During a Loudoun Field Hockey Association (LFHA) crash-course clinic at the DMB Sports Camp, LFHA intern and college field hockey player Chrissy Lewis was teaching some girls how to use their field hockey sticks. One particular girl wound up and launched the ball.
“Her eyes just lit up,” said Lewis. “That’s the most satisfying part.”
The girl asked if they were going to be able to play again soon.
Because of the LFHA, any girl who wants to play again soon will have her opportunity. Starting in September, the LFHA will kickoff its inaugural season, bringing young girls in Loudoun County their first chance to play field hockey in a youth league.
WHEN MEG DUDEK moved to Loudoun six years ago, she was amazed that there were no youth field hockey leagues offered in the area, or that none of the high schools in the area offered it as a sport.
“I was disappointed as a player,” said Dudek, who has played hockey for eight years. “I never understood why there was no field hockey.”
When Dudek joined the DMB Sport Group, she was promised by CEO Lisa Craig that DMB would help develop a league in Loudoun.
That promised led to the creation of the LFHA.
In its first season, the LFHA will essentially be a developmental league for girls between the ages of 8 and 13. The 10-week season will be split up into two parts. In the first half, the girls will learn the basic rules of the game as well as learning the skills necessary to play. The second half of the season will split the girls into teams so they will be able to scrimmage each other.
“Teams will evolve this season but we wanted to keep it as loose as possible because we wanted to create flexibility,” said Craig. “We understand that a lot of parents encourage their daughters to stick with [their current sports]. If we keep the scheduling loose and flexible, it will give girls the opportunity to try out field hockey.”
The teams will meet twice a week in one-hour sessions.
THE HOPE of the LFHA is that young girls that have tired of soccer will be able to continue to play a sport.
“[Girls] are starting soccer earlier and earlier and you are running into 9 to 10-year-olds who are really burned out,” said Craig. “The nice thing about field hockey is that it is extremely similar to soccer. You add the stick. The positions and concepts are similar.”
Lewis said that the LFHA is not trying to take the girls away from soccer, it’s goal is to give girls another option. She also believes that young girls will take to the sport.
“It’s exclusively female. It’s nice to have an all-girls team where you are not constantly being compared to the boys,” she said. “I find it very empowering — especially because it’s with a big stick.”
The LFHA has acquired a dedicated field at the Loudoun Campus of the Northern Virginia Community College. That field will be broken up into mini-fields where the teams will be able to play six-on-six or seven-on-seven without goalies.
Acquiring a field was a major hurdle for the LFHA. While it believes that there are enough young girls in Loudoun to fill the rosters as the LFHA progresses, there are not enough fields to play on. To combat this, the DMB Sports Group created the LFHA as a non profit organization.
“In order to grow and get more field space from the county, we needed to be a non profit organization,” said Craig. “The demand for fields in Loudoun County is so competitive.”
WITH THE field acquired and registration open, the LFHA is hoping for around 50 girls to sign up.
“This is the first season, so we are just trying to get the word out,”
The LFHA has opened up registration to not just Loudoun Country residents, but anybody who is interested in joining. Interested applicants can go to the LFHA Web site at www.loudounfieldhockey.org to register or just learn more about the sport. The Web site has a list of rules for the sport and a code of conduct.
In the coming years, the LFHA hopes to expand each fall season, raising the age limit to accommodate its aging rosters. It is the hope that by the time the oldest girls are ready for high school, field hockey will be offered as a sport in Loudoun County high schools.
“It is our dream for field hockey to be a varsity sport,” said Dudek. “But it will take time.”
Currently, the only girls sports offered in the fall at the varsity level in Loudoun County are volleyball, cross country and cheerleading.
“We want to enhance what the girls are playing now,” said Dudek.
Craig said that she was told that there are no current plans to add field hockey as high-school sport, but thinks that, “driven by demand, that could easily change.”