Posted by Jean Parker on Feb 23 2006 at 04:00PM PST

History of Field Hockey
(from the US Field Hockey website)

Before the home run...
before the layup...
before the slap shot...there was a ball and a stick.

One of the oldest of competitive pastimes, the sport of field hockey dates back well before the  Ancient Olympic Games. Although the exact origin of the game remains unknown,  4,000-year-old drawings found in the tomb at Beni-Hasen in the Nile Valley of  Egypt depicted men playing the sport. Throughout the  following centuries,  variations of the game were played by a spectrum of cultures ranging from Greeks  and Romans to Ethiopians and Aztecs.

The modern  game of field  hockey evolved in England in the mid-19th century. The first mens  hockey club, Blackheath, was formed in 1849, and led to the establishment of the   Hockey Association in London in 1886. The British army introduced the game to  India and throughout the British colonies, leading to the first  International  competition in 1895.

Hockey first appeared on the   Olympic program at the 1908 London Games and again in 1920 at Antwerp. The sport  was again featured on the program at Amsterdam in 1928 and has been an Olympic  sport ever since. Women's hockey became a fixture on the Olympic program in  Moscow in 1980.

Originally considered far too dangerous  for female  participation, field hockey quickly became popular with women whose previous  introduction to sport included the "socially acceptable" outdoor activities of  croquette and lawn tennis. With more and more women becoming active in the  sport, the liberating game of field hockey earned the dubious title as the only  team sport considered proper for women.

By 1887, the first womens  hockey club appeared in East Mosley, England, and was quickly followed by the  creation of the All England Womens Hockey Association in 1889 . The sport  spread across the Atlantic in 1901 when English physical education instructor Constance Applebee introduced the sport to the U.S. while attending a seminar at  Harvard.

Appalled at the parlor games passing for exercise among young  American women, Applebee  borrowed some sticks and a ball and staged the first  hockey exhibition in the United States behind the Harvard gymnasium. The game  received an  enthusiastic response, and Applebee quickly spread the sport to some  of the region's most prestigious women's schools.

By the early 1920’s,   several colleges and clubs sponsored field hockey teams for women. The U.S.  women’s touring field hockey team participated in its first international  competition in 1920, and two years later the United States Field Hockey  Association was founded for the purpose of promoting and generating enthusiasm  for the sport.

With the increasing  popularity  of the sport, and through the pioneering efforts of the Association's early  touring teams, the U.S. continued its rise to international  prominence. In 1975,  the U.S. appeared in the first I.F.W.H.A. World Championship of women's hockey  in Edinburgh, Scotland (10th), and five years later earned an invitation to the  first women's Olympic Games tournament in Moscow. The U.S. boycott of the 1980  Games prevented the team from  competing in Moscow. Four years later, the U.S.  captured the bronze medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. The team would  continue its Olympic tradition with appearances in Seoul in 1988 and Atlanta in  1996.

After the FIH conducted the  first women's World Cup in 1975, the U.S. team began an impressive string of  successive trips to the prestigious tournament in 1983.  The U.S. would qualify  for each of the ensuing World Cup tournaments including a bronze medal finish in  Dublin in 1994.

With similar humble beginnings,  mens field hockey began  in the United States with the first official match between the Westchester Field  Hockey Club (Rye NY) and the Germantown Cricket Club (near Philadelphia) in  1928. That same year, the Field Hockey Association of America was formed, and in  1930, the FHAA became the fourteenth member of hockey's international  federation, the Federation International de Hockey (FIH). Today, the FIH  features over 100  member nations. Henry Greer,considered the founder of men's  hockey in the United States, served as president of the FHAA from 1930 to 1959  and  served as player-coach on the 1932 U.S. Olympic team.

Bolstered by its new   international membership, the U.S. Men’s team competed in the Olympic Games for  the first time at the 1932 Los Angeles Games. The three-team tournament saw the  United States earn the bronze medal after losing to silver medalist Japan, 9-2,  and gold medal winner India, 24-1.

The U.S. men went  on to compete in  other Olympic Games in 1936, 1948, 1956, 1984 and 1996. A lack of funds and  political challenges kept the team from competing in 1952. With the inclusion of  hockey in the Pan Am Games in 1967 and Olympic qualification dependent on  success in Pan Am event, the FHAA faced mounting obstacles in returning to the  Games.

In April of 1993, the FHAA and the USFHA, at the urging of the  United States Olympic  Committee, merged to form one national governing body for  both women’s and men’s field hockey. The USFHA currently seeks to foster and  develop the  amateur sport of field hockey by providing participation  opportunities for players, coaches, officials, and administrators and preparing  teams to represent the United States in international competitions.

Today, nearly 14,000  players, coaches, officials and fans enjoy the benefits of U.S. Field Hockey Association  membership. With programs ranging from elite teams and  futures identification to  club hockey and grassroots development, today's U.S. Field Hockey continues to  raise public awareness and promote the  sport as a lifetime activity. The U.S.  Field Hockey Association provides players, coaches, officials and administrators  educational and  participation opportunities while supplying  support and  resources essential to the development and enjoyment of the game.

Even if its just a ball and  stick.

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