By Al Mattei


Amrit Chima wears a varsity uniform for an NCAA Division I field hockey team in 2000. Much like the other 1500 or so players in the top echelon of American college field hockey, Chima plays with confidence and strength.

But the Stanford sophomore is unlike almost every American player in Division I field hockey. Ask her how many goals she scored in high school, she might tell you that no records were kept in a scorebook.

Ask her how many games she played, she'll tell you that she averaged one a week. Ask her about her all-state credentials, she'll freely admit that she was no all-star player.

Chima is not one of those athletic types which have been converted from ice hockey or soccer; rather, she has had plenty of experience on a hockey pitch. The experience, however, was markedly different from most Americans playing college field hockey.

The difference is that Chima played club field hockey -- and only club field hockey throughout her high school years. She never played a minute of scholastic field hockey. As a resident of Ventura, Calif., Chima never had a chance to play scholastic field hockey because no school in her region offered the sport.

"The closest high school field hockey is in Orange County," Chima says. "In our region, it is mostly north of us."

Instead, she had to find her own path to prominence.

"I wound up having to play club hockey," Chima says. "We played with guys: there were enough interested girls to form one under-19 team, so we played against the guys in social divisions."

The concept of females playing against males is anathema to some traditionalists in American field hockey, but not in an area in which field hockey got a huge boost after the Los Angeles Olympics.

"There are a couple of programs out there: the Ventura Roadrunners, which is a program started by Mike Newton, who played in the Olympics in '84 and there's the Camarillo program," says Chima about her local club scene. "There are different clubs, starting in the under-9 and under-12 programs doing into the social divisions for the adults."

Chima and her teammates had only one time a week in order to make their point as to how good they could be.

"It was pretty social: we played once on Sunday, and didn't practice," she says. "We had a couple of teams that were more competitive who, if they went to a tournament, would try to get together to practice."

Sometimes, she would play alongside boys as well as against them.

"I was coached, when I was little, by some of the former guys' national-team players," Chima recalls. "When I got into high school, there were more girls to play with."

When she found herself trying to plan choices for college, she originally thought she would be going to a place where she would not only succeed academically, but succeed on the basketball court. However, she made a key change in her teenage years.

"I played in the Futures program, and I went to the National Hockey Festival when it was in Palm Springs," she says.

She got the necessary exposure, leading to her opportunity to play at Stanford, taking advantage of the opportunities presented to her.

"It was surprising, actually, becuase I wasn't expecting to play hockey in college: I was looking to play basketball, Chima says. "I played only one game for the club on weekends, but it ended up working out."