Weldwood, NJ – The ocean was noon, a few degrees warmer than the previous day’s cold 57 degrees.
But for these athletes, and perhaps even more so for their parents, busy on the sidelines reapplying sunscreen, they never catch a glimpse of the shimmering waves. They had some beach hockey to take care of.
Yes, Wildwood beaches are very large, and you can play field hockey on them.
And with the Amusement Park rides at Murray Pierce forming an iconic backdrop on two sides, the off-target Atlantic on the other, designated as always as a sideline created by hockey dads under beach tents, the annual Sticks in the Sand Championship continued as if it were the most natural thing in the world. This hot beach day.
“Beach hockey is definitely for fun, but it’s really hard, running in the sand, hitting it in the sand,” said Gia Downs, 19, a member of the Cinnaminson Alumni, a group that was the 2019 Sticks in the Sand champion. high school. They were between games, sitting on a beach towel under a tent.
They play a 5-inch “court style” rubber ball that can bounce unexpectedly. You can hit the ball from the air and the goalkeepers can throw the ball.
“The ball is like a little kicking ball,” Downs said. “You can’t do any skills with it. You just have to hit it.”
It’s the 15th year Kean University coach Leslie LaFronz has run the tournament, timing the 12-and-a-half to three minutes on her phone and blowing her whistle to keep things moving in the divisions and games. Once: Adult and High School.
LaFronz said it imported the idea from Europe and turned it into the obvious: the wild and free beaches of Wildwood, where Morey’s Piers also host Quiksand Beach Lacrosse Fest, Battle of the Beach Flag Football, Beach Blast Beach Soccer, and Morey’s Mania Wrestling.
The rules of field hockey have been simplified. No corner kicks, no corner kicks. Goalkeepers do not wear pads, and can use their hands and feet to stop balls. They can throw the ball into the court, too. The winner gets a tiki cup. Mostly, they just play.
When these athletes were asked about other beach sports they played, they mentioned football or lacrosse; There doesn’t seem to be a surfer among them. Maybe a little ball in their future. Definitely a trip to the water park later in the day.
Most would spend the weekend, old bands renting houses together, or staying in the same hotel, with Morey providing free entry to the theme parks and water parks for the weekend.
A group of Kane graduate players had actual beach hockey sticks, made with a wider end or “toe”, with holes drilled to allow sand to pass through.
“They loved it so much that everyone got them for Christmas,” said Nancy Colna, a hockey mom on the sidelines watching her daughter, a Kane Field hockey graduate, after the first year of the girls playing at Wildwood.
They also wear special sand socks that also allow sand to pass through. The younger section should wear athletic shoes and shin guards. Despite the heat of the sand, some went barefoot.
“We book it a year in advance at the Blue Palms,” said Krista Lamaina, 26, of Kean’s alumni team, who calls himself “FHocking Around.” They recruited few male family members because the rules allow for mixed adult teams. “We’ve won three years in a row.”
Saturday weather looked decent, a little hot for sports, perhaps, but better than the year it rained and they were playing in the puddles. One year, a girl cut off her foot with a shell that was in the sand.
LaFronz said the teams were in pre-COVID costumes and actually worked on their themes, and she hopes future summers will see a return to that abundance. Ten teams of ten players each participated in the tournament and will conclude on Sunday.
The Cinnaminson team called the group chat of their championship “beach hockey for parents,” in reference to how much their parents really, really, love watching them play, missing regular games, now that they’re out of school.
“We’ve been doing this since middle school,” said Natalie Cooney, 19, who used to rent hostel rooms with their families. This year, they took out a beach rent for team members only.
Indeed, on the fringes, all the long-distance parents under the beach tents, with coolers and snacks for their daughters at the ready, were all stocked, trying not to look too anxious, and insisting they could be cooler watching their daughters play hockey while sitting with the stretching ocean in front of them.
“They’re going to be a lot older this fall,” said Kim DiGioseppi, whose daughter plays for Glassboro High. “This is the last year. We are looking forward to it.”
On the beach, a father joked, who asked not to be identified, “We’re not angry or anything.”
Glassboro senior Kadie Digiuseppe confirmed that beach hockey is “more relaxed” than the field version, for both parents and athletes.
Even on a 90-degree day at the beach, she said, “It’s definitely cooler.”
GiGi Belisario, who works at the nearby Fudgy Wudgy wagon, said it also sold out during popular beach soccer tournaments.
“It’s very hot,” she said. “I hope after that they will spend some time in the water.