Tree doesn't fall far from 'The Apple'

The story of field hockey in the U.S. begins with the fundamentals of fun, fitness and friendship.

These ideals were introduced by Constance Applebee in 1901 and they have remained the backbone of the sport ever since, which has made it unique and addicting for players and coaches alike.

"It is not athletics, but the athletes, who destroy their own cause," Applebee wrote in English field hockey for men and women. "We are too apt to forget that our athletics are only one side of life, but an important side withal, and to be governed by the same laws of honor, courtesy and unselfishness that rule the rest of our conduct."

“Field hockey is really unique… it’s a bit difficult, but once girls try it and get into it they love it,” Former athletic director and coach at Lock Haven Sharon Taylor said in Carving a Niche. “I can’t really explain the phenomenon. It’s just something that touches their core.”

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1920 All-Philadephia Team traveled to England where they went 2-8.
1940 Field hockey players band together and send three ambulances to England during WWII.
1959 National tournament held in Washington D.C. with appearances from Applebee and then-Vice President Richard Nixon.
1970 The U.S. defeated England for the first time since field hockey’s inception in 1901. The national team came back from a 0-1 deficit to win 2-1.

Even in 1920, when the first field hockey team flew to England for its first international contest and lost, scoring 10 goals to Britain’s 252, the athletes were not defeated, but instead exhilarated by the adventure and ready to do it again.

“Our team was soundly defeated, but we had a wonderful experience and learned much,” Former All-Philadelphia player Lily Cheston Myers said in Constance M.K. Applebee and The Story of Hockey. “Our international hockey has come a long way since that modest beginning, all thanks to Miss Applebee.”

A plan developed after the national team’s first trip abroad to hold international matches every four years.

At one of the first matches held, reporters were baffled by the teams’ behavior as the players clapped when the opponent scored and both sides walked off the field together in friendship.

“There is an intrinsic value of games played in this spirit. They are desperately fundamental,” Applebee was quoted in Constance M.K. Applebee and The Story of Hockey. “It was no sissy game [either], there was hard playing and maneuvering.”

In 1963, shortly after Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, the U.S. hosted one of the international tournaments and as the country struggled through the Civil Rights Movement, the USA Team welcomed players and coaches from all over the world into their homes for a week, regardless of race or background.

By 1972, the number of teams participating in these competitions went from 10-20 to more than 30.

As the U.S. got more involved in international play, clubs at the college level started to push for a championship and recognition through the NCAA. Their initial request was turned down, which didn’t leave the women defeated; instead it led to the teams becoming part of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) in 1971.

The AIAW organized national championships for women’s athletics and functioned as the governing body for women’s college sports just as the NCAA did for men. At its peak it had 1,000 members, but in the late 1970s as the NCAA began to offer membership for women’s sports (after Title IX was passed) many schools left the association.


Affectionately known as “The Apple”, because of her sweet temperament, but sharp tongue, Constance Applebee elevated women’s sports to a new level across her 81-year career.

It was all started by a chain of chance circumstance.

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The first collegiate field hockey championship was cosponsored by the AIAW and USFHA in 1975 for Division I and 1979 for Divisions II and III. The first NCAA championship took place in 1981.

Now, 32 years later, the NCAA has 264 field hockey teams amongst its three divisions, the U.S. has become a force in the Olympic arena for both men and women and the players still manage to carry the principles of fitness, friendship and fun.

“A field hockey player is a marvelous creature,” The USFHA wrote in The Eagle. “You can criticize her, but you can’t discourage her. You can defeat her but you can’t make her quit, you can take her out of the game but you can’t take her out of field hockey.

“Might as well admit it… she is your symbol of fair play. She may not be All-American but she is an example of the American way. She is judged not for her race, not for her religion, not for her social standing… but by the democratic yardstick of how well she dribbles, drives, dodges, flicks and works with the team instead of for individual glory.”