Growing Boys Field Hockey in the East Bay

BERKELEY, Calif. East Bay School for Boys (EBSB) held a pioneering boys field hockey PE program this past March, supported by USA Field Hockey Manager of Boys Development Marc Bakerman.

EBSB Athletics Coordinator and PE teacher Cedric Gilmore was looking for a change of pace for the PE program. EBSB parent and local field hockey coach Pete Smith was looking to expand youth field hockey, especially for boys, in the East Bay.

Gilmore and Smith’s vision for field hockey at EBSB turned out to be a good one, as the boys responded well to the new program, showing surprising acuity and moving very quickly into the skills and game patterns used by experienced players.

As part of the initiative, the entire UC Berkeley field hockey coaching staff came down to run an hour-long clinic for the 8th grade boys. Head coach Shellie Onstead jumped in and traded passes with the athletes, while assistant coach Katrina Carter ran drills. Assistant coach Manny Ramirez demonstrated his powerful shots on goal and spoke about his experience on the U.S. Men’s National Team and as a coach.

The visit led to an invitation to the EBSB players for the Cal 6v6 Boys Field Hockey Tournament that weekend. Unfortunately, the tournament coincided with a COVID outbreak at the school, but the Cal staff offered up some opportunities to come back to the Cal pitch.

In an interesting twist, one of the most educational moments came during a rainstorm, as the rainy conditions forced the set-up to be limited to two tiny goals in a covered breezeway. The play began as free-for-all hand hockey, but slowly introduced field hockey rules, positions, and tactics. By the end, everyone was playing competitively, banging the ball around on all fours.

After the rain, there was some freeform hockey play, and the boys improvised rules until they had competitive games that ruled the courtyard. Others worked solo on their dribbling and juggling – fundamental pleasures of soccer and hockey alike. Overall, the program seemed to successfully instill an interest for the game.

While next steps are being formulated for EBSB and the East Bay, here are some Bay area, beginner, boy-friendly field hockey resources:

Hayward Hawks – A family oriented, beginner-friendly, low-cost club. The coaches are very experienced and include former professional athletes. There is often an all-hands parent game going on the side.

4:00 pm – 7:00 pm at Irvington Community Park, Fremont

Text Coach Aman: 510-253-8237

Lightning Youth Field Hockey – Coach Pete Smith’s club. The U-14 boys’ team is the largest in the country. The club has a long history and a lot of members. Many of the coaches also coach for Hayward Hawks.

Sundays, 10:15 am – 12:45 pm at Saratoga High School, Saratoga

Lions Field Hockey – Lions Hockey Club Program is a fantastic opportunity for young players to learn and be exposed to the game of field hockey. Practice sessions are led by coaches with many years of international experience.

Irvington Community Park, Fremont

San Francisco Youth Field Hockey – Its strength is girls, but it is boy-friendly and some Junior U.S. Junior Men’s National Team athletes have developed here, often playing co-ed with college-bound female players. SF Hawks are privately-owned, and more expensive than the other clubs, but there is pro rata pricing for specialty clinics.

Sundays at the Presidio and during the week at various San Francisco locations