Laura Barton ’84, a member of the US Women's Masters Field Hockey team, gets the ball from a Welsh player during a match in South Africa.

Some athletes play through their prime and, on the declining side of peak competitive years, choose to hang up their uniforms. For others, the fire to compete keeps burning, and they continue to train for their best performances in their beloved sport.

Like Laura Barton ’84, who at 61 is a member of the US Women’s Masters Field Hockey team. This May, she will try out for a place on the women’s over-60 team scheduled to compete in the Masters World Cup, this November in Auckland, New Zealand. 

Barton began playing field hockey in middle school and continued her passion for the sport while a student at Moravian, playing for coach Betty Prince and assistant coaches Diane Angstadt and Char Pletz. (She played at an alumni game in 2016 and says, “Moravian hockey has come a long way!”)

Barnegat Sunset by Laura Barton ’84

After graduating with a degree in fine arts, Barton worked as a graphic designer at several companies before launching Barton Design in 1991. She offers design work for all manner of clients, from start-ups to international companies. And she never stopped playing field hockey. But in 2010, Barton and her husband, Chris Vely, moved from Pennsylvania to Salida, Colorado, where competitive field hockey for women wasn’t to be found.

A trip back to Pennsylvania in 2022 coincided with tryouts for the US Masters team. On a “whim,” and with the encouragement of friends who had played on masters teams, she found herself competing with some 200 adults trying out at different age levels, from 35 to over 70. Barton has always competed in sports, including running, cycling, and triathlons, but she says she “hadn’t competed in anything in a few years and kind of got the ‘itch.’” The masters opportunity came at just the right time. She was excited to reconnect with friends and former field hockey teammates and thrilled to be selected for the 2022 over-60 team!

The expansion of “senior” women’s field hockey is relatively new. The first women’s 60+ age group competed internationally in 2014 at the Grand Masters Hockey World Cup in The Hague. In 2018, the number of teams had grown from 56 to 77, and the United States entered the World Grand Masters Association for the first time, sending teams to Barcelona, Spain, to compete.

Barton plays on three teams: the US Masters O–60, the Red Rose Club, and the Saturday AM Club. The Red Rose Club will compete in the Netherlands in June, and Barton hopes she’ll be participating at the World Cup in New Zealand in November.

Beyond the rewards of the sport, Barton appreciates the opportunity to see the world as a member of the team. “I had never even thought about going to South Africa, but it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Can’t wait to go back. Bra, Italy, lies in the northwestern region of the country near Turin and close to the French border. It’s a blue-collar kind of town and beautiful. But really hot! Playing at the end of August, it was 103 degrees on the pitch.”

As she continues to practice and hone her skills, Barton appreciates the ability to be active and healthy as she enters her 60s. Her thoughts about pursuing your passions no matter your age? “You can do it! One thing I keep thinking about—maybe because of my age, maybe because of losing parents—we only go around once. We only have this one life. If you have the inclination to do something, don’t let anything stop you. Be true to yourself.”   —Renée A. James