Catalog Number: 1997.193.08
Field hockey has a long history in many parts of the world.
Stick-and-ball team games have been around in some shape or form for thousands of years.
The name “field hockey” originated in the mid-1300s, when King Edward III of England outlawed leisure sports, such as field hockey, from being playing by peasants.
The sport would not emerge again until the 1700s in post-Elizabethan England.
Around the 18th century, field hockey started being integrated into the English public school systems, becoming a dominant sport in schools by the 19th century. However, it remained a predominantly schoolkids’ game during this time.
That changed in the 1870s. In 1870, a group of cricket players wanted to remain active and in shape throughout the winter months, when cricket could not be played. They began experimenting with a mish-mash of different sports. They landed on a combination of schoolkids’ field hockey, football (soccer) rules, and a cricket ball and field. By 1874, the group of former cricket players had written down the rules for their new game. Within 12 years, this group of ex-cricket players had expanded to include eight clubs in the London area and called themselves the Hockey Association.
The British army brought the rules of field hockey to all their colonies. India was the first colony to really get into the game, with the creation of the first non-English club in 1885. By 1895, field hockey had become so worldwide that the International Rules Board was established to mediate arguments and other issues with field hockey. In 1908, field hockey was an event at the Olympics, with just three countries competing: England, Ireland and Scotland. However, by 1928, men’s field hockey became a permanent event with more than just three competing nations. Women’s field hockey was established as an Olympic sport in 1980.
Even though the U.S. was no longer a British colony, field hockey still spread with a vengeance. Field hockey is one of the oldest college sports in America.
Wisconsin was just as affected by the field hockey craze. The Wisconsin Association for Health, Physical Education, and Recreation was established around 1897 to promote the professionalization of the field. In the 1970s, “dance” was added to the association’s title, becoming the Wisconsin Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance. In late 2010, the name was changed to Wisconsin Health and Physical Education Association. The group has been housed at Mitchell Hall on the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse campus since Mitchell Hall was built.
The association donated a cache of field hockey artifacts to the La Crosse County Historical Society. The donation included a complete women’s field hockey set, including uniform, a wooden field hockey stick, an eye guard mask, and several field hockey balls. The set dates to approximately the 1940s to the 1960s, when UW-La Crosse had a women’s field hockey club that frequently attracted more than 80 participants every fall.
Throughout the time frame that this set dates to, UW-La Crosse hosted fall semester tournaments for their classes, pitting juniors against seniors, and sophomores against freshman. 1943 was the only year in the 20-year time span that did not hold one of these annual field hockey tournaments, due to weather conditions. The senior girls who participated in women’s field hockey occasionally traveled to compete with other UW schools, frequently winning their matches.
This article was originally published in the La Crosse Tribune on June 2,, 2018.