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Take 2

A different spin on sports by The Seattle Times staff and readers.

October 18, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Seattle Women’s Field Hockey Club celebrates 60th birthday

Ishbel Dickens, team captain (middle top row, holding a stick,poses with the Seattle Women's Field Hockey Association team.  Photo courtesy of Ishbel Dickens

Ishbel Dickens, team captain (middle top row, holding a stick,poses with the Seattle Women’s Field Hockey Association team.
Photo courtesy of Ishbel Dickens

By Ishbel Dickens

Ishbel Dickens is captain of the Seattle Women’s Field Hockey Club and grew up in Scotland, where she attended Edinburgh University. She earned her law degree from the University of Washington and is the Executive Director of the National Manufactured Home Owners Association. Dickens has played field hockey for 48 years.

I’m celebrating my 60th birthday later this year, and I’m happy to share it with the Seattle Women’s Field Hockey Club.

On Saturday, my club will celebrate the milestone with a game against the Jokers from Vancouver, B.C.  The game will start at 5:30 p.m. at Washington Park, the corner of Lake Washington Boulevard  and Madison Street, near the Japanese Gardens at the east end of the Arboretum.

I’ll be there – I still play every weekend – and I’d love it if you were, too.

Field hockey is one of the most energetic team sports around, more physical than football, basketball or soccer.

But who cares? That’s not the reason I love it. There is nothing better than using your stick skills to dribble the ball down the field before either dodging around the opposing team to score or passing the ball to your teammate to make the goal that wins the game.

It’s not all about winning, though.  Field hockey is a great way to meet new friends and travel around the country or around the world.

When I arrived in the United States 30 years ago, one of the first things I did was to try to find the local field-hockey club. I’d been playing the game since I was 12 years old and didn’t want to stop. Fortunately for me, the Seattle Parks Department had a contact for the field-hockey club. Within two weeks of arriving here I was playing field hockey and making friends with strong, athletic women, many of whom are still part of my life.

The Seattle Women’s Field Hockey Club is made up of women of all ages and abilities and are always looking for teammates.  We practice every weekend, usually on Sunday evenings, and we travel to all over the world for tournaments and games.  Our team has played in California, Atlanta, Canada, Scotland, Holland, Germany, Argentina and Fiji.

My teammates are an international group, too, with players over the years from Scotland, England, Ireland, Germany, Holland, Australia, South Africa, Argentina, and Canada as well as all over the U.S.

I have been fortunate enough to play with wonderful women wherever I have played field hockey, full of vitality and from diverse backgrounds.

One of my favorite memories is when SWFHC took a team to play at the National Festival at the Olympic Training Center in San Diego over Thanksgiving weekend.  Traveling at Thanksgiving is harrowing enough, but imagine doing it with a raucous group of women each wielding a 37-inch field-hockey stick. We all arrived safely in San Diego, but my luggage did not. To be able to play my first game on Thanksgiving morning, I had to borrow various uniform parts from other players. Nothing matched or quite fit me, but I was able to play, in borrowed shoes. Nothing bonds a team together like “kitting out” one of their teammates!

Field hockey is an old sport, played by both women and men. It is popular in Commonwealth countries, Europe and Central America. In the U.S., most players are concentrated in New England and California.  Indeed, the U.S. women’s team qualified for the London Olympics last year.

The game is a lot like soccer in terms of number of players, strategies and positions.  But no feet are allowed, unless you’re the goalie.  We play with a stick that has a short, rounded hook on the end. One side is curved and the other side is flat, and you can only use the flat side of the stick. The ball is hard and slightly larger than a tennis ball.

Most players wear shin and month guards, but I started playing when neither was required. I just never got around to using them. I’ve broken my ribs twice and my collarbone once while playing, but so what? (Did I mention field hockey is physical?) It’s such a great sport that injury has never kept me down long.

I love field hockey, and I do hope you will join us – either to celebrate 60 years of the club Saturday or simply to stop by a game or practice.

Find out more on the sport and the Seattle Women’s Field  Hockey Club.

Want to be a reader contributor to The Seattle Times’ Take 2 blog? Email your original, previously unpublished work or proposal to Sports Editor Don Shelton at dshelton@seattletimes.com or sports@seattletimes.com. Not all submissions can be published. The Times reserves the right to edit and publish any submissions online and/or in print.

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