Hawkeye field hockey chugs on despite no Iowa high school play

Iowa high schools don't play field hockey, but it isn't hurting the Hawkeyes' recruiting.


David Harmantas

Iowa field hockey players grab their sticks before a field hockey match against Maryland on Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. The No. 2 ranked Terrapins defeated the No. 8 ranked Hawkeyes 2-1.

Sarah Altemeier, Sports Reporter

The Iowa field-hockey team is now tied for seventh in the latest Penn/Monto/Coaches Poll, and it has worked its way up from its No. 20 preseason ranking.

The squad comprises women from all over, seven international players and players from Virginia, Missouri, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and California. However, zero are from Iowa.

This is a result of field hockey not being played in Iowa high schools.

Why isn’t field hockey played in secondary education in Iowa — especially when the largest public university in the state competes and competes well nationally?

Field hockey hasn’t been played anywhere in the state since the 1970s, and one leading reason it hasn’t caught on since then is that volleyball and soccer are such prominent fall sports.

Hawkeye head coach Lisa Cellucci said the team has tried to put on camps for those Iowans who are interested in playing.

“We’ve tried youth clinics that went for over six weeks long, and really, the best interest we had were from little boys,” Cellucci said. “[That] was OK; they thought the equipment was really cool. But it’s just not something that is real prevalent in the Midwest in general, which kind of makes Iowa field hockey pretty neat and unique.”

One might think that because the sport isn’t played in the state, that would be a disadvantage — the coaches are unable to get in-state athletes. However, Iowa field hockey is used to this and knows it must go out of state, out of the region, or look abroad.

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“Of course it would be wonderful to be able to draw from in-state talent and be able to use in state scholarships and all of that,” Cellucci said. “But it’s really a nonfactor for us — we don’t really talk about it because we’re so used to not having it.”

The high-school sports handbook says the requirements for starting a new sport are not easy.

“The Board of Control will not consider starting a new sport until at least 15 percent of the [association] members participate in that sport, and, at that time, the Board of Control will determine whether a tournament series will be sponsored by the [association] in that sport,” the book states.

Along with interest, sports sanctioned by the association must abide by all other regulations and policies. Basically, it really comes down to lack of interest. But Chris Cuellar, communications director of the sports association, makes it clear that if that ever changes, field hockey has the ability to become a recognized sport in Iowa.

“However, our board and representative council are made up of school administrators, and our ‘members’ are Iowa high schools and their students, so we’re always open to ideas and recommendations from them,” Cuellar said.

Iowa field hockey is nearing the end of its regular season with one game left against No. 14 Rutgers on Oct. 19 in Piscataway, New Jersey. The Hawkeyes, currently 12-4 with a conference record of 4-3, seek to add one more to the win column against the Scarlet Knights.

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