Pickup field hockey: League is roaring success for Newport Rec Department

Denise Robert (right) tries to defend against Brittany Royer's charge during pickup field hockey play at Prouty Beach in Newport on Monday evening.  Adrianna Fournier (background) moves in to support Ms. Robert.  The pickup field hockey league, organized by Jessica Booth of the Newport City Parks and Recreation Department, plays every Monday night at 5:30 p.m.  Photos by Richard Creaser

Denise Robert (right) tries to defend against Brittany Royer’s charge during pickup field hockey play at Prouty Beach in Newport on Monday evening. Adrianna Fournier (background) moves in to support Ms. Robert. The pickup field hockey league, organized by Jessica Booth of the Newport City Parks and Recreation Department, plays every Monday night at 5:30 p.m. Photos by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle July 2, 2014

by Richard Creaser

NEWPORT — Field hockey has long been a passion for Jessica Booth of Irasburg. Hoping to find some women who were equally enamored of the sport, Ms. Booth, as a member of the Newport City Parks and Recreation Department, decided to put out feelers via the rec department’s Facebook page to gauge interest in forming an adult league.

“I was expecting maybe five or six women,” Ms. Booth said of the inaugural field hockey game on June 23. “There were more than 24 women who came out. I was thrilled at the response.”

Had she known how much interest there was, she may very well have started the league sooner, Ms. Booth said. Play takes place on the small field adjacent to the tennis courts at Newport City’s Prouty Beach every Monday evening at 5:30 p.m. The actual games are played between 6 and 7 p.m.

The earlier start is used for warm-ups, or for refreshers on rules for the players. Though many of the participants have played at the high school or college level, no experience is necessary, Ms. Booth said.

“If you’ve played it before, it’s just like riding a bike,” she said. “Once you get going it comes right back.”

While the women play hard, the point of the league is to meet other women and have a good time, Ms. Booth said. To reinforce the casual atmosphere, Ms. Booth opted to form a pickup league. Whoever shows up can play.

“We just put all the sticks in a pile, divide them up and play,” she said. “There’s no commitment to come back every week, but we would sure like you to come as often as you can. I realize that people’s lives are busy, especially in the summer, so I wanted to make it a no pressure event to give people a chance to come out and play something they haven’t played in a while or learn something new.”

The only requirements are that participants be 16 years old or older, that they, or their parents, sign a waiver and that players provide their own shin guards and water bottle.

“It’s a pretty inexpensive sport to play, especially if all you need to do is dig up an old stick from the attic,” Ms. Booth said. “Meeting great people and getting some healthy exercise is completely free.”

The appeal for Brooke Wright of Newport was the ability to play a sport she loves and hasn’t had much of a chance to play since college. Though a league exists in the Stowe area, the distance and family obligations make the trek problematic, she said.

“To have something like this here, once a week, is great,” Ms. Wright said. “We don’t have to wear all the gear that the girls wear in high school like the goggles and mouth guards. A mouth guard probably wouldn’t be a bad idea. I’d like to keep all my teeth.”

Helping the program along was a grant from U.S.A. Field Hockey, which provided the Newport program with 25 sticks and balls. Ms. Booth would also like to get a junior league started to introduce girls to the sport prior to high school.

“There are leagues around the state where girls can play starting in seventh grade,” she said. “Up here we don’t have that. Girls come into ninth grade and are picking up their stick for the first time which already puts them behind two years from some of the other teams.”

As a coach for the junior varsity squad at North Country Union High School, Ms. Booth said she would like to see more young women get involved at an earlier age. The lack of a feeder program has limited access to a sport that is both thrilling and rewarding, she said.

Reneé Booth (center) tries to rush past defender Bailey Carter (right) as Brooke Wright (left) moves in to intercept.  The women played in Monday night's pickup women's field hockey league at Newport's Prouty Beach.  Though the league supports what has traditionally been a women's sport in the U.S., organizer Jessica Booth said she would welcome any men who are interested in giving the sport a try.  The only requirements are shin guards and a willingness to try something new.

Reneé Booth (center) tries to rush past defender Bailey Carter (right) as Brooke Wright (left) moves in to intercept. The women played in Monday night’s pickup women’s field hockey league at Newport’s Prouty Beach. Though the league supports what has traditionally been a women’s sport in the U.S., organizer Jessica Booth said she would welcome any men who are interested in giving the sport a try. The only requirements are shin guards and a willingness to try something new.

Like its high school counterpart, the pickup league does have one restriction — there are no left-handed field hockey sticks. But that shouldn’t dissuade lefties from coming out to play.

“It takes some getting used to,” Ms. Booth admits. “But if you can master using the stick you become the greatest player out there. Everyone admires you for it.”

The pickup league will continue until the start of school in late August. Ms. Booth said that she would welcome continuing the league as long as someone else is willing to guide it along. The requirements of coaching the JV squad prevents her from continuing the sport into the fall, she said.

“I’ve also thought about starting up pickup leagues for soccer or basketball,” Ms. Booth said. “I just don’t know enough about either sport to really get that off the ground. I think the success of the field hockey program shows that there is a demand for pickup leagues. You just need someone willing to get it started.”

Anyone interested in helping to organize a pickup league for basketball or soccer, or who is willing to join in the field hockey fun, is encouraged to contact the Newport City Parks and Recreation Department at 334-6345.

contact Richard Creaser at nek_scribbler@hotmail.com

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