Field Hockey Scholarships
Women’s Sport, Big Scholarships
The origins of field hockey as an American sport are not clear. While we know the game was imported from England and sometimes played informally at colleges prior to 1900, it was popularized by its introduction to Vassar in 1901. Interestingly, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) does not sanction men’s field hockey as a sport; that distinction is reserved for women’s field hockey.
There is, however, an Olympic men’s field hockey team playing for the United States. Due to the lack of support at most colleges, it is difficult to find properly trained players, and the team suffers as a result. Women’s field hockey, in contrast, draws great interest as a collegiate sport.
The NCAA is a group of college athletic programs to which various schools belong, and athletic scholarships worth $1.5 billion are distributed every year by those schools to 126,000 student athletes. Schools are classified according to division, and those in Divisions I and II are the only NCAA schools permitted to hand out athletic scholarships. Field hockey as a sport is sanctioned by the NCAA, meaning players at Division I or II schools can receive scholarship assistance.
The person usually responsible for allotting the limited number of athletic scholarships in each Division I and II school is the athletic director, and upon that person’s preference your scholarship chances will depend.
Assess Your Chances Realistically
The New York Times posted an article on athletic scholarships that demonstrated why college athletes should go into their sports for the love of the game: there is fierce competition for scholarship assistance, those who do earn scholarships should not expect that financial boost to cover tuition and expenses, and coaches frown on students who focus on the money rather than the sport.
One recent study pegged the number of high school athletes who receive NCAA scholarships at 2%, the average dollar amount of those scholarships is under $11,000, and they are not necessarily renewable. That being said, if you gear your expectations to account for that reality and accept that you may or may not get some extra help in college through your work on the field hockey team, that realization will let you formulate a practical plan for success.
Don’t Forget About Other Scholarships
Student athletes are encouraged to apply for other available scholarships based on merit and financial need. They may provide an alternate avenue of putting yourself through school so you can continue to enjoy the sport you love at a collegiate level.
Top Field Hockey Programs
Here are examples of the top field hockey programs in the country that fall into Divisions I and II, to give you an idea of where you will be most likely to win an athletic scholarship. Since coaches discourage students who join a team just for a scholarship, most of these programs do not list any details on possible field hockey scholarships, and you may have to contact each school’s athletic department individually.
Duke University is a Division I school, and its field hockey page is here. Duke’s financial aid page states that the athletics department awarded full scholarships to over 350 students, divided proportionally between men and women on 18 teams, in 2012-2013. Since the latest information on that set of scholarships does not list field hockey as included in the distribution, you should check with Duke to learn their current policy.
University of Connecticut
The University of Connecticut, which is also in Division I, has posted a women’s field hockey page here. Currently the school offers only University Merit Scholarships, awarded for academic achievement, but information on students who have won the Outstanding Senior Scholar-Athlete Award shows that several of the latest group have qualified for merit aid (the most notable example being the female rowing team captain who secured a School of Engineering Merit Scholarship).
Wake Forest University
Wake Forest University, another Division I school, provides a detailed downloadable report on its scholarships and loans, which states that many athletic scholarships are available through the Department of Athletics rather than the financial aid office, and accordingly are not described in the documentation or open for applications in the usual manner. That is a perfect example of the relatively private way in which college athletic scholarships are often awarded.
The NCAA provides a comprehensive list of schools that offer field hockey programs, classified by division.
Scholarships From Private Organizations
American Field Hockey Foundation
The American Field Hockey Foundation (AFHF) hands out the Dennis Casale Memorial Scholarship every year to a high school senior who has made a serious, lasting commitment to field hockey. The award brings $1,000, and the current application form is always posted on AFHF’s site.
NCAA Rules You Need to Know
Part of your job in finding an athletic scholarship includes familiarizing yourself with and following the NCAA rules in order to keep your eligibility. As you will see when you review those rules, the focus is on making sure you do not neglect your studies to play and do not receive any type of benefit that would jeopardize your status as an amateur. Rules cover the following areas:
- Academic standards you must meet
- Keeping your amateur status
- Waivers for initial eligibility, and
- Recruiting by the college you attend.
These rules are very specific and must be followed to the letter if you want to be considered for a NCAA field hockey scholarship.