Brock University’s athletic department denied a request to sanction a potential women’s field hockey team.
After two years of planning and requesting support from the university, the field hockey team, which has had more than 45 signatures of players interested in playing, heard the response that they did not want to hear.
Co-Presidents of the team, Heather Spooner and Katie Theriault, were frustrated with the lack of explanation given in Brock’s decision to not support their request.
After reaching out to Brock’s Camp and Clubs Coordinator, Chantell Louwerse, the team was advised that they needed to have a nationally certified coach in order to get the approval from the university.
“[Brock] was not being very helpful in helping find a coach, so what we did was we reached out to all of the other OUA field hockey teams,” Theriault explained. “They showed great interest in having an extra team added to their league as right now they only have seven teams and they’re really trying to expand the sport of field hockey.”
The OUA women’s field hockey league consists of teams from Toronto, Western, Guelph, York, Waterloo, Queen’s and McGill.
The team was given assistance from Robin D’Abreo, the women’s field hockey coach at the University of British Columbia. D’Abreo is also the Interim Director of Athletics at UBC.
After reaching out to the other OUA teams, the University of Toronto women’s field hockey coach, John DeSouza, helped the team land Louis Mendonca, an extremely successful Canadian field hockey coach.
“[DeSouza] reached out to a former Olympic coach for team Canada, who took the men’s [field hockey] team to the Beijing Olympics,” Theriault said. “He signed on to be our head coach here at Brock, and he did not need to be paid. So basically we’re getting a free Olympic coach coaching the field hockey team here at Brock.”
Mendonca has not only coached in the 2008 Olympics, but he also coached in four Pan American Games, two Commonwealth Games, three Pan American Cups and three Indoor World Cups. He was also selected as the Ontario Coach of the Year by National Sports Centre and the recipient of a Lifetime Coaching Achievement Award by the Coaches Assocation of Ontario.
Theriault explained that the team needed very little help with funding from Brock.
“We didn’t need money for sticks, we have our own equipment, we have balls, all we needed basically was to order two nets, which we could get for under $300. Besides that all we needed was field time.”
After submitting their forms to the athletic department, they heard back about a month and a half later. Brock’s reply was that they could not give them a team because they could not accommodate space for them.
Brock currently has six varsity field teams — men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s lacrosse and men’s and women’s rugby. Out of those six teams, only the soccer teams and the lacrosse teams use the newly built Alumni Field, which opened in September of 2015.
Despite wanting to play their games on Alumni Field, Theriault said she made it clear that the team would be willing to practice anywhere where there was enough space to play, including on the Rugby field.
The women began practicing about three times a week in September because they were told they could use Alumni Field as long as they did not affiliate themselves with Brock in any way.
Despite securing a major sponsorship from Harrow Sports to cover the costs of sticks, in their meeting with the athletic department, Brock said they were worried about potential costs associated with travelling to other schools to play.
Brock’s Athletic Director, Neil Lumsden, and Student-Athlete Services Coordinator, Jesse Barraza, explained that although they truly wish they could accept every application that comes in, they realistically can’t.
“We get multiple applications every year,” said Lumsden. “And every year we have to say no to a couple of them.”
Lumsden and Barraza explained that the first thing they think about when reviewing every application is what the cost and space issues might be. Lumsden went on to say that they must consider the domino effect that plays out with space. If they make space for someone, who else is going to be affected by it?
Not only do they have to look at current Brock teams’ field time, they must also look at the amount of time for other things including intramurals.
Not only did the athletic department need to find time for the team to use Alumni Field, they needed to find a reasonable time. Lumsden said that it’s not right to give someone field time at 5:00 a.m. or on a Saturday night.
According to statistics gathered by Universities Canada, Brock currently ranks among the highest teams per student in the OUA. The study shows that Brock has 42 teams (Varsity and Club Sports) with a full-time undergraduate population of around 14,700. The only other schools with more teams are the University of Guelph (24,100 full-time undergraduate students),
McMaster University (26,000) and the University of Western (29,700).
Other schools with similar student populations were Wilfrid Laurier University (15,000) with 24 teams and the University of Windsor (10,600) who only has 17 teams.
Another major decision that was made was that the field hockey team was not only denied as a competitive team, they were also denied as a non-competitive club. Essentially, competitive teams must tryout for a year before they can begin to travel and host other universities representing Brock, much like the men’s volleyball team did in 2015-16 before they began playing in the OUA this past year. Non-competitive clubs would remain on campus and only play against themselves.
Barraza explained that by accepting a team as a club, they have the responsibility as a university to cover the travel costs that are needed. If the team were to make it to the OUA Championships, it would be irresponsible to tell the team that they must cover the travel expenses themselves.
The athletic department explained that although it’s always difficult denying an application since they ultimately want Brock to have as many teams as possible, the reasons for saying no were pretty straightforward. Lumsden also went on to say that he hopes the women file another application next year, and that they would consider the facts once again when the time comes.
Theriault explained that the decision is hard to hear because having a field hockey team at Brock was about more than just competing, it was about giving a new opportunity for students.
“We just feel like there’s so much interest [in the field hockey team], and this a great way to get the girls out there playing a different sport,” said Theriault. “For soccer there’s so much competition for that, for hockey there’s so much competition. For field hockey, we were going with getting the girls out there that knew how to play, but we also had interest from girls that didn’t know how to play but just wanted to stay active.”
The field hockey application was not the only application to be denied by the athletic department, however, there were two applications that were accepted. Although the two accepted applications will not be announced until next week, Barraza explained that the same cost and space considerations were used in the decision process. He said that the two incoming clubs will not compete at an OUA level, and will require little funding and little space. One, he said, won’t even need any facility space on Brock’s campus.