High school field hockey participants in Maryland have found themselves on unstable ground.
Some teams practice on artificial turf, others on Bermudagrass or Kentucky Bluegrass. Girls that play on natural grass aren't prepared for games on turf, and vice versa.
Turf offers faster, more predictable games and is required in Maryland's state tournaments, though until the state semifinals higher seeds receive home field advantage.
Leonardtown, a school in St. Mary's county, Md. that won five state titles between 1982 and 1994, plays on grass.
When rival Broadneck, a team that plays on turf, showed up on Leonardtown's field last month, they were unprepared for the grass match. Leonardtown wore molded cleats, their challengers, flat tennis shoes.
Ena Belch, a Maryland recruit who plays for Broadneck, told The Washington Post that playing on Leonardtown's grass field, "changes everything. Your drives aren’t predictable.”
Two years ago, when rival Severna Park came to Leonardtown, a cold rain had turned the field into a muddy plot.
Severna Park coach Ann Andrews deemed the playing conditions “scarily comical.”
St. Mary's county public school district has looked into installing synthetic turf in Leonardtown. But as the district faced a deficit of more than $6 million this year, its obvious they simply don't have the money.
So why do twelve schools in the neighboring Anne Arundel county have artificial turf playing surfaces?
According to The Washington Post, in 2007, Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch used funds from Program Open Space, which had a budget of $16.147 million.
Busch allocated 75 percent of artifical turf field construction to the state's Program Open space budget and left the other 25 percent to be funded by the parks and recreation department and school board.
Anne Arundel county has since installed 11 fields, including one at Broadneck.
Schools in St. Mary's county continue to suffer, however, and the disadvantage between turf-playing and grass-playing teams will continue until all schools get the turf field they need.