By Rachel Waymack
The varsity field hockey players who returned for practice this summer expecting to see coaches Roy York and Buddy Smith were in for a big surprise. Instead of York and Smith, the girls were greeted by the two new coaches, Ann Lewis and Beth Russell.
Though Lewis and Russell are new faces to the players, they are not new to coaching or to each other. They coached JV field hockey together from 2002 to 2004. After 2004 Russell had to stop coaching due to her job commitment, but Lewis continued coaching until 2007. When the two learned of the open coaching positions they both applied immediately.
“When Coach Smith retired, the opportunity arose and I jumped on it,” Russell said. “I love the game, but I never got to play in school because it was not offered then, so I was thrilled.”
Both Lewis’ and Russell’s excitement for the opportunity to coach again shows their love of the game and that they are both a good fit for the team.
“I wanted to come back because I enjoy the sport, the adrenaline, and I missed the girls,” Lewis said.
The players returning from last year quickly noticed differences between the new and former coaches resulting from their different genders.
“Having female coaches makes the relationship more personal,” junior stopper Hannah Taylor said.
While the new coaches’ gender is the most obvious change, returning players assert that it is definitely not the only difference.
“We run a whole lot more; we do sprints one day and distance the next,” senior center-mid Kaitlyn Johnson said, “the approach is different; it is a lot more intense.”
Lewis and Russell believe this increase in training is necessary. Not only have they upped the amount of running the players do during practice, they have also really focused on improving the stick skills of the players. Out of all of the added training, increasing the players’ level of fitness is Lewis and Russell’s main objective.
“We believe that our conditioning is our number one priority in order to get our girls in shape,” Russell said.
The intensified training was a little hard for the players to adjust to, but they believe that it is worth the extra effort during practice.
“I like that we run a lot to keep us in shape so we are not dying in the games,” sophomore mid-fielder Lindsay Varga said.
Two new coaches and a different practice regiment were not the only two changes returning players faced; they also lost a large part of their team from last year. Due to fourteen girls from last year’s team graduating, the team this year is composed largely of new players. Learning to play with the new teammates proved to be difficult for some of the returning players.
The burden of a new team did not fall only on the players but also on the new coaches.
“Our goal is to take a brand new team and really try to rebuild the program since we lost so many seniors last year,” Russell said.
Despite the fact that fourteen players from last year graduated, both the coaches and the team have high hopes for this year.
“I expect them to be contenders for the [central district] title,” Lewis said, “My hope is to win districts.”
This belief in the players stems from the coaches’ recognition of the players’ hard work, talent, and ability to work together.
“I think the girls are super,” Lewis said, “when they are on the field they play as a team.”
The good relations and sentiments are mutual; the players have taken in the new coaches easily. This is undoubtedly due to Lewis and Russell’s determination, coaching skills, and willingness to personally communicate with the players.
“My favorite part of the new coaches is that they do not just coach, they get involved,” junior forward Cara Lucy said. “They practice, they come to Swaders with us, and ultimately help bring the team together as a family.”