When his sister's field hockey team was without a goalie, Toby Peck, at the age of 9, stepped in as a substitute. After that experience, Toby has been playing the game ever since and was recently named to the United States Men's Junior National Indoor Field Hockey Team. Although field hockey is more commonly a women's sport in the United States, the men's national team is currently ranked 24th in the world, according to Intentional Hockey Federation (FIH) World Rankings.
Toby, 15, who will be a sophomore this fall at Downingtown High School West (DHSW), was named to the junior national team after taking part in tryouts in March at The Training Center in Pottstown, which were held by USA Field Hockey. The junior national team is a developmental team that is open to boys age 18 and under.
"The goal of the men's indoor program is to build these juniors up to a competitive level so that as they get older, they can transition onto the men's national indoor team, which plays internationally and in the annual Pan Am indoor games," explained Toby's mother, Liz. "They will have opportunities to play here in the States most likely against older, higher skilled girls' teams because boys' field hockey is not built up enough yet in the U.S. to give them competitive play."
Currently, the junior team practices one weekend a month at The Training Center since the boys come from many East Coast states and one player is from California.
Toby explained how his untraditional career in field hockey came about. "My twin sister, Kari, used to play field hockey for the United Field Hockey Club at USTC (the United Sports Training Center)," he said. "The team (at the time) did not have a goalkeeper. I offered, and the coach said, 'Bring him in.' I did it and fell in love with it and played the entire season."
Toby said that that the spectators were not accustomed to seeing a male goalkeeper on a girls' team. "It's unheard of," he stated. "A lot of people were surprised when I took my helmet off and they saw it wasn't a girl."
Toby is currently a practice player on DHSW's varsity field hockey team but does not play during games because boys are not permitted to play field hockey in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA). "They said I could practice with the varsity team and be part of the roster," he noted. "I stay with the team (during games), and I watch with the team. I am grateful that I can practice with them."
Toby plays men's field hockey with East Coast High Performance and has been training with the organization for more than three years. He also plays for the WC Eagles, which is a team sponsored by The Training Center.
While playing goalie, Toby is well protected by his gear. "I wear leg protectors and a chest protector, elbow pads, a neck protector, a helmet and hand pads, one of which my hockey stick goes into," he explained. "We play with a ball (that is) bigger than a baseball and a lacrosse ball, and it's really hard plastic. It's not a puck and it's not bouncy. We play on a field, but Europeans call it a pitch. It is Astroturf for the most part, but sometimes the high schools have football turf or real grass (playing fields)."
He said being a goaltender involves having the ability to stop a ball that is coming toward him at a very fast clip. "It was scary at the beginning, but once you realize you have all these pads on, it doesn't affect me that much," Toby stated. "I still duck if a ball is coming at my head because it's instinctive, but if there is a body shot to my torso or arms, I deflect."
This summer, in addition to a part-time job, Toby is preparing for the fall hockey season by working out at the gym and playing in local practice games. His goal is to one day play for the U.S. National Men's Field Hockey Team.