CARY — With school just around the corner and high school athletics kicking into gear, Cary Academy hosted a field hockey tournament on Friday and Saturday that focused on more than just the sport itself.
For the fourth consecutive year, Chargers coach Colleen Cassada put together the “Play 4 the Cure” tournament to raise money and awareness for breast cancer research. But with the success reaching new heights and teams put on a wait list with a 12-team format, Cassada said she would like to see the tournament expand to other venues.
“Unfortunately, we can’t go past the 12-team format because we don’t have the field space,” she said. “Eventually we would love to see a bigger facility like WakeMed Soccer Park (be able) to step up and help out. But we’re also limited in the amount of officials that we have because the sport is still growing.
“As the sport continues to grow, hopefully the tournament will as well.”
While the sport itself has a large presence in the northern states, North Carolina and rest of the south has yet to see a huge amount of growth. Cary Academy Athletics Director Kevin Jones, who lived in Las Vegas for most of his life, admitted he was not aware the sport existed before moving to North Carolina.
“Part of the problem is the awareness of the sport,” Jones said. “If we can get some exposure through this tournament, then we are doing something right. There are not a lot of schools around Wake County that offer field hockey, and I would love to see some other schools pick it up.
“I think those schools would find that field hockey is a great fall compliment to any athletics program.”
The Play 4 the Cure Foundation is a nonprofit organization that brings money in from field hockey tournaments and filters the profits back up to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
Cassada’s family is one of the millions who have been impacted by breast cancer. Her grandmother passed away after battling breast cancer, and her mother was diagnosed when she was a senior in college.
“Luckily, my mother has been in remission for eight years,” Cassada explained. “But it makes it something near and dear to my heart. And to see others struggling with it just makes me want to do more for them.”
While the tournament has grown into one of the largest tournaments in the state at any amateur level, Jones said he still has several ideas of how to make the tournament better for everyone involved. This year’s tournament raised $1,107.60, down from $1,947 the year before.
“Other than words on a banner that says Play 4 the Cure, I don’t think we’ve made that direct connection just yet – which is probably something that we’re missing,” he said. “I think that having an invite to people who have been fighting this disease and having them take the field during an intermission would be great a great addition to what we’re trying to do.”