Oxford forms club field hockey team after Talawanda High School cuts sport

When Talawanda High School’s athletic department announced in May that it would cut the girls’ field hockey team as a school-sponsored sport, students were initially left with no alternative. Now, the community has come together to offer a solution: Oxford Brave Field Hockey.

The club team is a nonprofit organization that relies on volunteers, sponsors and donors to provide an opportunity for students to continue playing field hockey, according to the Oxford Brave website. Athletes will compete in the Southwest Ohio Field Hockey League.

“We aim for every athlete to be able to play, so we keep fees affordable and offer financial assistance as needed,” the about page states.

Talawanda has faced heavy budget cuts since failing to pass a levy last November. Other money-saving changes have included switching to single-tier busing and increasing activity fees to $900 per sport for high school students and $350 per sport for middle school students. The new club team will cost $400 total for the summer and fall seasons and currently only has a high school program, but a middle school program is in progress.

When Athletic Director Jake Richardson proposed cutting the girls’ field hockey team in an April school board meeting, he cited low participation and difficulty maintaining a coaching staff for the sport. So far, no other teams have faced elimination, but Richardson said during the meeting that additional cuts are being considered for winter and spring sports. He did not mention specific sports as some were still in-season but said “there’s discussion about evaluation of all sports, especially the non-conference sports.”

Wendy Duvall, a teacher and parent who has helped organize the club hockey team, said she and other parents started working with other members of the field hockey community just a few weeks ago to organize the new team.

“It’s been a lot of figuring out what we need to do and what we’re allowed to do and how we go about doing that ... There’s no way we could have done this on our own as a group of parents, so we’re really, really thankful for all those people that have lent their expertise to helping us get this up and running,” Duvall said.

Among the people lending their support to the new team is Richardson himself, Duvall said.

“He’s been super supportive in helping us make this transition to being a club team,” Duvall said. “I know he’s in a tough situation trying to figure out how to make things work. I don’t envy anybody who’s making those decisions right now, and whether or not they’re the decisions I would have made, I feel for whoever is making those decisions.”

Richardson did not respond to requests for comment.

Madison Workman, a Miami University graduate student, is coaching the Oxford Brave as they start their summer season. Workman is a member of Miami’s varsity field hockey team and has won four Mid-Atlantic Conference championships in the past four years. She said the team will play its home games on Miami’s turf instead of at Talawanda.

One of Workman’s priorities this year is to make the game enjoyable for her team.

“I want to take the time to get to know them and honestly make field hockey a fun thing where it’s like a distraction from other things in their life or somewhere where they can come and just feel welcomed and like part of a family,” Workman said.

The Oxford Brave team began its summer season June 12, and it will run through Aug. 4. The fall season starts Aug. 7, with practices beginning July 31. Interested athletes can visit oxfordbrave.com/register to sign up or attend a few practices for free.

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