Judy Broom: The Wind Beneath Field Hockey’s Wings – 2021 Inductee Spotlight

March 25, 2022

By Jason Beck

It’s been nearly three years—hard to believe—but it finally looks like an in-person BC Sports Hall of Fame Induction Gala is back, scheduled for June 9th at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Over the next two-and-a-half months, we plan to bring you in-depth features on each of the Class of 2021 Inductees, publicly announced last October. You can view a list of the full induction class here: https://bcsportshall.com/announcement-day-bc-sports-hall-of-fame-reveals-class-of-2021-selections/

Because March is Women’s History Month, we’ll start with the one and only Judy Broom, the wind beneath the wings of BC field hockey for several decades, helping to lift the sport to new heights.

Judy was another link in the chain of great BC field hockey builders, quietly yet passionately carrying on the ground-breaking work done by legends who came earlier like May Brown, Barbara ‘Bim’ Schrodt, and Moira Colbourne—all BC Sports Hall of Famers. Working in tandem seamlessly with another legend, the great Jenny John, Judy and Jenny were the perfect pair, their strengths combining perhaps better than any other duo at a provincial sport organization in recent BC history. Where Jenny was out front as the vibrant face of the sport as the BC Women’s Field Hockey Federation’s (BCWFHF) provincial technical coordinator travelling all over BC and Canada for clinics and matches, just as important in the background was Judy working away tirelessly keeping field hockey moving forward as BCWFHF executive director from 1979 to 2005, the beating heart of the organization and the sport as a player, volunteer, administrator, and supporter.

“She was the ‘wind beneath our wings,’ confirmed Jenny. “We were opposites in so many ways but no two friends could be more compatible. My success was because she was the constant in the office. On Judy’s fiftieth birthday, I gave her the music of ‘Wind Beneath my Wings’ [by Bette Midler]. We were like two peas in a pod, for over twenty years the perfect team, no doubt about it. Completely different personalities, work habits, abilities, and skills, but not one argument. Ever.”

The strength of Field Hockey BC today, especially on the women’s side, can be directly traced back to the perfect partnership of this dynamic duo, Judy and Jenny.

Judy Dunham was born in Croydon, a town south of London, England, in March 1941 in the latter stages of the Battle of Britain as the German Luftwaffe mercilessly bombed key targets all over the country. There was a military base just a few miles from Croydon, making it a dangerous place to live at that point in World War II, so Judy’s family evacuated to Oxford where they stayed for the remainder of the war.

Judy attended Croydon High School on a scholarship where she excelled in languages, typing, and shorthand—all skills that later came in handy guiding field hockey in BC. It was at Croydon High School that she first discovered field hockey, but interestingly enough it was actually tennis that was her top sport.

Judy’s first adult job was as the secretary of one of the directors of the Central Council of Physical Recreation (now known as Sport England) in central London, a government funded organization promoting sport and physical health among the British public. It was there that Judy discovered the other great partner in her life, her future husband Eric Broom, who also worked for the CCPR.

“We were in the same building and we met there,” recalled Eric.

In 1961, Judy moved to Paris for two years working as a nanny while taking French at the Sorbonne at the University of Paris. Her command of the French language later proved extremely valuable when working with bilingual field hockey leaders across Canada.

Back in London, Judy and Eric were married on a Saturday in August 1964 and on Sunday the very next day, they flew to Montreal to start a new life in Canada. Their honeymoon was a cross-country drive to Vancouver, where Eric had taken a position at UBC. On the way at the request of Harry Warren, president of the Canadian Field Hockey Association, Eric and Judy organized and staged a series of field hockey coaching clinics on their drive to the coast.

“It was quite the introduction to Canada,” recalled Eric. “We were a good team. We complemented one another very well in sport and in life.”

Judy was also recruited into the field hockey fold in BC by another Warren—Charlotte, Harry’s daughter—even before the Brooms had left Britain. Charlotte heard this winger with blazing speed and great work ethic was coming to Canada and quickly convinced Judy to join her North Vancouver Field Hockey Club. As well as playing, Judy offered to become the club’s secretary and she remained a club member for the rest of her life.

Within just a few years in BC, Judy and Eric had two daughters, Karen and Jenn. The family moved to Illinois from 1969-71 while Eric completed his Masters and PhD. Judy used her amazing skills on the typewriter to assist Eric by typing up essays and taking very high speed short hand notes “as fast as I’m now speaking,” marveled Eric. “I could not have done it without her.”

After the Brooms returned to BC in the early 1970s, Judy volunteered as the first administrative assistant for both the BCWFHF (later known as Field Hockey BC) and the BC Cycling Association. She continued to volunteer for the BCWFHF for the rest of the decade, while also supporting Eric’s work developing the National Coaching Certification Program for the Coaching Association of Canada. Remarkably, Eric estimated that Judy typed up over 10,000 coaches forms over the years.

In 1979 Judy became the full-time paid executive director of the BCWFHF and this was when she really shone alongside Jenny John for the next two decades. Right off the bat she helped organize the 1979 International Women’s Field Hockey Championship (IFWHA) held at UBC, which proved a remarkably successful tournament. Working out of the old Sport BC offices on Broadway in Vancouver, Judy was an extraordinary multi-tasker and could juggle meetings, phone calls, letters and later emails, unexpected ‘walk-in’ visitors, budgeting, typing, transcribing minutes, you name it. Often burdened beneath a mountain of seemingly endless work, she made it look easy. Even in emergencies she was unflappable.

“We only had one underground parking space at Sport BC,” laughed Jenny. “I lost count of the number of times that Judy had to drop everything to drive me to the city impound yard as my car parked on the street had been towed and I was due somewhere for a clinic/workshop.”

Judy was also key to the organizing of many tournaments at all levels of play. In 1995-96, she helped found the Vancouver International Tournament, a joint venture with the BCFA, then the men’s provincial organization for the sport. The tournament attracted women’s and men’s teams from around the world. Committee meetings for the tournament were always held at Judy and Eric’s house, as Judy effortlessly juggled the minute-taking and hosting, while still actively participating in the discussion and decision-making. A trophy for the tournament is still awarded today known as “The Spirit of Judy Broom Award” given to the team who best exemplifies Judy’s “friendship, fair play, and love of the game.”

Over the years, Judy became a master at organizing tournaments big and small, from those involving international teams to Under-12 youth jamborees. She would go over and above to ensure whoever wanted to participate could, no matter what the circumstances. It sometimes nearly drove Jenny crazy.

“This happened on so many occasions, on a Thursday afternoon or a Friday morning,” recalled Jenny. “After hours of having drawn up a schedule for 32 teams, both of us ensuring it was fair and teams were playing teams from elsewhere, Judy would get a phone call from a coach, profusely apologizing for having forgotten to enter a team and begging to be included. I would be shaking my head mouthing ‘No, no!’, but Judy would say ‘yes.’ She would smile, then sit and re-work it all—an amazing job. And, of course, we laughed about it on Monday morning.”

Judy also became heavily involved in the international Golden Oldies World Hockey Festival, organizing and playing on Vancouver teams that travelled to tournaments all over the world—Fiji, Ireland, Holland, New Zealand, and others. She was also key to organizing the successful bid when Vancouver hosted the tournament in 2001, bringing over 1500 players from more than 15 countries to BC for the event.

In her latter years at the BCWFHF, Judy played a critical role in the merger of the until-then separate men’s and women’s BC and Canadian field hockey governing bodies into one joint organization at both the provincial and national level, today Field Hockey BC and Field Hockey Canada respectively. It was fitting that it was Judy who served as the first executive director of the new Field Hockey BC as no one had built more bridges and mended more fences behind the scenes in the sport than she. She retired later in 2005 with the organization and the sport on more solid footing than ever before. Participation rates and the opportunities to play had never been higher for field hockey in BC.

Even in retirement, Judy continued to be involved as a volunteer playing a key committee role in the successful bid for the 2008 Women’s Olympic Qualifying tournament held in Victoria. Sadly, she was battling cancer by then and passed away in January 2008 just a few months before the tournament was held. It was another remarkably well-organized event, just one more lasting legacy in a life dedicated to the sport of field hockey.

As was her way, Judy rarely took center stage, preferring instead to work in the background and allow others to enjoy the spotlight. Modest to a fault, she rarely spoke about herself or her accomplishments. To wrap this feature honouring one of the key builders in the history of field hockey in BC, let’s allow those who knew her best to pay tribute to the great Judy Broom:

“She enjoyed playing the game, she enjoyed playing as part of a team. It was a lifelong passion.” – Eric Broom, Judy’s husband.

“Our mum lived and breathed field hockey for our whole lives. What a role model for her daughters, granddaughters, and the promotion of women’s sport! As early as we can remember, Mum was on the field, zipping down the left wing. In the early years, we used to play “office” alongside her in our basement. Later, we witnessed the rich camaraderie as she continued to play into the golden oldies years. With ease and joy, she balanced her team participation with work life at the hockey office and family life. It seemed like she knew and cared about every player (young or veteran, recreational or high performance), coach and umpire. She was a central part of the BC Women’s Field Hockey community, and it made her happy.” – Karen & Jenn Broom, Judy’s daughters.

“Judy always had time for people, those she knew well and those she barely knew. She was fair, logical, and respected by all, as well as a wonderful friend. We worked so well together because of this. She was the sort of volunteer/administrator who made work a pleasure and nothing was too great for her to handle. She left a lasting legacy that has been hard to replace.” – Jenny John, 2010 BC Sports Hall of Fame Honoured Member.

“Judy’s complete knowledge of what needed to be done, her attention to detail, and her insistence on making every project the best it could be—whether it was a proposal to the government, the next newsletter, or a national tournament held in BC—put her in a class of her own.” – Barbara ‘Bim’ Schrodt, 1999 BC Sports Hall of Fame Honoured Member.

“When Judy came from England and started playing with the North Van team in the Vancouver Women’s League, I played for the Ex-Brit team and we had many happy times playing against each other. We played on many BC teams in Calgary, in Dublin, Ireland, and in Burnaby at the Golden Oldies World Festival in 2001. Judy was a wonderful friend and person who worked very hard for the BCWFHF. We miss her very much.” – Moira Colbourne, 1985 BC Sports Hall of Fame Honoured Member.

“Judy was always the first to offer her home both in Kerrisdale and subsequently in Kitsilano for our North Van team gatherings. For many years our team had a full day ‘Spring Social’ for all players and their families—initially at a cabin on Grouse Mountain and subsequently homes at Roberts Creek and Davis Bay on the Sunshine Coast. We travelled there by ferry and car—but not Judy and Eric. They cycled from Langdale to Davis Bay! I played with Judy at the 2nd Golden Oldies (over 35’s) International Festival in Victoria (1985) and her final Festival in Holland (2005). Over the years Judy epitomized all that is good about our sport constantly supporting us all at tournaments, meetings, and social events.” – Charlotte Warren, 2021 Field Hockey Canada Hall of Fame inductee.

“When I think of Judy, I think of her intelligence, her efficiency, her compassion, her dedication, her sense of humour, and her fairness. She solved so many problems for us in the hockey world. I remember her at CWFHA meetings, presenting financial statements, explaining items in layman’s terms. She was the epitome of fair play on the hockey field, in the hockey world and in life. To me she was just a wonderful person, a real role model for life.” – Pat Hall, 2020 Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame inductee.

“Some would say community sport is a bedrock of any society. Just the term ‘bedrock’ suggests a foundation of sustainability, opportunity, commitment, and dedication. No foundation is possible without the dedication and commitment of individuals willing to ‘build’ and foster great community spirit, wellness, friendship, and fun. Judy epitomized these attributes as a volunteer, council member, staff member, Executive Director, player, and supporter for over 33 years.” – Mark Saunders, Field Hockey BC executive director.

“Judy was known to all of us in the Canadian field hockey community… She was an amazing tower of knowledge, strength, and support that all our organizations primarily depended upon for correct and efficient management.” – Ian Baggott, Field Hockey Canada chair.

“Judy was able to convince many who knew her with a desire to ‘give back’ to the sport, she, and we, loved. Her example of dedication and enthusiasm was a great incentive for my own involvement with BC field hockey for over thirty years.” – Sue Demuynck, Field Hockey BC past president.

“The heart and soul of field hockey in Canada was based in British Columbia and other provinces looked to Judy and Jenny for direction and leadership whenever possible. They are highly respected in Canada and also by the international body, FIH.” – Margaret Johnson, Field Hockey BC vice-president.

“Judy was one of the most conscientious and calm people l ever met. She was the epitome of an executive director, and was respected throughout the field hockey community from coast to coast. No job was too large or too menial. She organized provincial and inter-provincial tournaments and was even involved in the Vancouver International Tournament, where teams came from within and outside Canada. She attended Field Hockey Canada AGM’s and was often asked for her opinion. Needless to say, she made my job as president very easy. Field hockey in BC and Canada were lucky to have her.” – Keryn Todd, Field Hockey BC past president.

As part of the Class of 2021, Judy Broom will be formally inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame in the Builder category at the annual Induction Gala to be held June 9, 2022 at the Vancouver Convention Centre.