Camogie Blends Field Hockey and Lacrosse and Girl Power

Kim Beckett is out to make an old Gaelic sport a new source of fun in Seattle.

NAME: Kim Beckett
OCCUPATION: Seattle Gaels camogie team manager
DAY JOBS: Works with retirees, both human and greyhound
CAMOGIE POSITION: Defense, halfback and fullback
ON THE OUTFIT: “We wear a skort on the field. It’s an old standard we’ve embraced as a team.”
LINGO: Hurley = stick, sliotar = ball, pitch = field
SEE THE GAME: Watch our video of camogie in action (details on page 10) or check out a live game this summer (schedule at seattlegaels.com).

An Irish sport from the early 1900s is gaining a fan base in modern-day Seattle, and it’s thanks in large part to Mill Creek resident Kim Beckett. Called camogie (“ka-MOH-ghee”), this fairly unknown women’s sport is based on hurling, the ages-old Gaelic stick-and-ball sport. Seattle Gaels (seattlegaels.com), one of a handful of Gaelic sports clubs in the state, started a camogie team last year, adding to its roster of hurling and Gaelic football. Since then, Beckett, 26, has become a camogie expert—and the team’s manager. She’ll be bringing her “A” game to the Seattle Gaelic Games (6/4; at Green Lake), where the team will compete against clubs from Denver and Vancouver, B.C.

SM: What does camogie look like?
KB: The game is kind of hard to explain—I like to say it’s a cross between field hockey and lacrosse. The ball is kind of like a baseball, only softer, and the stick is an elongated paddle, about hip height. The objective is to hit the ball in the goal. You can toss it up and strike it with your stick, pick it up with your stick and hand-pass it, or you can strike it along the ground. It’s almost identical to hurling, but it’s just for women. After hurling, it’s supposed to be the fastest sport on grass.

SM: How did you get involved?
KB: My husband and I took Irish Gaelic lessons with an instructor who plays for the Gaels’ hurling team—that’s how we found the club. When my husband got involved with hurling, we saw girls playing camogie at nationals, and I thought it was awesome. There weren’t many teams in the states, so we decided we could be competitive, got together with teammates and started one.

SM: Is this a popular sport elsewhere?
KB: It’s huge in Ireland, and there are teams in Canada and the U.S.—there were six competing teams at nationals, but there are probably a dozen across the country. The biggest U.S. teams are Chicago, Philly, New York, Boston and San Francisco; the Seattle Gaels is a pretty small club. We invite teams to come and play with us, but it’s hard to get people out here.

SM: What do you love about camogie?
KB: It’s really exciting to be involved in something different that people don’t really know about. One thing that’s cool about camogie in the states is that since it’s still building, there’s a lot more focus on sisterhood. We’re a smaller community of people—there aren’t a lot of Gaelic sports clubs—so it’s really exciting when we all get together. It’s a really positive women’s sport…it’s my female bonding time.

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