The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) has partnered with USA Field Hockey in a collaborative effort to sustain and grow the number of high school field hockey participants.
The NFHS and USA Field Hockey aim to accomplish their collective goal through improved promotion and development of field hockey, and by recruiting, supporting and retaining players, coaches and umpires. These methods to grow the sport will coincide with additional education for parents on the added benefits of student engagement and multi-sport participation. There will also be an emphasis on increased diversity and inclusion to make field hockey available and accessible across the country.
“The NFHS is extremely excited about partnering with USA Field Hockey to grow participation in this great game. During these very challenging times, we hope that schools promote as much good news like this as possible,” said NFHS Executive Director Karissa Niehoff. “There’s so much to gain for students and adults alike by engaging in activities such as field hockey. As a former player at the high school and collegiate levels, and as a high school coach, I can say with confidence that field hockey offers participants the opportunity to learn a sport that is uniquely elegant, exciting and team-oriented. The field hockey community at large welcomes everyone and focuses on the positive experience for all young people who participate.”
The partnership between the NFHS and USA Field Hockey includes plans to establish an advocacy group that drives opportunities to support, sustain and grow high school field hockey and increase and improve stakeholder engagement. In addition to recruitment, education and professional development for coaches and umpires, the partnership will feature developmental tools and resources for players, parents and administrators in schools and clubs.
The two groups also plan to distribute information that will better assist in the development and strengthening of grass-roots programs, and manage the transition of student-athletes between youth, middle school, high school, collegiate and lifetime engagement in sport. As part of that goal, the partnership will utilize the USA Field Hockey American Development Model (ADM).
Other areas to be addressed as part of the partnership include:
Establishment of an annual Summit targeted toward high school coaches, umpires, administrators and student leaders.
Development of a Junior Coaching and Umpiring Certification Program to equip student leaders for personal development and lifetime engagement in sport, providing tools to enable young leaders to contribute positively to grass-roots growth in their communities.
Awards and recognition for adult and student leaders.
Continued participation in NFHS Rules/Liaisons meetings.
Development of school/conference ‘starter’ tool kits, ideally supported by grants for schools in need.
Aligned communication around partnership and shared programs and events.
“Sport at the high school level is so important to the athletic and personal development of young people,” said Simon Hoskins, USA Field Hockey executive director. “The Olympic sport of field hockey is a key component of many high school programs and we look forward to working in partnership with the NFHS to offer more students the wonderful values that our sport provides including leadership, teamwork, self-confidence, composure, work ethic, respect, healthfulness, humility and more.”
Field hockey experienced a five-year high of 61,036 combined participants in 2018-19, according to the NFHS High School Athletics Participation Survey. Of those, 60,824 were girls competing in nearly 1,800 schools.
“Field hockey presents an important opportunity for high schools to attract many girls to sport, leveling the playing field in terms of gender equity during the important fall season,” Niehoff said. “Being part of a team, exercising regularly and practicing important time management skills from the start of school can establish a sense of belonging and good habits that can be sustained throughout the year. Currently, almost half of the states do not offer any team field sports for girls in the fall. States in which both field hockey and soccer are offered during the fall season report increased female athletic participation and are closer to achieving gender equity.”
“High school sports play an important foundational role in the fabric of sport in America,” said Sally Goggin, USA Field Hockey’s national development director. “This partnership is important and timely, and we strive to be an example of teamwork and of the Olympic ideals in action. I feel fortunate to have picked up a stick as a freshman in high school, continued to play in college, and am passionate about helping others discover and excel in the game as players, coaches, umpires and fans.”
More information on the partnership, as well as how to support, sustain and grow high school field hockey in local communities, will be made available in the coming weeks.