GILBERT, Ariz. — The National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) is excited to announce that Kerri (Withrow) Valentine, the founder and director of East Greenwich Youth Field Hockey, will receive the Junior Hockey Award this year.

“For the last 15 years, Kerri has grown the sport of field hockey in East Greenwich, Rhode Island,” said NFHCA First Vice-President and chair of the NFHCA Awards and Hall of Fame Committee, Julie Ryan. “Her program has expanded from 20 to 150 players and Kerri has created a unique teaching system where high school players are empowered to introduce the game to youth players. Her work has brought her community together and created a shared love of the game.”

An EGYFH team with their coaches, student-athletes from East Greenwich High School.

“Upon being told that I was nominated, I was humbled by the overwhelming community support and when I learned that I was actually receiving this award, I was proud and again, humbled to be able to work in such a wonderful town,” remarked Valentine. “The players, the high school players who volunteer their time to coach the youth league, the adult volunteers — many of whom are alumnae of East Greenwich High School — along with the parents and the community, make my work a privilege. I am grateful to be surrounded by such amazing people.”

Valentine started her coaching career in 1989 when she became the assistant field hockey coach at East Greenwich High School in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. She was the assistant coach under Deb McMullen until 2004 when she started an informal youth program in her community. When the program began, she had just 20 participants, but interest grew and in 2011 her informal youth program officially became the East Greenwich Youth Field Hockey Association.

East Greenwich Youth Field Hockey now has over 150 participants and features a unique coaching model. Valentine, known as Coach Withy, looks to high school players to lead her youth participants — who range from kindergarteners to eighth graders. The high schoolers coach the youth teams and lead practices throughout the fall, developing their leadership skills and giving back to their sport and their community.

Off the field hockey pitch, Valentine works at Central Falls High School in Central Falls, Rhode Island where she has been a science teacher for 24 years.

Valentine will be presented with the Junior Award at this year’s NFHCA Awards Dinner sponsored by AstroTurf. The dinner will take place on Thursday, January 16, 2020, as part of the 2020 NFHCA Annual Convention in Lake Mary, Florida. Valentine is the eighth recipient of the NFHCA’s Junior Hockey Award — Chrissy Summers received the award last year.