Native Iowans normally not on field hockey roster


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Iowa’s field-hockey team has always been known to have a sense of diversity. Players come from all over to play for the Black and Gold.

Everywhere except Iowa, that is.

That doesn’t surprise any one of the 21 athletes on the current roster. The state of Iowa doesn’t have a single field-hockey team at the high-school level — at least not anymore. Some squads existed in the 1960s and ’70s before the state made a push for prep volleyball.

That caused the sport to be dropped from the system, and it eventually slipped out of the physical-education curriculum as well.

“[It was] way before I played field hockey,” Iowa head coach Tracey Griesbaum said. “If I had anything to do with it, I would definitely want it to be different.”

Griesbaum knew about the state’s lack of prep athletes in the sport when she became the head coach 13 years ago. But, she said, it didn’t bother her.

What may have looked like a possible recruiting issue hasn’t been one. As a graduate of West Chester, Pa., Griesbaum naturally looks to the East for new recruits. And it shows: Seven women on the roster are from New Jersey, four from Pennsylvania, and one each from Delaware, Virginia, and Maryland.

Griesbaum said the diversity of her roster is a unique way of keeping the sport in the Midwest growing and remaining strong.

“We don’t discriminate. We’ll go anywhere to see anyone,” she said. “There are key hallmark recruiting events that happen three or four times a year. Players from all over the country come there.”

Griesbaum said a huge part of recruiting her players are those events, which attract the best players in the nation. That’s where she and her coaching staff can get a good look at the players, rather than approaching them at their high schools.

With majority of her athletes coming from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, it’s easy to see where the sport is prominent among high-school athletes. It was originally created as a British sport and came over to America in 1901. Constance Applebee, an English scholar, introduced it to some of her classmates while taking a summer class at Harvard.

“It is kind of a regional sport, I would say,” said Kelsey Mitchell, a native of Berlin, N.J. “There are a lot more [high-school] teams on the East Coast.”

There’s evidence on the college level showing that some of the Eastern prep field hockey athletes stay at home. The NCAA field-hockey tournament has seen an Eastern school take home the national title in all but two years since 1981. The two to break the trend? Michigan (2001) and Iowa (1986).

But there’s still hope for the sport to prosper here in the Midwest. Sarah Drake, a native of Ann Arbor, Mich., played high-school field hockey right next to the University of Michigan.

Drake is also more evidence that the sport isn’t one to create headlines in the Midwest. She said that, even from a town that boasts a college field-hockey power, there aren’t a lot of teams in the area.

And just like her coach, she doesn’t see a problem.

“When I came here, I really didn’t think about it until I saw that I was the closest person from home,” Drake said. “But it’s nice. I like the diversity.”

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