Forging New GroundGrand Blanc Introduces Field Hockey


John Wainio believes in Grand Blanc Schools and its students. A 1991 graduate, Wainio has helped his alma mater make strides in education and athletics that he believes sets Grand Blanc apart. He ran for the board of education for two years in a row and had a hand in getting the bonds passed to build the two middle schools. He also grew up an athlete, playing hockey for UM-Flint and Adrian College. “Sports are in my blood,” he adds. So, when he was asked to join the Girls Lacrosse program in Grand Blanc as an assistant coach, he never hesitated. When the coach subsequently left the program, Wainio stepped up to take the helm. He has presided over Girls Lacrosse for the last seven years, building a culture of hard work, strong academics, community participation and success. In the spring, he hopes to emulate this success as he forges new ground in Genesee County when he leads its first ever Girls Field Hockey Team into competition. “It’s an opportunity for more girls to compete at Grand Blanc,” he says. “It’s so competitive at the school, this gives girls another chance to join a team or be a multi-sport athlete.”

The idea was planted in Wainio’s mind in the spring of 2019, when he was asked a question by a young female assistant coach. “She asked ‘What do you think of field hockey?’ I was intrigued but we were having a tough time with facilities for Girls Lacrosse and working to get it established,” he states. “It wasn’t the right time.” Still, he brought the idea to athletic director Jerrod Dohm. Dohm was receptive but COVID hit and the idea was tabled. Then in early 2020, Grand Blanc voters passed a $87 million bond proposal that, among other things, would fund construction of a new athletics facility and update others. The new athletic complex was introduced to the community before graduation ceremonies on June 1. Suddenly, the facilities problem Girls Lacrosse was struggling with became more easily managed. With new confidence (and lacrosse established as an official varsity sport), Wainio pressed for field hockey. “I felt, with the new facility opening, it was time,” he says. “In November (2022), I met with Jerrod again. He was 100 percent onboard with the idea.”

Wainio and Dohm worked through MHSAA qualifications and gained support from the Michigan High School Field Hockey League and Coach’s Association. The biggest step was gaining Grand Blanc Board of Education approval. “The girls who were interested put together a presentation for the board,” informs Wainio. The presentation detailed the leadership structure and five-year plan of the team including its mission statement, which reads, “The primary purpose of the Grand Blanc Girls Field Hockey Team is to promote healthy self-esteem and a strong sense of community by teaching teamwork and physical development …” The board approved and Grand Blanc Field Hockey was born.

Field Hockey will join GBHS as a club team, only achieving varsity status after five years. “Our athletic director recognizes all Bobcats athletics including club teams, with training support and awarding of varsity letters,” Wainio explains. This means the girls on the team will be recognized as athletes at Grand Blanc even though the team is not yet “official”. In fact, for its inaugural season, Wainio will recognize all athletes as varsity performers. There will be no cuts, with one exception. “If we have enough girls for the season, we will have ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams but we will have to cut the roster down to 25 girls for the state tournament,” says Wainio. The initial goal was to have one team of 25, but after the recruiting campaign a surprising thing happened. “The girls who were interested promoted the team in school and on social media,” Wainio says. “We had 41 girls pre-register! I was overwhelmed by the result. Since then, it has fluctuated as girls dropped out or showed up for practices.” The current roster includes athletes from lacrosse, softball, volleyball, basketball and swimming in addition to girls who are joining a team for the first time.

We need to get mid-Michigan and the Valley behind the effort. I would love to see more schools offer the sport. It’s another opportunity for female athletes to shine.
John Wianio, Coach

Wainio has named his co-captains and assistant captains for the upcoming season and in June, both Grand Blanc teams participated in their first tourney at the Meijer State Games in Grand Rapids against teams from Rockford, Hudsonville, East Grand Rapids, Saline, Chelsea and Dexter. Each Grand Blanc team played five games – one finished with a record of 1-4, while the other finished 0-5. “We didn’t win many, but the games were very competitive and that was good to see,” says Wainio.

Wainio hopes that the addition of field hockey at GBHS will be the catalyst that drives the creation of other teams from Genesee County and the Saginaw Valley. Currently, there are approximately 41 field hockey teams in Michigan and in order to be formally recognized by the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA), there must be at least 60. “To be honest, once we hit 60 teams, not much will change, since we already follow MHSAA qualifications, except the sport will be officially recognized and managed by the MHSAA,” adds Wainio. “Right now, field hockey recognizes all-state teams and state championships.

“We need to get mid-Michigan and the Valley behind the effort. I would love to see more schools offer the sport. There isn’t any reason why schools like Davison, Flushing, Fenton, Swartz Creek or Saginaw area schools can’t start a team.” Wainio offers his help and advice to whoever would like to get a field hockey team started. He stresses that instituting field hockey can help some girls through college as collegiate programs offer scholarships in the sport, as well as enhance self-esteem, confidence and friendships.

(L-R) Leading the Bobcats Field Hockey Team are: Co-captain Willow Roberts, Co-captain Jordis Witucki, Asst. Captain Aubrey Wallberg, Asst. Captain Kaeleigh Cocke.

Tryouts for the inaugural Bobcats Field Hockey team open on August 7 with games starting at the end of the month when, for the first time, the ball will be passed back and the sport officially begins in Genesee County. “It’s another opportunity for female athletes to shine.”

Field Hockey: A Primer

This outdoor game is played by two opposing teams of 11 players who use curved sticks to hit a small ball into their opponent’s goal. The playing field dimensions are close to that of a regular football field being 100 yards long and 60 yards wide. (A football field is 120 yards long and 53.3 yards wide). The field is marked by a center line and two 25-yard lines. Each goal is four yards wide and seven feet high. Around the goal is a semi-circle called the “shooting circle.” For a goal to count, it must be shot from within the shooting circle or re-directed by a stick in the shooting circle.

The standard composition of a fielded team is five forwards, three halfbacks, two fullbacks and a goalkeeper. Field players can touch the ball with their stick only. Goalkeepers can stop the ball with their stick or body. Play is started at the beginning of the game and after each goal via a pass back, akin to soccer. Face-offs occur after simultaneous penalties, injury timeouts, or if the ball becomes trapped in a player’s clothing.

Primary Rules

Like all sports, the rules can get complicated. For simplicity, here are the three main rules of field hockey.

  1. Players can only hit the ball with the flat side of their stick.
  2. Players are not allowed to use their feet or any part of their body to control the ball.
  3. Goals can only be scored from within the scoring circle.


Fouls may occur during play resulting in free hits, penalty corners, or penalty strokes. Offending players can be issued a green card (warning), yellow card (five minutes off the field penalty) or a red card (immediate disqualification).

Players may not:

  • Use body or stick to prevent a player from getting to a ball (obstruction),
  • Advance the ball using a part of the body (Advancing),
  • Strike the ball with the rounded back of the stick (Backsticking),
  • Hit an opponent’s stick with their own (Stick Interference),
  • Lift the ball in a dangerous manner (Undercutting), or
  • Raise the stick dangerously near another player (Sticks).

Good Luck, Grand Blanc Field Hockey in your inaugural season!


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