Field Hockey Letting Kids “Be More” in B’More

By Jenna Ortega, USA Field Hockey’s Senior Sport Development Coordinator

 Photo by USA Field Hockey

Photo by USA Field Hockey

“I WILL. I will persevere. I will set my goals high. I will achieve my dreams. I will commit to quality. I will not make excuses. I will lead with honor and integrity. I will find my passion. I will soar!” These are the words that are plastered across the wall at the front entrance of the UA House at Fayette in Baltimore, Md., as a reminder to all of those who walk through their doors to continue to set goals, soar high and seize opportunities. The UA House at Fayette, operated by the Living Classrooms Foundation, provides daily academic enrichment, health, sports and physical fitness education, and career development to more than 100 students from nearby public housing and low income East Baltimore City neighborhoods.

USA Field Hockey connected with the Living Classroom Foundation through The Aspen Institute’s Project Coordinator for Project Play: Baltimore, Andre Fountain. Project Play: Baltimore is a multiyear initiative, organized by The Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program and Under Armour, to increase the quality and quantity of sport offerings available to youth in East Baltimore. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance study in 2015, only 26% of Baltimore City high school males and 16% of Baltimore City high school females met the recommendation of 60 minutes of daily physical activity. The number of recreation centers in Baltimore City has dwindled since 1980, from 130 to 40+ centers in 2017. Project Play: Baltimore recognizes that Baltimore City youth need access to high-quality and affordable sport activities. To maximize effectiveness and create sustainable opportunities for youth to be active, the 2017 initiative is focused on a two-square mile area in East Baltimore. One of the facilities located within the two-square mile area is the 30,000-foot recreation center, the UA House at Fayette.

Since last fall, USA Field Hockey, the Living Classrooms Foundation and Project Play: Baltimore have worked together to arrange playing opportunities for Baltimore City youth. A 2018 calendar was created to provide field hockey offerings throughout the year. These offerings included a Learn to Play Clinic (March 2018), summer camp (June 2018), and a fall middle school league (fall 2018). With the start of spring sports and the coming together of the field hockey community for the inaugural USA Field Hockey Summit, presented by AstroTurf, in Baltimore, Md., March presented itself as the perfect time to introduce a Learn to Play Clinic to Baltimore City.

The clinic took place Wednesday, March 14 and consisted of two, one-hour sessions offered to the Living Classrooms Foundation’s students, and a two-hour session open to the public, ages 5 and up. Volunteer coaches were summoned from colleges, high schools, clubs, former national team players and some even came from overseas. The enthusiastic group of coaches included Carey Fetting-Smith, Laurel Francis, Krissy Johnson, Corey Lohr, Valerie Lohr, Cathy Miller, Jason Mulder, Jamie Nash, Katie Nearhouse, Isabelle Roux, Becky Stiles, Stefanie Vestal and Ian Wagge. Although the volunteers came from different areas of the field hockey community, they worked together seamlessly throughout all three sessions.

 Photo by USA Field Hockey

Photo by USA Field Hockey

The day of the clinic began with the sound of rapid footsteps and laughter echoing through the halls of the UA House at Fayette. Coaches looked back and forth at one another in anticipation of the energy and excitement that would shortly welcome itself onto the turf. Groups of children shuffled onto the turf minutes later, and the coaches were off! Shinguards were strapped over khakis and stuffed into an assortment of combat boots and gym shoes. Wide mouthguard grins flashed across the field as kids picked up field hockey sticks for the first time. The field was a scene of organized chaos with children running around left and right and playing small sided games in their designated areas. Laughter and high fives were exchanged between players and coaches throughout the event. Just like clockwork, at the end of each session, multiple kids would ask, “When are we going to play field hockey next?”

In a matter of four short hours, 120 kids in Baltimore City were exposed to field hockey, and most loved it. They got a taste of the game and were hungry for more! So, what is next? The Living Classrooms Foundation will offer a summer camp June 25-28 followed by a 4-6 week long fall middle school league. The league will consist of 1-2 practices and one competition per week, but is that enough? USA Field Hockey recognizes that a year-long plan is just the beginning of building sustainable growth in the area. Thanks to the generosity of Goal Sports, Baltimore and the Living Classrooms Foundation now have a beautiful set of regulation size field hockey goals for their camps and programs. Let the games begin!

Kevin McCloskey, Coordinator for Athletics and Events for the Living Classrooms Foundation, and Andre Fountain, Project Play: Baltimore, will continue to play a key role in creating field hockey opportunities for Baltimore City youth. Local players, coaches and universities, including the University of Maryland, Towson University and Stevenson University, have bought into the vision and excitement of providing sustainable field hockey playing opportunity to the area. They recognize and believe that field hockey has the opportunity to be more than just a sport in Baltimore City. It has the potential to be a child’s physical outlet, a safe place, a gateway to college, and a child’s “I WILL.”

“No single organization can do this alone. Only through teamwork can leaders and caregivers provide every child an opportunity to play,” states Project Play: Baltimore’s mission statement. With the help of local organizations and volunteers, field hockey has the chance to grow and flourish in Baltimore City as well as in other communities across the country. 

If you are interested in learning more about (or helping) our USA Field Hockey Baltimore Plays Field Hockey Project, please contact sportdevelopment@usafieldhockey.com.

USA Field Hockey

USA Field Hockey is the national governing body for field hockey in the United States and is based out of Colorado Springs, CO. The mission of USA Field Hockey is to grow the game, serve members, and succeed internationally. For more information, visit USAfieldhockey.com.

Project Play: Baltimore

Project Play: Baltimore is a multiyear initiative designed to help city stakeholders grow the quantity and quality of sport options available to local youth. It is the first model community initiative organized by the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program. Supported by Under Armour, it is a bold experiment designed to serve and inspire Baltimore’s communities.