Women's field hockey team takes to the pitch


YC&AC ladies hockey team
YC&AC ladies hockey team

Whether for fun, fitness or hobnobbing with friends, an international group of ladies like to take up their hockey sticks and head to the pitch at Yokohama Country & Athletic Club. Field hockey can be a fiercely competitive sport. But these women say the real thrill of victory is the chance to gather as a team.

Popular the world around, field hockey offers aerobic and anaerobic exercise to put muscles, balance and proprioception to the test. For the YC&AC ladies hockey team, however, it's all about play, says hockey captain Lowly Norgate.

"We don't have practices we just all rock out for the games," explains the Britain-born teacher now in her forth year on a team that dates back to 1925. "I'd say 75 percent of us are gaijin; half live in Tokyo and half in Yokohama." Since it's difficult for members to gather at other times, they're inclined to make the best of their weekend meets: "We usually sit down after the match and socialize."

Womens field hockey
Womens field hockey

The team's roughly 20 members range "anywhere from beginner to ex-national level in their home countries," says Justin Tenbeth, the country club's sports manager. It squares off with other non-league teams between October and April. "The women don't play in a league because we have a different season (than local leagues). Most of the teams we play against are from Japanese universities."

During the season, the team meets about three weekends a month Saturdays or Sundays on their home pitch near Yamate Station in Kanagawa. On a recent Saturday, an injury caused the visiting Seisen University women's team to bow out in mid match. Undaunted by a challenge from observing members of Kobe University men's team, the YC&AC ladies offered a few of their members to the opposition to even things out then held their own in a clash that resulted in a 0-0 draw. They agreed to settle the score the following weekend.

"It's better for us to play men's teams," says Norgate, "it keeps us on our toes." When they're not on their toes they can be found relaxing after games at one of the club's eateries. It's a part of the pastime as valued as the sport itself, says veteran member and film producer Mary Corbett.

"The foreign community (in Japan) is small. When you play on any sports team you get a chance to meet people of many professions and nationalities," says Corbett, a Yokohama native who lauds teammates as much as the activity. "We have world-class athletes who are really patient with the rest of us. About half are top players and a quarter play other sports." Diehards such as engineer Ilze Wijnhoven, 33, are also happy to have found a way to get back into the swing of things since coming to Japan: "I played in Holland ever since I was 7 years old. I wanted to play here and couldn't find a place. Then I found out about this team - and the girls are nice."

Newcomers to the sport such as PE teacher Kelly Kirby, 42, echo that sentiment. "I have very little experience - the last time I played was in seventh grade in New Jersey," she says. "I joined a few months ago to do something new and meet new people. It's a very international team. We have players from all over the world - Holland, Britain, Japan."

There are changes afoot at Yokohama Country & Athletic Club that promise even more possibilities for hockey. For starters, you no longer have to fork over a hefty fee to play on the team.

"We started a new system where the captain can nominate up to half of the squad," says sports manager Tenbeth. This allows team membership for about 9,000 yen a month. It's a far cry from the costs of other amateur sports groups but a steal compared to paying up to 600,000 yen to be a YC&AC member. "They can play the first time for free; after that with Lowly's approval they can be a sports subscriber," Tenbeth says. There's also talk of revamping the pitch with artificial all-weather turf in July, which could draw more players and alter the club's hockey season.

To join in the fun with YC&AC ladies hockey team contact Lowly Norgate via 080-5005-1780 or lowlynorgate@hotmail.com. Learn more about Yokohama Country & Athletic Club by visiting: http://www.ycac.or.jp.

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