Field hockey program aims to make southeastern Connecticut competitive
During Amy Lloyd’s 11 years coaching field hockey at East Lyme High School, she often found herself teaching the basics of the sport to freshmen and other new players during tryouts.
Beyond occasional clinics and a program out of the Stonington Community Center, there were no options for girls in the southern part of the county to learn the sport before high school. With the founding of the Southeastern Connecticut Field Hockey Club, she hopes to change that.
“It’s been a lot of fun so far,” she said. “The whole sport will benefit in general having a youth program that’s local.”
Lloyd, who grew up in Salem and played field hockey at East Lyme, said she knew as soon as she retired as the high school coach in the fall of 2015 that she wanted to start a feeder program to introduce girls to the sport. She said the lack of local programming was especially evident when East Lyme made the state tournament; few towns in the Eastern Connecticut Conference have youth field hockey programs, so the team would be competitive locally but struggle against teams of girls who had been playing since elementary or middle school.
This is the club’s third session, after successful sessions last summer and fall, and girls in first through eighth grade practice two nights a week with a core group of coaches that includes Waterford High School field hockey coach Traci Susi and a few former players.
Lloyd said the most important parts of the club are building the fundamentals and making sure the kids are enjoying the sport.
The players are divided by age, allowing the youngest field hockey players to start with basic skills and the older players to work on more advanced drills and scrimmages. Lloyd said she and her fellow coaches use a lot of games with the younger groups in order to teach them skills like dribbling while keeping it fun. They also discuss team cohesion and what the girls can do to be better teammates as well as better athletes.
Vanessa Bunnell, program coordinator for the Salem Recreation Department, said she went to school with Lloyd, and the two had talked about the idea to start a local field hockey program while one of Lloyd’s daughters was attending an art program in Salem.
She worked to secure the Monday night practice time at the fields on Round Hill Road, and she said the town has been supportive of the club.
“It’s a program that I’m very impressed with,” Bunnell said. She never played field hockey, but she has coached other sports, and her daughter loves the program. She also said she likes the coach-to-player ratio, the positive environment, and the emphasis on warmups and conditioning, as upper-body strength is critical for the sport.
Currently, most of the players come from Salem, with a few from Waterford and East Lyme. Lloyd said her goal is to eventually expand to the point where each town can have their own individual program, much like how lacrosse or baseball leagues are divided by town. Having it offered in each town would make it easier for girls to learn about the sport and give them an opportunity to try it out.
“I’m just hoping we get a little bit bigger each year and that people have fun with it,” she said.
For more information about the Southeastern Connecticut Field Hockey Club and future sessions, visit www.facebook.com/SCYFHC.
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