Saturday, January 31, 2015

The 84 Year Old Woman and the 86 Year Old Man Who Played Field Hockey

The story of the couple who continued to play field hockey into their mid-eighties is exceptional. They were a regular in the social division at the California Cup.  

To paraphrase an old saying:  "The family that PLAYS together, stays together."

They found a lifelong passion that they enjoyed their entire lives.I think it is nice when a person can discover a passion that keeps them happy and healthy.  For a couple to share, this is joyful.

They are not the only couple who shared a passion for a common interest for a lifetime.  Some couples like stamp collecting or watching television, neither of which seem to have heart pumping cardiovascular benefits.  Two and more people sharing fun, physical activities with health benefits is something this couple enjoyed.  

There are other couples who have a bond with the sport as an adhesive.  I know several couples, Miki and Garrett for example,who met while playing.   They continue to play and their sons already know how to handle a stick and ball.  Other couples, such as Scotty and Anita, met because of their common sport and still others found a spouse who enjoys a partner who is passionate about field hockey and healthy due to the exercise. Playing field hockey has benefits that can last a lifetime.

How is it, though, that there seems to be a lack of balance between the percentage of men and women who began playing at a young age and continue to be active as adults?  Why do a greater percentage of men than women continue to seek the joy and benefits of field hockey after age 22? 

Years ago the governing bodies for field hockey inflated the number of participants who played the sport.  The men suggested a thousand males played.  The women said two hundred thousand women.  Neither number was a reflection of reality.
The total number of men has never been more that several hundred and counting only those women who played on middle school, high school, club, and college teams the number was probably closer to 25,000.

So, twenty years ago it would be realistic to say for there was one man playing for every thousand women.  

Move ahead in time to last years Masters World Cup in Holland.The USA entered an OVER 40 team in the Men and Women divisions.  Those who participated had been players counted many years ago.  In 2014 both USA teams had full rosters.  How many of the 25,000 women who played twenty years ago inquired about trying out for the OVER 40 squad?  How many of the 250 men playing twenty years ago tried out? A large number of  men too young to qualify inquired if they might be permitted to play on the Over 40 team. There were 99 men Over 40 years of age,  52 of whom were Over 50, who expressed a desire to participate.   That the USA OVER 40 men fielded a complete team seems to indicate that nearly 40 percent of men continue to play into their 40s and beyond.  

Did you know that very few women maintain their membership with USA Field Hockey beyond high school? As soon as they play in that last Hockey Festival, they don't bother renewing their membership.  If they play in college, they have no place to play after college because they have already taken themselves out of the informational loop.  
They don't read FH Life magazine,because they don't get it in the mail.  They cut themselves off from something that was a big part of their lives, unaware they were not only disconnecting from hockey, but actually perpetuating a sad cliche. By not staying as members, they were making a statement that the National Governing Body of field hockey hears loud and clear: women don't want to play field hockey after the age of 22. These same women generally stopped paying dues at age 18.  This action helps create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I believe that one reason men continue to be active in the sport is they they maintain their memberships with USA Field Hockey and stay in the loop.  As current members, they heard that a USA Over 40 team was being selected. They contacted others who play, coach, umpire, and work to spread love of the sport.The benefits of having field hockey in their lives benefits them now; as it did twenty, thirty, forty years ago.  

Field hockey can give you joy and health and adventure that lasts a lifetime.  I did not expect this blog to do more than point out that men seem to stay in the sport at a higher percentage than women.

In writing this I see a few more things more clearly than before.One is that if the goal of participating in field hockey is only a means of getting into college, it makes perfect sense that one no longer needs the sport after that goal is attained.  

Males don't have the opportunity for college field hockey scholarships, so there is no confusion about why they continue to stay with the sport.  Perhaps men discover something in the sport that fills a lifetime need. Whatever the reason, the small number of men continue to stay connected to the sport and find a way to remain involved.

I believe women feel exactly the same as men about this sport.
It is just the mental pattern of stopping their membership to USA Field Hockey that has consequences they never realized.  If everyone, male or female, who found an ounce of joy or a grain of health benefit in the sport of field hockey could pool their passion there would be more than enough field hockey to go around for everyone.  How much does it cost to stay connected to a passion?

Simple answer: That 84 year old woman and that 86 year old man smiled all their lives.  They were members for life.  Not much of a surprise, is it?   Not much of a cost, considering the consequences of a healthy adventure.

Each year thousands of USA Field Hockey members, graduating high school girls, vanish from the rolls.  Think for a moment if these players found that by staying as members their membership could underwrite adult field hockey?  

This is the part I did not expect to add:
Become a lifelong member of USA Field Hockey.

Play hockey with friends and you'll never have to pay to jog on a treadmill.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

At What Age Should Girls Retire From Playing Field Hockey?

What is the proper age at which women should retire from field hockey? Is it 65 or 62?  It hardly seems necessary to suggest a retirement age for women, as the vast majority seem to reach that decision on their own by age 22, if not sooner.

Men who play the sport seem to have failed to buy into the field hockey retirement concept.

Is it a perceptual thing or do boys who play field hockey tend to stay with the sport way after age 22?  Have you noticed that a very high percentage of the boys who pick up a stick at an early age continue to not only continue to play in their thirties, forties, and fifties, and beyond; they also coach, umpire, and generally stay healthy their entire lives?  Being active in the sport seems to be their passion.

How is it these guys find a way to continue to stay active?  What are the reasons people stop playing field hockey?  Wouldn't those same reasons cause boys to put their sticks in the back of the closet?

What percentage of boys holding a field hockey stick at age sixteen will still hold a stick at age forty? It turns out that close to 40% of males continue to play into their 40s and beyond.  How many of the thousands of girls put their stick down when they graduate from high school? How many continue to play after college?

Perhaps it only seems this way.  Maybe the percentage of guys playing beyond age 22 is an illusion.
It probably isn't.  Possibly the fact that males have to struggle to find a way into the sport in the USA teaches them about tenacity.  When you have to overcome obstacles to get something you are less likely to just let go of your grip.  In the United States boys playing field hockey teaches life lessons.  

Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of amazing women who play, coach, umpire long after age 22, but more could stay in the sport than do.  The percentage of those who will never pick up a stick or blow a whistle is sad.  It is a loss for the sport and a loss of the personal value of play in an individuals life. 

How is it that some families and some individuals find the passion to continue doing what they love? For some people, men and women alike, there is value in not ever retiring. You retire from a job, not from a passion.

Join USA Field Hockey and spread the game, share the fun of social hockey, competitive hockey,
umpiring, coaching, organizing, and running around a field waving a curved stick.  Do you know that
when you play hockey for an hour, whether your are playing indoor or outdoors, you don't have to look to see how far you have gone on a treadmill? The miles turn out to be about the same, just a lot less boring.  Imagine how much money you could save if you didn't have to pay for gym or yoga sessions? 

You don't have to be a girl to play field hockey.  You don't have to be a man to play field hockey after age 22.  Play hockey for life and you will have a happy healthy life.

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