I can’t believe I’m coaching again. It’s crazy. I’ve been able to help out here and there with some clinics and camps over the Spring and Summer, but now this is my team. A first-year team and a JV level. We are the Providence High School Area team. It’s the “Area” because it’s not just Providence – it’s surrounding schools that don’t have field hockey programs.
I’ve got 23 girls – freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. I’m a little nervous but very excited to be out on the field with my very own team. And 23 girls! It’s so many, and I mean that in the best way possible.
The last team I coached was in New York City. I may have had 14 girls. If someone decided she didn’t want to play, I had to practically beg her to please, play. If a girl didn’t show up for a game, we were screwed. We barely had enough girls to field a team.
I was afraid the same was going to happen this year. We were struggling to get girls to sign up. For most of the summer, we only had nine players. Then all of a sudden, two weeks before pre-season, we had to have a waitlist. So the number is 23.
Up until a week before pre-season, I also didn’t have an assistant coach. Terry, the athletic director at Charlotte Ambush, found one for me, but I’ve never spoken to her and we’ll be meeting for the first time today, at our first practice. Coach Seymour is a middle school coach, so she can only be my assistant part-time. She can be there the entire first week of pre-season, but after that she’s only with me on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
So it’s the first day of pre-season, and I pull up to the field an hour before practice to set up. A few weeks earlier, I helped coach a camp here. It’s a beautiful turf field. It’s lined for soccer, but that’s OK. The surface is amazing. Practice starts at 3:30. At 3pm, I have all my cones set up for drills and I’m pumped.
Then, a team of boys start walking on to the field. Soccer players. I stop one who looks like a coach.
Are you guys practicing out here? “Yea.”
I have the field from 3:30-5:30. “Uh, yea, us too. But I’m not the coach. I’ll call him and see what’s up.”
OK, great. I don’t need the whole field, if you want to share. “We have JV and Varsity.”
Oh. OK, I’ll call my person, too.
Shit. Please tell me that I’m not on the grass field below the turf field. That patch of grass without ANY lines. I call Terry. Hey, Terry, I’m at the field. Are we on the turf field???…Or the grass field? “The grass field.” My heart sinks. And now I have to move all my cones and set them up somewhere else. I have no time for this. I thank Terry then hang up, rush to collect my cones and head down to the stupid grass field.
My soul is crushed. It would be different if I hadn’t thought that the beautiful turf field was ours to practice on. It would be different if I hadn’t been dreaming about our practices on that field. But I had. And now I’m down here, looking up at those stupid boys kicking around a soccer ball on turf, as if you need a turf field to play soccer. It’s ridiculous. (The boys aren’t stupid and it’s not their fault. I’m just having a moment.)
The grass is bumpy and thick. It’s not the worst field I’ve ever played on, but did I mention there are no lines?!? Do you know how difficult it is to set up drills and stations without any lines? It’s very difficult, and very time consuming.
Some of the girls start to arrive and I don’t even remember if I say hi to them, I’m so stressed out, trying to set up the field. I also have like, 14 cones. That is not a joke. This will not do. I make myself a note: Buy cones.
Coach Seymour arrives and introduces herself. She is way too calm and mellow for my state of being right now. (I will quickly learn to be incredibly grateful for her demeanor. Because I am always a total spaz.) I don’t remember practice. It’s a blur. But I get through it. Tomorrow will be better. It has to be better.
With 23 girls and a part-time assistant coach and no lines on my field, I feel like my head is going to explode sometimes. Every day, I spend almost an hour before practice setting up the field. Some days, we’ll be practicing, and I look up at the turf field and realize that the soccer team already left, or maybe they were never here to begin with. I quickly yell to the girls that we’re moving to the turf, but now I have to set up all the cones again, AND, the girls have to carry the cage all the way up to the turf. I mean, practice is only 90 minutes long. It’s exhausting trying to get anything accomplished sometimes.
I text and call Sarah and Courtney often for advice, help, or a vent session. It feels good when I’m struggling with something to know that I’m not alone. West Deptford is an established, great program (if I do say so, myself), and Court and Sarah face some of the same issues that I do.
Besides being stressed out and frazzled, my God, does it feel right on this field. I was playing for a little while in California, but it was such a commute and we only played on Sundays. When I started picking up Sunday shifts every week at the bar, I told myself that the field hockey part of my life was just over. I really didn’t think there was going to be a way for it to come back into the picture, because I thought I would never leave California. I also thought that acting meant more to me than field hockey.
Now here I am, back on the east coast, living in Charlotte, North Carolina, coaching a high school team. Summer has been amazing and too short. I want to hang on to the warm mornings and warm nights as long as possible. I’m not ready for the Fall, but I’m definitely excited for it – it’s been six years since I’ve had a proper Fall. Bring on the crisp weather and vibrant colors, field hockey and football, and all things pumpkin.