evolved to where it is today.
The first speaker, Charlene Morett-Curtiss, two-time Olympian who played in more than 100 international matches and is the current Penn State University Head Coach, took the stage. She explained how our sport has grown to where it is today. How it took passion and perseverance. Humble beginnings with crooked sticks and long grass fields, to changed rules, better uniforms, and pristine pitches.
Next, Steve Jennings, vice-captain of the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games, 1994 Pan American Games bronze medalist and current American University Head Coach, talked about the ambassadors of the game, and why they need to be celebrated when speaking of our organization’s history.
Simon Hoskins, USA Field Hockey’s Executive Director, rose to recognize the 2021 USA Field Hockey Annual Award Winners. Stanford Field Hockey Team, Alumni, Family and Friends took home the 2021 Grow the Game Award. Alison Smith accepted the award for the countless Stanford individuals who persevered under the pandemic knowing their program had been cut. The countless letters and calls sent to the administration. The many other individuals who pledged to force the reinstatement of a west coast program that has a rich history of excellence.
Jill Cosse won the 2021 National Coach Award for her dedication to her craft. Her lengthy resume includes coaching at the high school, club and college levels. She first became a field hockey coach in the fall of 1995, and still coaches today. She coached for two years at Kean University before becoming the head coach at West Essex High School in North Caldwell, N.J., a position she still holds. In the summer of 2020, Cosse and her husband started the club NJ GRIT. Since its inception the team has attended a handful of prestigious events. Prior to starting NJ GRIT, she was also the co-owner, director and coach of New Heights Field Hockey Club from 2002 to 2017.
Mallory Federoff was honored with the 2021 National Umpire Award. She grew up in Middleburg, Pa., where she started playing field hockey in the fourth grade. She played throughout high school, even earning spot on the U.S. U-16 and U-19 Women’s National Teams. She went on to play collegiately at Penn State University from 2004 to 2007, and in her final season helped lead the Nittany Lions to a NCAA Runner-Up finish, while also earning All-America honors. Federoff began her umpiring journey in 2016, as a way to stay involved and current within the collegiate game. Since then, she has developed a lengthy umpiring resume, which includes high school, college and international appointments.
Gateway Field Hockey clinched the 2021 Club of the Year Award. Founded in 1985 in St. Louis by Kelly Yates, Gateway started as a summer camp program that traveled around the Midwest and Southwest. More than three decades later, the club has transformed into one of the oldest and largest in the United States. Gateway is also still family owned and operated by Kelly and her daughter Kate Graft, who serves as assistant owner and director. The pair have worked together over the past 12 years hosting programs for athletes from 3 to 18 years old, and assisting more than 400 athletes reach their dreams of playing competitive field hockey.
Jeanne O’Brien rightfully earned the 2021 Humanitarian Award. A selfless act in 2019, along with many other unrecorded doings, led to her recognition. At a Regional Event, it was raining. An athlete who wore a hearing aid couldn’t wear her device. During one game, an umpire blew a loud whistle and yelled at the athlete for not hearing it or stopping. The athlete got upset, came off the field crying and felt attacked. Jeanne took the time to calm the athlete down and settle the situation. She helped her advocate for herself by approaching the umpire and explaining her situation and established a process of letting the officials know of her hearing loss before each game. Without Jeanne’s guidance this athlete might have stopped playing the sport.
The program then took time to honor long legacies of USA Field Hockey and the sport. If you look at all the people who have been involved, it would take an entire day to recognize everyone. A few key, notable individuals were mentioned. First was Tom Harris, known as the Godfather of field hockey, who has contributed greatly to the men’s game. He founded the California Cup in 1972, and this past May it celebrated its 50th anniversary.
Next the iconic Golden Girls were recognized for being pioneers, legends and friends of USA Field Hockey. Tracey Fuchs tuned in to give a tribute to the Golden Girls, a group of women who have followed the U.S. Women’s National Team all over the world and helped pave the way for countless athletes.
Pam then celebrated the lives and careers of two of the Golden Girls: Betty “Shelly” Shellenberger and Grace Robertson.
Betty “Shelly” Shellenberger was a national team athlete, national umpire, officer of USA Field Hockey and its first executive secretary for more than 23 years. She was an officer of the International Federation of Women’s Hockey Association and a member of the International Hockey Federation’s Rules Board. Shelly passed away in 2019 and fellow Golden Girl Grace Robertson spent the next year planning a Celebration of Life Service, where she would announce a gift in Shelly’s name to USA Field Hockey. The Golden Girls and Grace’s good friends knew what she had in mind and the legacy Grace wanted to leave in Shelly’s name.
Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, the service was postponed indefinitely. During that time, Grace sadly suffered a fall. In and out of the hospital and rehabilitation facilities, she spent the last year of her life with that one goal still in mind. Shelly and Grace were trailblazers of USA Field Hockey. Their love for the U.S. Women’s National Team and the organization was unmatched. The two of them, along with the rest of the Golden Girls, supported and cheered on the USWNT, served in various roles within the organization and committed their lives to the game.
Patrick Durbin, USA Field Hockey Foundation Chair, presented Simon Hoskins, USA Field Hockey’s Executive Director, with the special gift – The Shelly Fund – to support all athletes of the U.S. Women’s National Team.
The 2022 Hall of Fame Inductees and Honorary Members were unanimously named. First honored was Honorary Member Barbara Longstreth. In 1977, she met Mohinder Gill, a student from India, and agreed to sell his sticks when traveling with her field hockey team. Barbara began selling out of the trunk of her car and despite humble beginnings, the institution that became Longstreth Women’s Sports was born.
The second Honorary Member recognized was Aaron Sher. He held numerous board positions within the Pan American Hockey Federation (PAHF) and International Hockey Federation (FIH) throughout the years and even earned the FIH Presidents Award in 1996 and Order of Merit from the FIH in 2010 and PAHF in 2015, for his distinguished service and exceptional contribution and achievements. Within the Olympic movement, he served as the Hockey Competition Director at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games, as well as the Consultant and Officials Coordinator of the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games.
The program moved on to honor the three 2022 Hall of Fame Inductees. First was Larry Amar, recognized posthumously, with his wife Abbey and children, Riley and Eli, accepting his award. Larry represented the United States as an athlete and a member of the U.S. Army. An Atlanta 1996 Olympian, he was part of the men’s program from 1987-99 and competed in more than 200 international matches. He served as captain of Team USA in Atlanta and was a two-time recipient of the USA Field Hockey Athlete of the Year Award in 1994 and 1995. Following his playing days, Larry was a member of the U.S. Army for six years. He started a journey in coaching in 2009 where he served as an assistant coach at Kent State University until 2018. In February 2019, he became the USWNT assistant coach and later transitioned to U.S. National Teams Manager, where he worked with both the USWNT and USMNT.
The next Hall of Fame Inductee was Rachel Dawson. One of the most accomplished athletes in the history of the USWNT, Rachel is a three-time Olympian who earned 298 caps for Team USA. Along with her incredible success during her storied career, she was named 2008 Olympic Qualifier Player of the Tournament, where the squad qualified for the Olympic Games for the first time in 20 years. She was named to the Pan American Elite Team in 2009 and 2011, when Team USA earned a gold medal at the Pan American Games for the first time in history, and directly qualified for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
The final Hall of Fame Inductee was Lauren Crandall Liska. A three-time Olympian of Team USA, she is undoubtedly one of the most accomplished athletes of her era. She served as captain from 2012 to 2016, including at the London 2012 Olympic Games, 2014 World Cup and Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Lauren led the team from a 12th place finish in London to being ranked 5th in the world and 5th place finish in Rio. An international defensive powerhouse, she retired after a 12-year career with 279 international caps.
The evening ended with Pam making it clear that the organization is Excited for the Future and how we can grow the sport and build upon the already established strong foundation.
USA Field Hockey would like to thank the U.S. Field Hockey Foundation for their unwavering support and effort in the centennial celebration. Another thank you goes to The Union League of Philadelphia for hosting this memorable night and the countless volunteers who worked tirelessly behind the scenes.
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Facebook Live Video Courtesy of Temple Athletics