US Field Hockey Thrives On Free Education And Scholarships Boost

US Field Hockey Thrives On Free Education And Scholarships Boost

In the absence of a professional structure, US field hockey players find motivation in the prospect of free college education and scholarships.

PTIUpdated: Thursday, January 18, 2024, 08:38 PM IST
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US Field Hockey Thrives On Free Education And Scholarships Boost | Representational Pic

It's not everyday that one hears an American athlete complain about the lack of a professional set-up back home but that's the reality for the US hockey players who are driven to take up the sport primarily for free college education.

Unlike India where crores are showered on the players for major achievements at the international level, besides the presence of a robust league and good infrastructure, hockey is not even a professional sport in the US.

All it offers to its practitioners there is the incentive of scholarships in college. Little wonder then that the US women's team, competing in the ongoing FIH Olympic Qualifiers here, has a mechanical engineer from no less than the Stanford University in its ranks -- the player in question being goalkeeper Kesley Bing.

"Our hockey culture is in the US in not that great. We have a collegiate system. We play for our colleges. There is no professional structure post collegiate. But we are certainly trying to grow our hockey culture," captain Amanda Golini told PTI in an exclusive chat here.

"For a lot of our athletes, it is important to identify things that we can do professionally and think about life outside of hockey. Some girls work in social media management, our goalkeeper is an aerospace engineer," she said with obvious pride.

"The collegiate system offers us scholarships which helps us to get free education and it helps us to shape our career after sports," she added.

The team is currently ranked 15th in the world. It has been on a roll in the ongoing event, remaining unbeaten in the pool stage.

The US women's hockey team has appeared in six Olympic Games with its best result coming in the first appearance in 1984 at home where it clinched the bronze medal.

In World Cups, the US women have played nine times since 1983 and won the bronze in the 1994 edition in Ireland.

USA head coach David Passmore said he wants to see a professional club culture complement the centralised system to develop the sport in the country.

"I arrived just 15 months ago when we had just 9 athletes, six outfield players and three goalies but come this May, we have 24.

"There is no club culture, when you finish college 21 or 22 there is no platform to play hockey. You need to play for the national team or you are finished. I couldn't believe it when I first came here from Europe, where there is a rich hockey culture," he said.

Passmore also lamented the fact that very few teams tour US, leaving his team the arduous task of living out of the suitcase to stay abreast with latest competition.

"In here, when they are younger the motivation is to get scholarships and free education which is probably in million dollars," he explained.

"...the colleges have all the facilities, like three full-time coaches but that's not enough, so that's why we have the centralised programme. Our athletes are part-time, they live in one location but they have to work as well.

"Not many teams come and visit us to play. So we have to travel out. We have been in India for seven weeks now. After the end of this tournament in 11, days we play Holland (in Pro League)," Passmore added.

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