When Jayne Giles joined Belfast’s new highschool subject hockey group in 1973, she and her teammates didn’t have time to fret in regards to the competitors or getting the correct uniforms.
They had been simply centered on studying the way to play the game.
Like many of the different women who joined the group, Giles, who was a senior, by no means noticed subject hockey performed earlier than signing up. The highschool didn’t supply a fall sport for women and added it due to Title IX, the federal regulation that ensured female and male athletes obtained equal alternatives. On Thursday, an alumni recreation will mark the group’s fiftieth anniversary.
The training curve was powerful, Giles mentioned. After only some weeks of sprinting drills, determining which facet of the stick you’re allowed to hit the ball with and the way excessive you’re supposed to carry the stick within the first place, the group was already in preseason video games.
“We seemed like a bunch of lemmings, I feel,” Giles mentioned, recalling an early scrimmage in Pittsfield. “If the ball went to the correct, we went to the correct, if the ball went to the left, the entire group went to the left, all chasing the identical ball.”
The referee on the time ended up stopping the sport and pulling the Belfast group apart to remind them that they had been supposed to remain of their positions and play the lanes, Giles mentioned.
The group’s first few video games had been a problem. It didn’t assist that they began the 12 months sporting what had been basically basketball uniforms. Regardless of going through an uphill battle in opposition to a lot of subject hockey groups that had been already established within the area, the group stored enhancing, mentioned Karen Taylor, additionally a senior enjoying on the group that 12 months.
Taylor remembers the “thrill” of enjoying beneath the lights on the Belfast Space Excessive Faculty soccer subject, and the thrill that got here from enhancing and rising as a group.
“We turned a really close-knit group as a result of we had been attempting to assist one another out. We had been actually attempting to place the trouble in to study the foundations and study the sport,” Taylor mentioned.
Though the group had no wins that first season, the final recreation of the 12 months was a tie, placing the inaugural group’s report at 0-8-1.
“You’d have thought we gained the sport, we had been so excited,” Giles mentioned.
Since these early days, Belfast subject hockey has constructed a powerful legacy with over 600 wins and a number of regional and state championship titles. Taylor and Giles attribute a lot of the group’s success to Coach Allen Holmes, who stayed with the group for 40 years, from its inception all the best way to his retirement in 2012.
A group fashioned across the sport, with dad and mom and native individuals paying extra consideration and extra women wanting to affix the group, Taylor mentioned. Years later, each she and Giles have had a number of members of the family go on to play subject hockey for the highschool, and generations of gamers have stayed in contact.
Holmes’ daughter, Jan Holmes-Jackson, performed for the state champion group in 1989 and has coached the group since her father’s retirement. She even had the prospect to educate her daughter when she performed for the highschool.
“We’ve got a protracted historical past of subject hockey in our household,” Holmes-Jackson mentioned. “Belfast subject hockey is in my blood.”
The group is celebrating its 50-year anniversary with the alumni recreation at the highschool beginning at 6 p.m. Thursday. Earlier than the sport, there shall be a presentation on the historical past of the sphere hockey group in Belfast.
No less than 16 of the 23 gamers from highschool’s first group are anticipated to make appearances. Giles and Taylor have a deal that not less than one among them has to attain a aim throughout the recreation. It’ll be the primary time Giles has performed subject hockey since school, she mentioned, and he or she’s excited to play once more with the individuals who paved the best way for the game’s lengthy historical past in Belfast.
“We needed to begin someplace, and we weren’t afraid to get on the market and do it,” Giles mentioned.