Where I'm from, field hockey is not just a sport; it's a religion. Much like religion, you are baptized into the faith at a young age. For me, that was age 12, when I "tried out" for the middle school field hockey team. Everyone is welcome, hence the quotation marks around try out, but only some are accepted; even fewer exalted.
There are a series of sacraments that must be received before confirmation as a true player, the primary being carrying the goalie bag from the field to coach's car as well as signing up for the 8am slot at the grocery store bake sale. Supplementing these sacraments is a general education on the history of the faith: how my grandpa's cousin began field hockey at my school in 1950 something and how, ever since, we have provided the opposing team with baked goods at home games.
Once you understand the faith, you must therefore live it out, according to the appropriate rituals and traditions of course. These you must study, for fear of being unprepared and thereby humiliated during the performance of them, which happen at a moment's notice. These traditions include, but are not limited to: wearing your uniform on game day, pasta dinners (last-supper fashion) before game days, and repenting the mistakes you made during the game to be confessed after game days.
Like any religion, music is a large part of these traditions, and the sport in general. Returning from a pilgrimage to any away game, two of the following must be sung in praise: "Brothers All Are We" (in which the word "sister" is substituted for "brother") and "Shipping up to Boston" (accompanied by the hitting of the back of bus seats according to the beat). The subsequent hymns can be alternated accordingly, granted that at least one Hannah Montana and/or Jonas Brother's song is played.
Success, however, is not determined only by adherence to these traditions but to the commandments of field hockey. There are not ten, but rather three that are most pertinent: 1) always wear shoes in the parking lot; 2) never waste water by squirting it at your friend from your water bottle; and 3) if there are 53 balls at the beginning of practice, there must be 53 at the end.
Even this, though, is not enough; no, field hockey requires a special type of sacrifice that edges on martyrdom. Not only are there tests of physical endurance, there are also moments of extreme mental distress when your coach stares you directly in the eye. All of these are meant to try your loyalty to the faith; mine, I believe, was not truly proved until a trip to the ER to stitch up a whole the size of a field-hockey stick in my lip.
Like religion, too, there is no clear reward. Not, at least, until you can look back and realize it was all worth it. Not until you realize that it was not the monumental moments (the state championship, awards at the annual banquet), but rather the small ones in between (braiding hair on the sidelines, sunsets over route two) that made the biggest impact. It wasn't about whether you won all the games or followed all the rules but about whether you showed up for practice every day, even with stitches in your lips. It was the people you met, the songs you sung, the detours you made until you found your way again. And every time, there it was waiting for you, your rock, your refuge: field hockey.