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No more bullies: field hockey’s co-ed future

September 27, 2011 – 8:02 AM

By Laura Pappano

When my 6th grade son announced he was “following in the family tradition” and joined the school field hockey team, I was surprised. Turns out, he’s not alone, but is one of four boys on the team in a sport trying to grow it’s male following.

Last spring as part of USA Field Hockey’s developmental outreach, Cristopher Maloney, former player and umpire at high school, collegiate and national levels, started the Tiger Field Hockey Club in Princeton, NJ, to teach the game to girls and boys, aged 7-14. (He’s also the author of How to Umpire Field Hockey and is the editor for rules questions on the USA Field Hockey site.)

Even as Maloney puts girls and boys on the field together, the idea remains controversial — this fall a boy at Hillsborough High School was barred from playing on the school’s team.

Maloney, however, is determined to share the game, and many agree. In fact, parents with children in his once-a-week skill session, don’t understand the fuss. “I don’t see why there should be a problem as long as everyone follows the rules,” says Lori Fontana-South, whose daughters Shelby and Francesca both play. “My daughters aren’t afraid to play against boys.”

I spoke with Maloney about what male players mean to the sport in the U.S.


FGN:You have a coed program. What do you notice about girls and boys playing together?

CM: Firstly, there was no expression of, ‘That’s a girl’ or “That’s a boy.’ It wasn’t even on the radar. By the end of last season the only thing I noticed was that the guys learned a lot from the girls, because many of the girls were actually field hockey players [who played on school teams] and had played for a while. The boys got to copy the girls. The girls on the other hand, were playing against boys, and I think they left with more self-confidence because they had played against the boys.


FGN: Many people object to letting boys play on field hockey teams. Some worry boys will “overpower” the girl’s game. Do you see this?

CM: Are the boys so much better than the girls? Most of my experience with the boys and the girls is that the girls know what they are doing and the boy’s don’t have a clue. They don’t walk on and know how to play field hockey and take away positions. They are not that good. In fact, I know there are a lot of field hockey programs that go away because they don’t have enough players. All the arguments I’ve heard against it [letting boys and girls play together] don’t wash. “Oh the boys are bigger and stronger.” OK, but so is that girl over there – and that girl.


FGN: Others argue that it’s dangerous for males and female to play together…

CM: One of the brilliant things about field hockey is that players of all statures can be successful. The sport has a very unique set of rules that doesn’t allow for contact. If you make contact you are fouling. There is an awful lot that limits the contribution to the game that size and strength and speed might bring. Speed is an important variable, but you can be fast and not a very good dribbler. The overall point is that there are all these gender differences, but in the end, what are you evaluating? What does it matter if you can hit the ball 80 miles per hour but you can’t play?


FGN: You are working to create more opportunities for boys to play the sport. What obstacles do they encounter?

CM: People create all these subversive rules, like you have to wear a kilt. In fact, not everyone wears a kilt and a lot of teams have switched to shorts, but sometimes boys who want to play are made to wear a kilt. This is very prevalent and it’s disgusting. It’s an invention created to try to discriminate against one gender.


FGN: You recently discovered that a tournament you wanted to play in would not allow your players to participate.

CM: This fall, I have about 20 kids and I was hoping to play against other teams. I was starting to plan for us to participate in a tournament, but was told we were not allowed to come because we have boys. So I’m organizing a tournament here Nov. 12.


FGN: Where do you see the game headed?

CM: More and more boys are getting interested. USA Field Hockey is more aggressive about making more programs that are coed. Every sport in America that’s popular is popular with boys and girls – like soccer. I am all about field hockey. I am not about this gender field hockey, or that gender field hockey. But I know if field hockey is more popular with boys, it will be more popular with girls.


Tiger Field Hockey Club practice





  1. One Response to “No more bullies: field hockey’s co-ed future”

  2. Be thankful your State or States have field hockey clubs/ private teams,In the Mid-West almost no boys play for a field hockey club, only girls play field hockey because of tradition and state law, California and the East Coast allow boys to play, because they have people and money, I hope more people in the USA play field hockey.
    Also the USAFA could care less about Boys/ Co-ed teams, because the funds go to School and Clubs.

    By Eric on Feb 9, 2012

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