Offseason adventure in London brings Field Hockey closer together

Photo Courtesy Drew Abbott

By Brett Johnson | Herald Reporter

A few days after the conclusion of the 2017 spring semester, the Roger Williams University field hockey team departed for London to partake in a week-long European adventure.

The team traveled to the United Kingdom and was able to learn about and experience firsthand international play.

“Being able to not only travel and see other countries was incredible, but to play a sport I love with people that are like family to me was something unimaginable,” said junior Nicolle Doucette.

Like lacrosse, the earliest form of field hockey is believed to have ancient roots. The modern version of field hockey, however, appeared in the mid-1800s. Cricket players were looking for an offseason game to play, so they modified soccer by adding sticks, a hard rubber ball and safer rules. The first team was established in 1861 and the first club was developed a decade later near London.

Originally a men’s sport, a women’s organization was established in the 1890s. While there still are men’s field hockey leagues and international competitions, the women’s game reigns supreme, especially in the United States.

The team left for London on May 23 and landed early the next morning. Across the pond, the team went sightseeing in London and Liverpool. For the first few days, they stayed in London and took a bus to Liverpool where they finished the trip. During their exploration time, they were led by their tour guide who taught them about British culture. The team reached the top of one of the most iconic tourist exhibits, the London Eye, and took a picture.

Of course, the team also did some playing while in the country of the sport’s origin. While staying in Liverpool during the second half of the trip, they traveled to Wales to play against a Welsh club team whose youngest players were 14 years old.

In the first few days, they participated in a special two-hour practice led by an international-level head coach from London.

“He provided us with different tips and techniques on our play because he had an outsider perspective,” said junior Callie Chase.

“He taught me so many things that really benefited the way I play and think about the sport,” Doucette said.

The coach then took over for the RWU coaches in a full game against a London medical university team.

Doucette noticed that a major difference between European and American play was the age that girls start playing the sport, which influences their experience and performance level. When American girls start playing sports when they are about five years old, they enter sports like soccer or tee ball. For British girls, they either start learning the game of soccer, cricket, or field hockey. American girls do not usually pick up the sport until late middle school or high school.

For Chase, Doucette, and sophomore Drew Abbott, their favorite part of the trip was having the opportunity to play at the Riverbank Arena in Olympic Park in London. This was the same field that hosted the 2012 summer Olympics. The Hawks were able to play on the same surface the American women did, saw the official USA Olympic jersey signed by the American athletes, and had their names displayed on the big screen.

In addition to a scenic and educational vacation, the team was able to turn this into a bonding experience. The 2016 season left these Hawks disappointed and unmotivated, but this trip helped turn the negative energy among the team into a more positive morale.

“We also gained a new attitude and bonded over the trip which has carried into the season,” Abbott said.

“I think the trip really brought us close as a team. We traveled to a different country together and relied on each other for everything,” Chase said. “We got to be tourists together and play the sport we love. We made those memories with each other and we’ll have them forever. It was just an overall great experience to be able to grow as a team.”

With only six games left in the regular season, the 4-7 Hawks are hoping to make a final push for a spot in the Commonwealth Coast Conference tournament. They are currently ranked fifth in the CCC standings with a 2-5 record.