A quick way to improve in field hockey

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Last June, dozens of young Suffolk women headed onto the Lakeland High School field hockey fields. Among them were Abby Richardson and Kelsey Ewell. Neither would ever be a Lady Cavalier (Richardson attends John Yeates Middle School and Ewell King’s Fork, both of which are zoned for Nansemond River), but they were sure to learn a great deal about the sport at the N2 Stix Field Hockey Camp; it was taught by Lakeland coach Tara McClenney and members of her team, which had completed a perfect regular season and swept the district tournament the season before.

&uot;I had never picked up a stick before then,&uot; said Richardson, now 13. &uot;But everyone else was a lot like me. I like to run, and field hockey has a lot of running.&uot; After spending the week learning the fundamentals of field hockey, she went on to compete in local field hockey leagues in the summer and winter.


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&uot;I think I was pretty good when I started,&uot; Ewell said, &uot;but I learned a lot more at the camp. I was way better than before afterward.&uot;

By Friday afternoon, the pair might have improved even more. Since Monday afternoon, they and the camp’s 48 other participants (the highest in its five-year history) have been dribbling, driving, and pushing.

Dribbling on the ground isn’t a problem for Ewell. It’s putting the ball in the air that gets a little tricky. &uot;I want to get better at aerial dribbling,&uot; she said, referring to a hand-eye coordination drill in which players repeatedly bounce the ball up and down on their sticks. &uot;You have to keep the ball on your stick, and bounce it in the right direction.&uot;

That’s the best part of the camp, according to Nansemond-Suffolk Academy student Katie Askew, 10. &uot;When I started, I couldn’t get more than one bounce,&uot; she said over lunch on Tuesday. &uot;Now I can get 25!&uot;

After spending the past two years learning from McClenney, Lady Cavaliers Katelyn Smither and Lindsay Kelly, both of whom played on the teams that won the Southeastern district title in 2001-2 and 2002-3, now become the camp’s instructors.

&uot;You can see the impact that these kids will have in the next few years,&uot; said Smither, who led the district in scoring last season. &uot;You can tell how much they improve, even over one day. When you think about how many years they have to get better, they’re going to be awesome.&uot;

The youngest players at the camp may not even know how to properly hold a stick, Kelly said with a laugh. &uot;We have to show some of them which end to hit the ball with,&uot; she said. &uot;They don’t know some of the things that (high school players) take for granted. But they’re starting younger than we did, so they’ll be better than us when they get to be our age.&uot;