As the Lafayette Field Hockey team entered their state of the art field for practice today I was struck by a coach’s three T’s, training, technology, and teaching. When I was playing football and lacrosse at Lafayette in the “old” days of the 60’s technology consisted of film (sometimes budget wiling} of practice, training camp was more like 3 weeks in some gulag where taking water was a sign of being a “wuss,” and teaching was a coach yelling at you for the next 2 1/2 hours. It all has become far more professional.
We arrived at about 8:30 and within 15 minutes the players began to arrive to begin their second day of pre-season camp. With some gratification it was the freshmen who arrived first. ( no change there I remarked to myself) But as the eventual full 21 player squad arrived I did notice a distinct difference. Players were being wired up. Was this some new NCAA rule to insure that there is no cursing or abuse of players?? After thinking this was another conspiracy to soften our youth, I walked over to Emily Janis, the Lafayette assistant coach who was tending to a computer on the sidelines. Listed on the computer screen was a list of player names with output showing a list of numbers and a number with a percentage sign on it. Emily was more than eager to show me her new toy.
“This is the ultimate in athletic nerd,” volunteered Emily. Each player is wired to record their heart activity, and the coaches can read and record what the player’s heart is doing real time. Emily explained that heart activity has a large correlation with injury. We know at what percentage of the maximum heart rate each player and collectively the team is exerting at any given time. She and the trainer, Jon Edwards explained. Your maximum heart rate according to studies is 220 minus your age, so with this piece of technology we can know in practice and even during a game how long to keep a player in or at what point real training is happening on the field. Jon explained, “Look at Amanda Magadan, her chart spikes as soon as she exerts and comes down equally fast. That is indication of an athlete that is in excellent condition.” Coach Janis says this becomes a tool during games because we will know when a athlete has given as much as she can and might even lead to injury.”
The last of the triad is teaching. Coach Stone’s practices are a model of precision. Before drills begin she explains what is going to happen and what she wants accomplished. At the practice we attended she explained they were practicing shooting with a drill that simulates circle penetration. Then the team assembled with the captains who had words of encouragement ending with a circle cheer of “LC.”
During the session, skills were emphasized, including reverse stick shots, quick flicks, and popping the ball over the defender’s stick. Footwork and speed were closely watched at each station which drilled a specific skill. At 30 seconds left Coach Stone let her team know the drill was ending. Each player was to keep their own tally of goals during the drill which will be repeated in the afternoon practice.
There are of course different levels of skill. Anyone would be impressed with Madagan’s skill set, but others like Millen, and Turner showed great ball control and Colbourne’s reverse stick shots looked deadly. Earlier in the day I asked Coach Janis on the overall level of fitness. She said about 90 pct came fit and ready to play, those that had not reached their goals are having some remedial training. Well, some things do remain the same after all, but the coaches assured EVERY player would be ready to play when the time came.