If you haven't seen a high school field hockey game this season, you're in for a bit of a surprise.
Since the first day of pre-season practice, active players in the Colonial League and Mountain Valley Conference have been dealing with a rule change incorporated by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Board of Directors.
Back in April, the NFHS voted to mandate the use of protective eyewear that meets the current American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standard for field hockey, according to a statement on the NFHS's website.
According to NFHS, it was stated that, "Acting on a recommendation from the NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, the Board agreed that the potential risk of injury warranted the requirement of protective eyewear for the 64,000 student-athletes participating in high school field hockey."
It may have come unexpectedly. It may have caused a little stir thoughout the area. And, it may have even changed the game of high school field hockey a bit. For the time being however, there's nothing any of the coaches in the surrounding local region can do about it.
Pleasant Valley head coach Angie Frantz mentioned she's doing her best to deal with the thought of it regardless of her opinion about it. And the first-year Bears' mentor knows she's not alone either, especially when a coaches' meeting comes around.
"I always get the feeling a lot of the coaches are against it," Frantz said. "I'm against it as well. But with it being enforced, there's nothing we can really do. We just have to suck it up and play with them. It's unfortunate that they have to because when they go to college, they don't need them. They're an adult and can play without them.
"I'm actually glad that I never had to play with them because I always thought that wearing eye masks would hinder my vision and ability to play."
So was the case when talking to seasoned coach Jess Frew of Northern Lehigh. The longest tenured coach in the TIMES NEWS area was quick to point out that the protective eyewear which is either a pair of protective goggle (a identical version of the eyewear lacrosse players wear) or what looks like a special kind of sunglasses has taken a toll on the players' peripheral vision causing a bit of a change in the game itself.
"It may have taken away eye injuries, but with the less vision you're not getting vision of the stick and the swing," Frew stressed. "There is still going to be injuries associated with not having the vision they should have. So, I think there is going to be just as many injuries because if you think of body position, and them looking down, people will be running into each other. There will be clothes lines. They're not looking up.
"And, like I said, you're not seeing a lot more of the back swings or anything. It may protect your eyes, but its just causing the loss of vision."
With the thought of tampering with the players' vision, coaches took different paths to get their players accustomed to them. In order to get her team adjusted to them, Frantz had them on the first day of practice.
"Every second of practice they play with them on," Frantz said. "They're not allowed to do anything without them on unless it's running drills or stuff when we're not playing actual field hockey. We contstantly have our goggles on because they're just getting used to them and getting the vision down. Some of them have bars, some of them were the actual goggles.
"The school provided them, but I know some of the girls didn't like them. They were getting foggy. So, they went out and bought the masked ones the lacrosse ones. We just make our girls always wear them as much as possible."
Frew took the same path as Frantz did.
"I said, 'As soon as you get them, you have to start wearing them more and more,'" Frew said. "We do one or two drills and then three drills with them on. Then we scrimmage with them. We're just kind of working on getting the peripheral down. Drill after drill we practice with our goggles on.
"We used a gradual building. I know some people immediately said, 'You're wearing them. It's a part of the uniform.' We did one or two drills at a time."
On the other hand, there may be a brighter note. Frew stated there's one thing to consider down the road.
"I know that it was the NFHS's decision, but I know Pennsylvania is going to attempt to fight it or appeal it," Frew said. "It's not necessarily set in stone. I think at this point they're going to try and continue to collect data to see if the data doesn't change. They want to see if there are more injuries associated with them.
"I know when we had a Rules Interpretation meeting people were going to continue to site this. It could be the way it is for the next two to three years and then it could be changed again. At this point it is the rule, but it may not be permanent. This is definitely through word of mouth, but I think most coaches are hoping that it's not permanent or it may get the appeal."
SEEN ON THE GREENS A-PLENTY ..... At last Wednesday's Colonial League Golf Tournament, Stephen Reitz is seeing quite a career as a Northwestern Tiger golfer winding down. When he played his last match, on Sept. 15 against Notre Dame (ES), it ended his four-year streak of playing in every match under Northwestern coach Justin Smith.
Also, that streak includes 55 matches, 14 per year for the last three years and 13 his freshman year in 2008.
Reitz did finish in 49th as the senior Tiger carded a 99 in his first-ever, and last chance at a league title, at par-71, Bethlehem Municipal Golf Course.
EYE OF THE TIGER ..... Northwestern sophomore Cole Miller carded himself an individual championship at last Wednesday's Colonial League Golf Tournament.
On the par-71, Bethlehem Municipal Golf Course, Miller shot a three-over-par 74 to grab inidividual honors at this year's event after taking a fourth-place finish as a freshman. Despite finishing one shot behind Miller, Palmerton senior, and last year's TIMES NEWS Player of the Year, Ben Andrews took home a third-place finish by shooting a 75.
OH, SO CLOSE TO A TITLE ...... Over the weekend, both the Marian and Pleasant Valley girls' volleyball teams took part in two respectable tournaments. The Fillies visited Western PA for the Clarion Tournament, while the Bears traveled a bit South to take the courts at the Red Rover Tournament in Easton.
The Bears missed out of a title falling in the championship game to Northampton to finish in second-place finish as a team, while the Fillies brought home a third-place finish back to Hometown.
Marian finished 5-4 in pool play while Marykate Sherkness finished with 65 kills and 34 digs, while Nikki Colleveccio contributed 68 digs. Pleasant Valley finished 2-1-1 only to fall victim to defeat twice to the same Northampton program.