Update: The UI field hockey team won its second straight Big Ten tournament Nov. 4, advancing to the NCAA tournament that starts Nov. 9.
The University of Iowa field hockey team heads into the Big Ten tournament—held Nov. 1-4 in Columbus, Ohio—ranked sixth in the nation.
“Last year we won the Big Ten tournament, but lost in the first round of the NCAA,” says head coach Tracey Griesbaum. “This year, we have more skill, poise, and minutes of play under our belts. We’re not going into any game wide-eyed for any other reason than feeling fired up.”
The team’s roster includes players drawn from all over the country. Their facility—a dedicated field completed in 2005—may be among the nation’s best. In short, the program and its success are testaments to Iowa’s backing for women’s athletics.
“We want to provide overarching support that helps our female student athletes feel they’re treated the same as their male peers,” says Jane Meyer, senior associate athletic director. “Since 2001, we’ve built about $115 million in facilities that benefit men’s and women’s programs alike. Nationally, we’re going after top student athletes in every sport.”
Of course it wasn’t always that way. Christine Grant, former director of women’s athletics at Iowa, recalls the shock of arriving in the United States as a graduate student in the 1960s and finding no intercollegiate programs for women.
“I started competing when I was 11 years of age,” says Grant, who had played field hockey in her native Scotland and coached Canada’s national team. “I naively thought that every young girl had that opportunity.”
Then came Title IX, the law mandating equal opportunity in federally funded education programs regardless of gender. Grant drafted implementation guidelines for the law, became one of its most ardent defenders, and helped Iowa earn national attention for pioneering programs in women’s sports.
“Iowa’s reputation for being really committed to equal opportunity came very early on,” she recalls, crediting former UI president Sandy Boyd and former men's athletic director Bump Elliott for supporting both women’s programs and Grant’s work to promote similar progress nationally.
Today the UI field hockey facility is named in Grant’s honor, and the University’s commitment to opportunity goes on.
There’s work to be done, but changed attitudes and interest have helped establish women’s athletics. “We’ve built a fan base that includes young people, retired people, and families of all kinds,” Meyer says.
“Christine Grant and other women fought the true battles,” she adds. “They’ve given us the chance to do what is right for all sports, men’s and women’s alike.”
That kind of teamwork lets Iowa’s field hockey players and their fellow athletes make the most of their talents. “Sport can give so much to young people,” Grant says. “I hope we can keep the development of our student athletes uppermost in our thoughts and actions.”
Iowa Field Hockey