Best Colleges for Field Hockey: From Intramurals to the NCAA

Field hockey is no longer only an Eastern sport. Find out which colleges excel and how you can get involved no matter your skill level.

Initially a niche sport primarily played in the East Coast, field hockey has become an increasingly popular activity for athletes of all backgrounds.

Field hockey is unique in that it is one of the few sports in which the majority of participants are female. In fact, the United States Field Hockey Association was founded in 1922 for women. Men’s field hockey did not start until 1928.

Field hockey is a contact sport. Be prepared to get some bumps and bruises if you’re going to participate.

The sport attracts a diverse pool of athletes from many different athletic backgrounds. This is in part due to the fact that youth field hockey is not as prevalent as soccer or baseball. Many individuals will make a transition to field hockey from ice hockey, lacrosse and rugby.

Only women’s field hockey is an officially sanctioned NCAA sport, and it has been since 1981. However, many colleges offer recreational clubs and intramural teams for both sexes.

Top Field Hockey Programs

The past nine years of Division I women’s NCAA field hockey championships have been ruled by three programs: the University of Maryland, the University of North Carolina and Wake Forest University. Wake Forest won three straight titles from 2002 to 2004; North Carolina won in 2007 and 2009; and the University of Maryland has won four championships between 2005 and 2010, including two straight in 2005 and 2006.

Bloomsburg University has been one of the most dominant sports teams in college sports, winning 13 Division II NCAA field hockey championships in the sport’s history, including seven of the past nine. The University of Massachusetts, Lowell, won the 2010 title. In Division III, Bowdoin College and Salisbury University have combined to win seven of the past eight championships.

Clubs and Intramural Teams

The National Field Hockey League (NFHL) serves as the governing agency for intercollegiate club field hockey. The atmosphere is just as competitive as the NCAA in many instances. All schools that are members of the NFHL are divided into one of five divisions. A fall championship and spring tournament are held each year.

Other schools will have leagues with more of a local or regional focus. Binghamton University’s Field Hockey Club participates in the New York State Field Hockey League, which comprises club teams in the state of New York. In some cases, such as Carleton College’s field hockey team, mixed, co-ed competitions are held with other local clubs.

While the commitment usually isn’t as great as an official school-sponsored team, you’ll still have to devote time to practice and games. For example, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) practices twice a week instead of every day.

College Field Hockey: Tips and Tactics

  • Field hockey is a contact sport. Be prepared to get some bumps and bruises if you’re going to participate.
  • If you’re looking to get a college scholarship, enroll in some high school summer camps. Many coaches use these as a way to search out new recruits.
  • As mentioned earlier, many field hockey players come from other sports. If this describes you, get together with your friends outside of official practices to work on one-on-one play and individual skills.
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