Field Hockey at the YMCA Training School

The YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts (now known as Springfield College), began its men’s field hockey program in the fall of 1896. All play was intramural, as there were no other schools with which to compete at the time. The annual championship series between the class teams became a hotly anticipated event, and by 1900 the school promoted the games heavily. “The physical department committee have been especially active in trying to make hockey a drawing card this year,” according to the November 13, 1900, issue of Nobody’s Business, the school newspaper. “Special invitations are being sent out to the neighboring schools and academies to be present at the championship games.”

1900_11_20_NBThe November 20 issue of Nobody’s Business from that year reported that “five hundred special invitations have been printed and distributed among the friends of the school, some even finding their way to Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, Wesleyan and Williston Academies… More interest is being manifested this year than in any of the previous four years’ experience with hockey.”

1900_11_1_srThe inclusion of Smith and Holyoke on the list of those invited is interesting in that it indicates familiarity with the sport at those schools nearly a year before Constance Applebee began her tour of women’s colleges. The Springfield Daily Republican also reported in November of 1900 that Dr. James McCurdy of the YMCA Training School had given a talk at Mount Holyoke specifically regarding “field hockey for women.”

berensonAccording to a letter she wrote to Applebee, Smith College athletic director Senda Berenson had written to the Training School in late September of 1901 in order to arrange for an instructor to coach her students in field hockey that fall. Two days later she received word of Applebee’s availability and hired her on instead.

The men at Springfield continued to play field hockey every fall and Dr. McCurdy continued his attempts to promote the sport as an alternative to football throughout the early years of the twentieth century. In 1906, however, with the sport having failed to catch on at all within the YMCA system, soccer (or, as it was called then, association football) was introduced at the training school, and field hockey was dropped.

1906_10_The_Association_SeminarFrom the October, 1906, issue of The Association Seminar and Training School Notes: “Association football has been introduced into the school to take the place of field hockey. In spite of the fact that hockey is a fine sport and many like it better than football, yet is has not found general acceptance in the Associations, and hence no teams have been organized. It is thought that association football may prove to be more popular, as it is already being played in some places.”

Field hockey did eventually return to the school after the first group of women were accepted as full-time students at Springfield College in 1951. Intramural field hockey was started up again in 1954, and the 1963 varsity field hockey team was the school’s first women’s team to play an intercollegiate schedule.


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