Sticking with it

Freshman James Callahan makes the junior U.S. field hockey team


Mark Palczewski/USA Field Hockey

Knees bent, freshman James Callahan lifts the ball for a fast pass during the 2021 Young Men’s National Championship in Virginia Beach. Despite his high skill level, it is difficult for Callahan to find opportunities to play with other boys. “I can’t play in any tournaments in St. Louis. To get practice with other boys, I’d have to fly out to California or Pennsylvania. You have to spend $400 to pay for the practice, and you pay for a plane ticket. We don’t even know if they’re giving us rooms, [or if] we also have to get the hotel and transportation,” Callahan said.

With a tight grip on his stick, freshman James Callahan skillfully carries his ball down the stadium field. He pulls past defenders, keeping his head up to look for passes and charges towards the goal.

Callahan began playing field hockey with encouragement from his mother, field hockey Coach Dawn Callahan. He first made the U.S. national junior team as an eighth grader. A year later, Callahan tried out for the U-18 squad this August by attending their Talent Identification and Training Camp.

“It was hot in California, so we had to work a lot, but it was fun. [During the] tryouts, we have to do a lot of skills like [going] over cones to see what you can do [and] what you’re capable of. Then they see how you play in games and move off the ball ‒— your hockey sense,” Callahan said. “It was a lot harder to get on the team this year.”

As a member of the 2022-23 U.S. U-18 Men’s National Team, Callahan is invited to attend national and international events like the Young Men’s National Championship. Additionally, high-performing members of the squad are set on a development pipeline for the U.S. Olympic team.

“[My favorite memory from the team was] my first goal in a practice game. It was across the circle, tapping it into the goal. [I practice] so I can play for longer and get more competitive because it’s more fun,” Callahan said.

Callahan is also a member of Gateway Field Hockey Club, where he is one of the few male players. However, despite the international popularity of both men’s and women’s field hockey, there are few opportunities for men to play in the Midwest and the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) does not recognize men’s field hockey.

“[Callahan] has had a stick in his hand since he [was] six months old. He’s had the opportunity [to] play club since he was four, but it’s difficult to find more boys to play with. For the longest time, he was the only boy playing field hockey in his club. Now there’s about five or six,” Dawn Callahan said.

However, Dawn Callahan hopes to change this. She will be starting a new men’s high school field hockey league this spring.

“We are going to try and start a high school field hockey league for boys in the spring. We will be advertising for it coming up once we get all the details all sorted out. We will be posting stuff on social media and bulletin boards around school and posting it on the daily announcements,” Dawn Callahan said.