Questions, Answered: The Meaning of Field Hockey
In this special National Field Hockey Day edition of Questions, Answered, we asked two coaches the simple, but meaningful question, “What does field hockey mean to you?”
Sarah Dalrymple, head coach at Moravian College, and Linée Mello-Frost, head coach at UMass Dartmouth, shared their musings on the question and explored how being a field hockey student-athlete, coach, and fan has impacted each of their lives.
As the youngest of three sisters, field hockey has been a part of my life for just about as long as I can remember. What started as playing football on the sidelines with the rest of the younger siblings during my sisters’ middle school hockey games would go on to shape nearly every aspect of my life. And, while I can credit participation in sports from an early age for teaching me many life lessons along the way, field hockey taught me more.
I learned that if you want something, you have to work for it. While I was fortunate to have many incredible coaches and a school program that provided a strong foundation of the fundamentals of hockey, I wanted more. I wanted better equipment, and better competition through club play — which was more than my family could afford at the time. So, I got my first job so that I could pursue those opportunities. Working hard doesn’t always equal success, but it can create opportunity.
I learned that the popular opinion may not always be the right opinion. When I started playing, I wanted to play both in goal and on the field. For years, people told me I had to pick one or the other and for years I ignored them. While I eventually signed my letter of intent as a field player, a serious car accident led to a series of ankle surgeries. So, I switched to goalkeeper, where I was able to continue playing the sport I loved at a competitive level.
I learned how to live with intention and the power of choice. Unlike more mainstream sports, it can be hard to stay involved in the game once your collegiate career is over. While I’ve had the privilege of helping to grow the game now as a coach, it’s still rare to stumble across a pick-up game of hockey like you might a game of basketball or tennis. It requires a base level of skill that might prevent a friend or neighbor who never played from jumping in for a neighborhood game. Simply put, to stay involved in the game after your competitive career is over is a choice. Though I may have started playing because my sisters did, I choose field hockey every day now in my profession.
The life of a female athlete isn’t always easy, but in field hockey I found my home. My teammates have become some of my closest friends, and my family can still be heard in the stands offering their own play-by-play now as I coach. It has given me my career and has allowed me to travel all over the country. Field hockey has guided me through every phase of life, and is forever an inextricable part of who I am.
When asked the question, “What does field hockey mean to you?” so many different responses go through my mind.
I think back to the reasons why I started playing in middle school, continued on into high school, got involved in club teams, played in college, and continued on to coach for the last nine years. Throughout all of these years, my answer to that question has changed at each stage of my life.
As an athlete, field hockey was not only something that I was good at, but it was something that I was passionate about. I grew up playing multiple sports and being a competitive dancer, but when I found field hockey, it sparked something different. There was a special love I had for the sport that made me not only want to better myself, but to also better my teammates as well. I was always one of the strongest leaders on every team I played. Not always necessarily by voice, but by my fight, drive, passion, strength, and ability to support those around me. As I got older, my voice only became stronger. Thanks to my college coach, who believed in me and decided to take a chance, coaching came into my life. It was at that time, that I realized that what field hockey meant to me took on a similar, but different meaning.
I was given the chance and opportunity to take my passion, drive, and knowledge of the sport and utilize that to help educate, teach, and support young athletes that are in the same place that I was. There is nothing more gratifying to me than to watch an athlete walk onto my team as a college freshman not knowing or understanding their true potential and the heights they can reach. Watching that same athlete, their senior year, having grown into a stronger, wiser, and smarter player is amazing. Knowing that I am able to play a part in shaping young athletes’ skills, knowledge, and love of field hockey, is the very definition of what field hockey means to me today!
Thank you Sarah and Linée for sharing your answers! And happy National Field Hockey Day to all field hockey student-athletes, coaches, parents, and fans — we’re grateful to celebrate our sport with everyone who makes it special!