The General Idea

Why is field hockey predominantly considered a women’s sport in the United States when the rest of the world doesn’t think of it that way at all? And how did the game come to be played at colleges around the country in the fall as what could be seen as a Title IX-era female counterbalance to football? There has to be a story there – what is it?

Sometime around early October the questions in the paragraph above lodged themselves in my brain and refused to leave until answered. I turned to my trusty friend the internet for help, thinking that surely someone had already written a book on the subject that would satisfy my curiosity and allow me to move on with my life. But while I discovered the basic ingredients of a widely accepted origin story – an English woman who came to study at Harvard in the summer of 1901 ended up teaching the sport on a tour of women’s colleges that fall – a comprehensive look at the early history of college field hockey in the United States was nowhere to be found.

So what does a writer do when he really wants to read a book that doesn’t seem to exist? If he’s smart he probably shrugs his shoulders and makes a mental note to check again in a few years to see if anyone has come through for him. But I wouldn’t know. I decided I should write the book.

Seven weeks later, I’m knee-deep in research and spending hours reading through 100-year-old newspapers, yearbooks and alumni bulletins trying piece together a narrative that is detailed, accurate and complete. It could take a while. In the meantime, I thought it would be wise to write about the process. And by wise, I mean I thought I might be less likely to go crazy and ditch the whole project if I had a place to type words about what I’m doing while I do it. We’ll see what happens.


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