Boys take to field hockey

Elk Lake senior Dakotah Sherman is one of five boys who currently play under head coach Heidi Woodruff. STAFF PHOTO/JOHN LUND

Elk Lake senior Dakotah Sherman is one of five boys who currently play under head coach Heidi Woodruff. STAFF PHOTO/JOHN LUND

BY JOHN LUND

The presence of boys in a female-dominated sport sometimes does not sit well with parents or fans.

Such was the case of James and Mary Grenen, lawyers in Pittsburgh who sought last year to have a 1975 case re-opened after seeing what occurred in high school field hockey games involving their daughters.

Elk Lake head field hockey coach Heidi Woodruff also has heard the chatter at many levels as she has had at least two boys on her team for all seven years that she’s been coach, and supports the decision for boys to play in what is mostly viewed as a sport for girls.

“I think boys should be allowed to play field hockey in high school,” Woodruff said. “They can go to another sport but a lot of kids love field hockey. It teaches teamwork and discipline and I’d love to see there be more program development and growth.”

Woodruff says that fielding boys on her team stems from word of mouth and not from any special recruiting.

“It comes from siblings and relatives more than anything,” Woodruff said.
“A player might grow up playing field hockey with his sisters or they might catch a game at school. My administration supports me with the decision to have boys on our team, and not every school has that.”

Some also argue that increased numbers of boys on girls’ teams has skewed competitive balance and raised safety issues.

Woodruff, however, said she has yet to run into these problems.

“Parents typically feel that boys will be faster and stronger,” Woodruff said. “But girls tend to have better stick work so in a way it evens out. I’ve had a lot of powerful girls that have been in the program so I think experience and skill is a bigger part than gender.”

Elk Lake currently fields five boys on its team this season, and is one of the few schools in the Wyoming Valley Conference who have boys on the roster.

Unfortunately, the NCAA does not field a men’s field hockey, which can limit the development of athletes interested in playing after high school.

“The unfortunate thing in field hockey is that our men’s Olympic team is hurt because boys don’t usually play in high school,” Woodruff said. “If you look at great athletes, it starts from day one, and we don’t really have that. Players can try out for the men’s national team, but there’s no college ball.”

Woodruff hopes to see continued growth for boys across field hockey across high school and the college level to increase the opportunities for male players and the sport.