Lakeland fields hockey year-round

Published 9:41 pm Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Tiger Lilies and the Snap Dragons play in a summer league field hockey match at Lakeland on Monday evening. Six age groups, from adults to a 3-5 year-old league, play at Lakeland three nights a week with about 200 players in action each evening.

As the home school of the defending state field hockey champions, Lakeland High School has played host to many important field hockey matches in the last decade or so.

In a way, though, many nights for the next four weeks at Lakeland will include some of the biggest festivals of field hockey seen at the school.

Three evenings a week about 200 players, from age 3 to adults, beginners to U.S. national team players, and even a few guys — don’t worry, not in skirts — are playing on six fields in the Field Hockey Summer League, all led by Lakeland head coach Tara Worley.

Former Nansemond River all-state player and current James Madison and U.S. junior national team goalkeeper Stephanie Tarafas prepares to flick a shot toward goal in an adult division game in Lakeland’s Summer League Monday evening.

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The league’s grown to need two sites, with some teams playing primarily in a sister league at Western Branch. Games are played one night a week and practices are two nights a week.

Keeping up the league, as overall popularity and knowledge of field hockey spreads, wouldn’t be possible without plenty of help.

“My players, what they do out here is just huge. We have Lakeland players here and Western Branch players help at Western Branch,” Worley said.

For part of the evening, Lady Cavaliers Kristin Vick and Summer Parker are co-coaches of the 6- to 8-year-old Snap Dragons. Later, at least as Monday’s schedule worked out, they go back to being Lady Cavalier players. The high school division includes squads from Nansemond River, Western Branch, Hickory and Grassfield.

“The players are great. They bring so much energy out here. They run around with the kids,” Worley said. “Coaches would mostly just stand around on the sideline and shout.”

In the youngest group, ages 3-5, even game nights are mostly practices. There’s a lot of exercise, then drills, then finally dividing up the group of 15 girls into two teams for a game on a 30-yard-long field.

In the 6- to 8-year-old group, the game’s played 4-on-4. The primary reason for playing with smaller teams is safety, said Worley.

Giving every player more chances to handle the ball, make passes, be in the middle of the action and simply play are all good developmental reasons for having teams of five or six players with four on the field at a time.

In the supposed offseason, Vick’s a player/coach at Lakeland three nights a week. She plays for a U.S. Field Hockey Futures team and a Virginia Beach-based travel team, taking up virtually every weekend.

“We try to use games when we’ve learned and include that in what we teach, and we want to have fun. It’s important to let the little girls know field hockey is fun and you can have fun while learning,” Vick said.

Vick started playing field hockey as a Snap Dragon, Tiger Lily or Ladybug in the Lakeland summer league.

“So I was really excited when Coach Worley asked me to come out and help. It’s a chance to be a role model like the girls I looked up to,” Vick said.

When Vick was the age of the kids she’s now teaching, Lady Cavalier standouts Katelyn Smither and Ashby Stancill were a couple of her coaches.

“With the younger girls, a lot of them will eventually come out for Lakeland and it’ll be great to see when that happens. Hopefully they’ll remember I was their coach,” Vick said.