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September 23, 1987 - Image 47

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1987-09-23

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Sticking to it: Potential stars practice all the right moves at Smith College sports co
A Bigger Game Than You Know
College women go world class in field hockey

ey is the steak tartare of sports:
not much to look at, but once
you're hooked, it's hard to give
up. "It's exciting and fast-mov-
ing," says the five-foot senior.
"It's a finesse game." Perhaps.
But it can be brutally physical
as well, and it is surely a test of
endurance. The game is played
in two 35-minute halves with
no timeouts and very limited
substitutions, meaning the 11
players on each side often run
up and down the field the entire
game. "You can't play field
hockey very well if you're car-
rying a few extra pounds," says
Judith Davidson, who last year
coached the Iowa Hawkeyes to
the NCAA crown.
Still, even at the top U.S.
field-hockey schools, the game
MICHAEL ZIDE has failed to attract much stu-
mp dent interest. "We're almost
nonexistent because the rate of
fans is so small," says Iowa's Bernadette
Demers, bemoaning the typical spectator
crowd of 200. Some players blame the
sport's lack of support on its low-scoring
nature (recent NCAA rule changes have
sped things up a bit in college competition).
Simple unfamiliarity is the more likely cul-
prit-after all, field hockey is no more low
scoring than soccer or ice hockey, the
games it most resembles.
But just as once obscure sports like vol-
leyball and water polo managed to win
over American fans, field hockey could be
on the verge of making it big. Certainly
the players are doing their part: on the
strength of a silver-medal performance in
the Pan American Games in August, the
U.S. national team-culled from the best
college players in the country-has proba-
bly guaranteed itself a spot among only
eight teams that will be invited to the
1988 Olympics. Maybe now sports-hungry
America will finally stop thinking of wom-
en's field hockey as that silly-looking
game played in kilts.
KATE ROBINS in Storrs, Conn., and
NANCY KLINGENER in Amherst, Mass.
AT 7 AruAUAVNTIPrvesrvu 1P(10_PAnuv

ention field hockey and most people
conjure up visions of blue-eyed prep-
school girls whacking away at each
other's shins with funny-looking hooked
sticks. True, up until the mid-'70s the
sport-in this country, anyway-was little
more than a convenient way for East Coast
phys-ed teachers to keep the girls busy on
autumn afternoons. But consider this: de-
spite indifference within the United States,
the game ranks just below soccer as the
most popular team sport in the world. And
in such macho places as Australia, West
Germany, Pakistan and India, the game is
} played more by men than women.
So why is it that in the United States, field
hockey gets no respect? Forget about the
men's game-even though it's been an
Olympic sport since 1908-it's easier to get
an American college male to join the tiddly-
winks squad. Recently, however, things
have been looking up on the women's side.
Over the last decade colleges across the
country have produced players of world
class. Just four years after women's field
hockey was elevated to Olympic status in
1980, the U.S. women's team surprised the
world-and certainly their own country-
by grabbing a bronze medal at Los Angeles.
The Americans hope to do even better next
year in Seoul.
Amateur athletes in America are accus-
tomed to austere conditions, but the U.S.
Beyond preppy: Iowa's NCAA champs

college players fighting for a spot on the
Olympic team bring a new meaning to striv-
ing on a shoestring. Though schools such as
the universities of Massachusetts, Iowa and
Connecticut recruit women players with
footballlike scholarship programs, the sim-
ilarity to more popular campus sports ends
there. The UMass team, ranked number
five nationally last year, usually travels in
vans instead of buses and returns from long
trips the same night to avoid hotel costs. At
the University of the Pacific in Stockton,
Calif., the field-hockey team virtually sup-
ports itself by holding raffles and selling
souvenir sunshades. The team considered it
a windfall when the volleyball team donat-
ed some old uniforms.
What the players lack in perks, however,
they make up for in determination-and
enjoyment. To hear such Olympic hopefuls
as UConn's Tracey Fuchs tell it, field hock-

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