Jesse Larson, a seven-year veteran of the U.S. indoor men's field hockey team, took a few moments last week to share his thoughts on the current state of his sport in this country.

Larson has helped Muzammal Malik train for the Masters World Cup and is a master's candidate in education and certification at the University of Maryland.

How are you feeling about the state of men's field hockey in this country?

I think it's in need of support from the national governing body. I think it's been neglected for too long. There are a lot of really committed individuals. There is a vibrant league in New York, there's a good league in Los Angeles, but it needs the support of the governing body.

We have some boys programs and they're basically backed by other male field hockey players that contribute money to support it. We just need more boys. We're trying to get it in the schools. We have a boys program in Anne Arundel County that has an indoor program every winter, and we usually have around 16 to 20 boys that play.

So right now I think what needs to happen is a concerted effort led by the national governing body to attract young boys to the game, elementary school-age boys, and get in the rec centers, the YMCAs and the schools.

Really build like soccer did 30 years ago. And look where we are now with soccer in this country. So it's possible to make the transition. Lacrosse is doing the same thing now in the Midwest, and I think U.S. field hockey needs to do the same thing.

Do you think the men's game needs to take some lessons from the women's game?

They need to be funded the way the women are funded. The past 20 years they've been neglected, and that's the simple fact. I'll leave it at that. It's a simple fact. That needs to change.

Why do you think there's been a lack of funding?

It is because when you support the men, to put money into the men's side of things is going to be a longer-term project than it is for the women.

The women already have an infrastructure; they already have 72 Division I schools that are fully funded that provide a wide pool of players that can perform at the elite level. So it doesn't take much proportionally. In a rather short term as we're seeing they're doing a great job with the women to raise the level so that they can compete at the elite level.

But with the men, we have a very small player pool, so I would say it would take 20 years to reach that level simply because you need to first expand the pool, and then you'll be able to raise the level. That's why you need to start at the elementary level. Or else you'd be like the Redskins trying to win a championship every year, and what you find out is that doesn't work.

You're always going to fall short if you don't commit yourself to a long-range plan and really build your base so you can compete at an elite level for a prolonged period of time.

cletourneau@baltsun.com

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