History

The Spirit Eagles Elite Field Hockey Group (SEG) is directly related to the old North Jersey Mens Field Hockey Club, which was founded in 1956 by a number of enthusiasts of various national origins.

Organizational pride of place must go to Kurt Orban, who played the sport in Germany. He had the initiative of procuring a suitable field in the Kinnelon area and began to recruit players for the new club which he entered for the national league.  Most of those clubs were in the New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

An early recruit was Gurcharn S. Issar, an emigrant from India, where he was well-known as a top-class player with the famous Indian Railways teams.  His eldest son, Kulbir, also known as “Kaka” soon joined him. Kaka had won schoolboy honors in India and went on to become the North Jersey organizer and honorary secretary. He was eventually followed in the team by two younger brothers, Mickey, who represented the U.S. at the under 21 level and Bobby, the present Spirit Eagles head coach and club director.  Bobby, a player of outstanding speed and skill, played on the U.S. National Team many times during the 1990’s.

From 1956 until its demise 30 years later North Jersey was the premier club in the U.S. winning 12 league championships. The Greer Cup as well as the John F. Kennedy tournament in Washington D.C., The Maple Leaf tournament in Toronto and the New York Area Spring tournament (Peter Frank Cup) three times in the 1960’s.

Notable players of the era as well as the Issars’ were Jacko Devereux and Norberto Garcia, both Argentine natives, Dutchmen Gerry Kervel and Thys Boers, while full-back Herman Waetge, established a record by playing for the U.S. National team over a 12 year period.

A new era started for the club in 1972 when Gurcharn S. Issar returned from a visit to India with a splendid silver trophy made by one of New Delhi’s most skillful silversmiths. Known as the North Jersey Cup, it drew competing teams from Great Britain, Ireland, India, Africa and Canada over a period of 30 years, during which North Jersey won it three times.

Changes were in the offering. Until 1987 hockey clubs in the northeast provided their own fields for league play on a home and away basis. However, in 1987 the governing body (the U.S. Mens Field Hockey Association) decided that all games must be played on artificial turf as in the rest if the world. This decision meant that clubs would have to meet and play in New York City where the only artificial turf fields were available and no longer in their old locations.

This innovation immediately affected the North Jersey Club. Many of those players had no desire to travel into New York on a Sunday, and within a few years the old club had disappeared from the local scene.

However, one player, who had a special relationship with the Drew University field hockey program in Madison, decided to stage a revival in 1988. Pulling together a few other semi-retired players, both male and female he started a group called “EAGLES”, which played friendly games against other non-league teams on the grass field at Drew.

The new Eagles club received a tremendous boost in 1989, when Drew University in conjunction with the U.S.F.H.A. installed a new synthetic turf field at Drew for use as a national training center, following a Men’s World Cup Qualifying tournament in 1989. This never-to-be-forgotten event included teams from Holland, Canada, U.S.A., Ireland, Poland, Chile and New Zealand, all vying for places in the 1991 World Cup Competition in Pakistan.

Although the young U.S. team failed to win a game, it turned in many good performances and one of its outstanding players is now our present head coach and director Bobby Issar.

From 1989 on, Jake Speers directed the operations of the Eagles, based at Drew and it gradually turned into a development club for young players, both male and female. In the early 1990’s the Eagles played practice games against the U.S. National team under their famous coach Beth Anders.  Another fixture of the times was the annual match in the fall against Princeton University. In fact the Eagles were specially invited by Princeton Coach Beth Bozman to play the first game in Princeton’s new 5 million dollar stadium in 1995.

In the mid 1990’s, Bobby Issar came to the Eagles as a coach and player and shortly after that the name was changed to “SPIRIT EAGLES” to incorporate the name of the former “Spirit” group. Through Bobby’s enthusiasm for the sport, the Spirit Eagles have grown into a large elite field hockey organization unrivaled anywhere in the U.S.

Spirit Eagles teams have traveled to Holland for special coaching by the world’s best. In a reciprocal arrangement, many Dutch coaches have come to the U.S. to staff the Spirit Eagles training camps.

Teams from the elite group are regular winners at the National tournaments in California, Florida and Virginia. College coaches are well aware that players who have graduated from the Spirit Eagles program (outdoor and indoor) will make valuable additions to any college field hockey program. To date, over 200 girls have been placed on college teams nationwide.

When our northeastern weather gets too cold for outdoor play, the Spirit Eagles players move to indoors, using a variety of school gymnasiums and other facilities. Where they continue working their skills and participating in tournaments right up to national championship levels in March every year.

After a 7 year spell at Drew University, the Spirit Eagles moved to Montclair State University’s field in 1997 during which time many great games were played against college teams. In an important change of venue, they completed a move in 2002 to the new field at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken. Stevens is their current home for outdoor play.

This year, 2004, a group of former Spirit Eagles players who have graduated from college formed an adult team called the “GOLDEN EAGLES” for tournament play.  And in a further development, former coach Ravi Kullar has formed a team in Tampa, Florida, which will debut in November at the National Tournament.