Taking the Pitch

St. John’s School Field Hockey now sports a new turf on Finnegan Field.  After the official ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, October 14th, the Mavericks shut out St. Andrew's 6-0. 
What’s in a pitch? For the the nationally ranked St. John’s School Field Hockey program it’s everything. St. John’s is celebrating the grand opening of its new, water based turf playing field traditionally called a pitch in the sport of field hockey. The St. John’s pitch is the very first of its kind not just in the state of Texas but in the entire southwest United States.
There is not another similar playing surface within 800 miles of Houston and even then, very few are on secondary school campuses. These types of fields are found at the college level where athletes play Division I and Division III field hockey.

“This field is a game-changing step for hockey not just at St. John’s, but also for Houston and the state,” says Craig Chambers, Head Varsity Field Hockey Coach at St. John’s. “It is going to allow our players to showcase their abilities and be their best.”

Max Field Hockey this week ranked the St. John’s School Varsity Field Hockey team 10th in the West/Southwest region (California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma and Ohio) of the United States. With a current record of 12-0-1, Chambers is looking for the team to improve their play on the new field.

“This surface is very smooth and sophisticated,” he states. “The surface is uniquely designed for a hockey ball as well as the stick. The water component adds an additional dimension to add hydroplane to the ball and the ball moves more quickly.”  Up to now, St. John’s field hockey played on a grass field — which makes the game slower and uneven.

Chambers notes that the new pitch will “even the playing field” for the significant number of St. John’s athletes who want to play field hockey in college. Chambers points out that up until now, Texas field hockey players have had a disadvantage playing against athletes in other parts of the United States who have access to turf fields.
In spite of that fact, his program has produced 24 NCAA collegiate field hockey players in the past decade. Chambers adds that seven former St. John’s players are currently playing collegiate field hockey for: Columbia, Davidson, Harvard, Middlebury, University of North Carolina, Stanford and Tufts.

However, he says that the new pitch should make those numbers grow. “The recognition and attention we are getting from college coaches across the board is significant,” he states. “Our players are putting in a lot of time becoming high ranked, quality players and this field is going to allow them to excel even more.”

Additionally, Chambers says that the field will attract USA Field Hockey events and games as well as collegiate matches to the Houston area. Field Hockey is an Olympic sport and USA Field Hockey is the pipeline for those athletes.

By Jennifer Oakley

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