U.S. field hockey looks to retain more top players

Jan 21 2011 - 5:18pm

COLORADO SPRINGS. Colo. -- The national governing body for field hockey wants to increase the retention of top-level players going into the 2012 Olympics, with hopes to raise athlete stipends, give education grants and help national team members land jobs with professional development chances.

Improving and maintaining "competitive excellence" at international tournaments is one of the primary objectives of USA Field Hockey in a strategic plan designed to propel the struggling Americans into "a position of prominence, innovation and influence" by 2020.

Colorado Springs-based USA Field Hockey, with $4.7 million in net assets and $720,733 in funding from the U.S. Olympic Committee in 2009, also expects to cultivate financial commitments for athlete support endowments and promote work opportunities through its 12 corporate sponsors, most notably ASICS, a leading manufacturer of running shoes.

Other priorities are to "provide world-class technical support," with assistance from high performance director Terry Walsh; to "attract, develop and retain the finest coaching staff available," starting with Lee Bodimeade in the women's ranks and Nick Conway on the men's side; and to create a high performance system that can withstand the test of time.

USA Field Hockey aspires to build two playing fields to be approved by the International Hockey Federation, with a sports medicine complex; strength and conditioning resources; nutrition, education and sport psychology services; locker rooms, film rooms and meeting spaces; and administrative offices. And it thinks it's capable of beginning more domestic events, taking on a larger international schedule and linking players with foreign clubs.

The 13-page strategic plan, announced last month by a 12-person board that's chaired by Jim Johnson following member surveys and town hall meetings, states there's "unlimited potential" for USA Field Hockey, however, it didn't ignore the "glaring need to mobilize all playing constituents of all disciplines" into competitive or recreational structures.

According to its latest income tax returns, USA Field Hockey spent $3 million in 2009 on national teams that are headquartered in Chula Vista, Calif., and it dished out $1.6 million on its "Futures" developmental program. Athlete stipends totaled $209,043, and the NGB had $24,180 in grassroots expenses and awarded $12,546 in scholarships to 70 players.

Still, the U.S. women, who are ranked 13th in the world, remain a ways off, having won one Olympic medal, a bronze in 1984, with one bronze at the World Cup, in 1994, along with four straight silvers at the Pan American Games. The 20th-ranked U.S. men hit the Olympic podium only in 1932, with a bronze, their greatest showing at the Pan American Games is a bronze, most recently in 1995, and they've never qualified for the World Cup.

Johnson envisions a brighter future, terming the strategic plan a "document legitimately identifying a path that will guide the organization. ... It is a living document and will be subject to annual review and adjustments as we move the organization forward."


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