Golden Opportunity

by USA Field Hockey

13 photos

By Elissa Unger, USA Field Hockey's Foundation Development Director

As we sat there in the company of women many years wiser than us, it was humbling and remarkable to hear about the early beginnings of field hockey in the United States. To hear someone reference Constance Applebee, the true mother of the sport in our country, casually as “the Apple.” To talk with another about sectionals and when the Futures Program was effectively started in someone’s backyard in New Jersey. And of course, to hear about traveling to England for a National Team tour on a ship, with no collective team practice before competing! Sitting in the midst of legends discussing how the game we all love looked decades ago, we all could agree whether a history buff or not, that learning about the past suddenly became far more fascinating, relevant and tangible.

One weekend in May, fourteen women came from as far as California to meet in Lancaster, Pa. to discuss their storied past during an Archiving History Event presented by the USA Field Hockey Foundation. At this gathering were revered coaches, umpires, sport administrators, past USA Field Hockey Presidents and women who went on to contribute to this world in countless, meaningful ways both inside and outside field hockey. Within this group were the remaining members of field hockey’s “Golden Girls:” Bev Johnson, Lois Klatt, Judy Kretzschmar, Fran Markwith, Mina Pratt, Grace Robertson and Betty Shellenberger. While the origin of the nickname has been speculated, many trace it back to another field hockey great, Tracey Fuchs. When asked how and why this was coined, Fuchs remarked, “the Golden Girls traveled the world with our team in the late 80’s and 90’s. We gave them the name because they shared similar attributes with the unique characters from the popular show, ‘The Golden Girls’.”

One of the Golden Girls, Pratt, was able to shed a little more light on the origin. “Tracey Fuchs was being interviewed by the Associated Press in the Dominican Republic for the Pan American Games and was asked who the senior group was that followed the team and she said, ‘oh we call them the Golden Girls’ and from that point on, we took it up with pride,” explained Pratt.

Toward the end of the event, we went to visit a few of the women who could not travel to Lancaster, Pa. - Grace Robertson, former four-time USA Field Hockey President, and Betty Shellenberger. Among countless other titles and accolades within the annals of our history, Shellenberger holds the record for the longest tenure on the National Team at 22 years. Betty, or “Shelley” as she is often referred to, donned an original playing tunic and held her stick, the long-curved wooden variety that seems like a distant cousin to the synthetic fiberglass and composite ones of today. Shelley sharply rehashed memories and the group laughed, joked and chatted about stories from decades ago. Even years later, it was easy to see why Fuchs remarked that “they were the fabric of our team! I still have mementos that they made for us and I can’t thank them enough for the support they gave our team.”

And they’re still showing their support. The Golden Girls, collectively in their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, traveled to Lancaster, Pa. at the beginning of August to support Team USA as they competed in the Pan American Cups. Generations of National Team players have been able to appreciate the women’s genuine love of the sport shown through their years of dedication.

“I will always appreciate the feeling of knowing that they were there,” stated Fuchs. “Their consistent support and genuine love for USA Field Hockey will always be a part of who we are as they are the foundation that we have been built on.”

Seeing these women, who fostered this incredible bond through field hockey, come together in friendship over many decades and still to this day, serves as an indelible reminder. The reminder that our game provides a golden opportunity to build lifelong friendships that will stand the test of time.

Thank you to the following attendees of USA Field Hockey Foundation’s first Archiving History Event: Adele Boyd, Dr. Judith Davidson, Marianne Harris, Bev Johnson, Dr. Lois Klatt, Linda Kreiser, Judy Kretzschmar, Bertie Landes, Fran Markwith, Joan Moser, Mina Pratt, Grace Robertson, Betty Shellenberger and Jen Shillingford. As this was the first in a series of events, the USA Field Hockey Foundation looks forward to inviting back other leaders and legends of the sport to acknowledge, archive and pay tribute to their history as we lead up to USA Field Hockey’s 100th Anniversary in 2022.

This article is featured in the Summer 2017 issue of FHLife magazine. To read more inspiring, knowledge-packed and fun features revolving around hockey, fitness, healthy eating and how to strengthen your game, subscribe to our quarterly publication or to order additional copies, clicking here.