By Al Mattei


Margaret Moore is a relic of a forgotten time in field hockey, when the game was spread throughout the nation, when numerous regional field hockey teams competed against each other for berths at 'A'-Camp rather than being today's afterthought at the National Festival.

Moore has been part of the South Carolina field hockey scene -- for better or for worse -- for some 30 years. She started coaching at Converse College in Spartanburg, S.C. at the dawn of Title IX.

"You had a number of colleges that already had field hockey, before the NCAA took over that side to dictate what the women do," Moore says.

In the days of the Association of Interscholastic Athletics for Women (AIAW), South Carolina had a strong presence: Converse played alongside the likes of Whitford, Coker, Clemson, and Furman. Today, the latter two still maintain an erstwhile presence in the club hockey scene.

But Converse College was hit by the same pressures that made Division II and III schools from Wisconsin to California drop their programs.

"Little by little, they started dropping programs," she says. "Converse was the last to drop field hockey in South Carolina, and by that time, the travel costs were getting outrageous. We had to go to North Carolina and Virginia to even compete."

A funny thing started happening in the mid-1990s, however. North Carolina started becoming a field hockey center.

The University of North Carolina won three straight NCAA Division I championships from 1994-96. Wake Forest won titles in 2002 and 2003, whilst Duke made the NCAA championship in 2003.

North Carolina schools started sending scholastic players like Xan Funk, Amy Stopford, and Michelle Kasold to "A"-Camp and to Division I scholarship programs. Throughout the Carolinas, public and private school programs started developing. The number of public school programs in North Carolina became so popular that a bicameral state tournament was being talked about for the mid 00s.

Indeed, the I-85 corridor between Durham, N.C. and Spartanburg, S.C. became the new "hot" a breeding ground for the game of field hockey. Former college coaches and players from very respected programs are finding their way into the Deep South, transferring their knowledge to new generations of players.

Whether the participation rates scale upward to Pennsylvania or New York numbers, however, is another story.

"You have your group in Asheville, your group in Charlotte, and it's sort of 'the thing to do' in those areas," Moore says. "There's not that core group in South Carolina; of course, we don't have a lot of big cities." Which, of course, is the reason why there are only two South Carolina schools with field hockey: Spartanburg (S.C.) Day School and Greenville Christ Church Episcopal (S.C.).

"Right now, at least in Spartanburg, there is a sort of equity," Moore says. But football is king, and that's where all the time, energy, and money is put. Until you get somme movers and shakers down there, it's tough to have field hockey."

And in a state with only a handful of regional school districts crisscrossing the state unlike any other, that might not happen unless a force of nature comes along.

"It's going to take someone of Olympic caliber, with a lot of enthusiasm to start with the grass roots," Moore says. "It's going to take a lot of education to show that there is a crossover between soccer and field hockey; that soccer players can be field hockey players."

In the deep South, there is indeed a war for the minds and bodies of female athletes. In collegiate women's soccer, every team is trying to emulate the University of North Carolina. In field hockey, Wake Forest and Duke finished 1-2 in 2003.

But having home-grown heroines like Stopford could shape the future of field hockey in the Carolinas.

"She's going to be pretty important," Moore says of the A-Camper. "You don't hear much about field hockey in the South, so anything that can be done about promoting the sport is good. Still, when it comes to women in sports, the South is a little behind."

Moore, aside from being the athletic director at Converse, does a little field hockey umpiring on the side.

"I'll be on the sideline, and I'll hear a parent ask me, 'What'd you blow that whistle for?' " Moore says. "Even though their daugters are playing the game, they still don't understand the rules."

She used to play on a regional Deep South team for the National Festival, counting UNC head coach and former U.S. international Karen Shelton as a former teammate. However, her energies, aside from umpiring have taken her in a different direction.

"I had children, which meant that my interests changed to soccer, basketball, and swimming," Moore says. "But I'm still willing to do whatever I can for field hockey because it was good to me."