First On the Field
By Courtney Tenz
For a little over a year now, dozens of girls and young women have been meeting on turf fields around Boulder with one goal in mind: to learn the ins and outs of field hockey. Their hair pulled back, pale blue uniforms on, the girls wield their curved wooden sticks with confidence as they dribble and pass their way down the field, battling each other in seven-on-seven scrimmages. These young players are members of the Colorado Bears Field Hockey Club, the first (and only) club team in Boulder.
The club got its start when Emma Bozek arrived in Boulder in August of 2020. She grew up playing field hockey in Westchester, New York, then played for UNC Chapel Hill and internationally for the U.S. National Team. When the pandemic struck, a coach from UC Berkeley reached out to Bozek to see if she could offer private lessons for one of their players stuck at home in Boulder due to the university’s shutdown. As word quickly got out about Bozek’s skills, those lessons snowballed into private training for 10 other individuals and Bozek realized there was an untapped market for field hockey training in Boulder. After running a few free clinics, she launched a winter training season in January 2021 and the club took off from there.
In just over a year, the Bears have seen more than 100 youth players and 200 adult players join their summer and winter leagues, despite the constraints posed by the pandemic. “Our numbers dropped a bit in the winter as, understandably, not everyone is comfortable playing indoors, even with mitigation measures,” says Bozek. Still, that drop is only temporary, one from which the team will recover this spring as they head back to train outdoors on fields around Boulder.
“We expect to double our club membership this year,” says Bozek, who notes that there’s a real demand for the club. Though she attributes the team’s current growth to word-of-mouth, she plans to hold free clinics throughout 2022 to further introduce the sport to the community. Long popular on the East Coast, field hockey is a rarity in Colorado, with interest in Boulder growing as more transplants have arrived.
“I’ve always wanted my daughter to play field hockey,” says Colleen Bolls, who played a winning career through high school and college in Connecticut and was inducted into the Connecticut Field Hockey Hall of Fame in 2012. Bolls helps to coach the team, and says she’d had trouble finding clubs for the sport since moving to Boulder more than 12 years ago. “As soon as I heard there was a team practicing, we got involved.”
Bolls’ daughter is on the club’s U12 team, members of which flew to Disney World in late January for the Sunshine Showcase—a tournament put on by USA Field Hockey that Bozek herself played in as a child.
Though it’s one of the first big tournaments the team has taken part in, there are sure to be more in the future as the club grows. Plans are in the works for games against teams from Denver, Aspen and Colorado Springs, as well as a summer camp.
Bozek’s ambition to bring field hockey to as many girls as possible seems to be working. The middle-school team members are so excited about the sport that they are petitioning Boulder Valley School District to create school teams.
For now, though, with the start of spring and beautiful weather, the girls are regrouping, heading back out of the halls and onto the outdoor fields where they’ll take aim at growing their competitive skills. Because as the saying about both life and field hockey goes, “You can’t win without goals.”
For more info, visit coloradobears.com.