What’s The Point of Spring Games?

Aliza Furneaux beats an Albany defender last season

If you are, or plan to play division one field hockey in college, a year round commitment is expected. If you really think you can play softball in the off-season neither your softball coach or your field hockey coach will be happy with you. Even during the winter, time will be taken up with training and teaching skills. At all times, most coaches will take fitness as a given. You cannot play the game and execute on the field if you are not fit.

Lafayette College has make the league playoffs more times than any other team in the league, they hold more individual league records, and is the only team at Lafayette that received  top ten division one recognition in the last ten years. That does not come from hope but hard work. The legacy is an important one to the current team.

For those players who did not see a lot of playing time in the fall, the spring schedule is the opportunity to impress the coach and improve your game. The NCAA is very strict on the amount of hours you may spend  on the field, so our coaches will expect players to be ready to learn and impress.

Rosie Shanks attacks the circle in game against Colgate last year

To that extent, games and competitions are constructed so that our coaches will be able to isolate individuals and give them every opportunity to show their skills. It is also an opportunity for  our coaches to try various new combinations. Because a player played mid-field in the fall doesn’t necessarily mean you will be there in the spring. I have seen many athletic careers “blossom” in the spring at scrimmages and practice games. There are only two weeks in the summer that are available to make last minute adjustments and to see where the new first year players will fit in.

Each team develops their own personality, and as this year’s first year players have now been around for six months, the team dynamic on the field is beginning to manifest itself. Are scores of games that important? Not really, but hustle and performance are. Teamwork begins to form and there begins to be a sense as to where the strengths and weaknesses are.

Coaches are loath to exacerbate chronic injuries of established players. Why risk a player with whom you are already familiar for that extra goal in a meaningless scrimmage? On the other hand, every “new” team needs to learn how to win and coaches need to see “where the bottom is.” In other words, how much can they ask of their team.

One other benefit is to be able to see how competitors are doing relative to yourselves and any coach that says that’s not what they are doing  out of the corner of their eye isn’t telling you the truth. Field Hockey as a college sport is different in that its off-season games and scrimmages are against other opponents as opposed to internal scrimmages like in football.

Katelyn Arnold stands tall in the goal against Bucknell last year

Lafayette has had one  spring game and an indoor tournament. My grade at the moment would be “work in progress”. The indoor games occurred during the flu epidemic and the team played well, but short-handed. The one outdoor game was against a team that already had 5 games under their belt.

In my articles in the coming weeks, I will leave you with my  personal impressions. I am not privy to our coach’s deliberations, however I do have a general impression as to what they are trying to accomplish. There will be a structured competition this week-end with fall competitors Lehigh and Colgate, along with a pretty good Cornell team. Each pair of teams will play three 25  minute segments against each other, along with a shoot out. Lehigh will bring their new coach to lead them, and Colgate has always shown up to play their best against Lafayette. I would hope to see progress at our home field and would be lying if I said I was indifferent to the outcomes. ( I said in the above paragraph that the score doesn’t matter, but I am a fan after all).

As I wrote last week I was impressed with Rachel Bird’s strength at centerback ( a concern with the loss of senior Hannah Millen). It was obvious Katelyn Ewing has been working hard in the offseason and it shows. I was interested in Ellen Colbourne’s adjustment to the center mid position. In general, I want to see how our rising sophomores are performing, now that they are getting on the field for more playing time. As they practice together with new players in new positions, I will be interested to see them recognize where there teammates are and their ability to deliver the ball to them. I didn’t get to see much in the way of corner offense last week, so I look forward to see more in that area.

Lafayette faithful do travel well!!

No doubt once this very talented group of new first year students are added to the roster this summer,  it adds another variable  to the calculus.  The full class will be announced about April 13th, after all of the signed commitments arrive. It will be a class of eight, and I sincerely believe Coach Stone may have the strongest first year class in the league this year. I will justify my comments once the entire eight are publicly named. As had occurred in past years much of the team will get together in captain’s practices without  coaches this summer. The whole team will receive a fitness regimen for the summer as well. Woe to the player who doesn’t arrive in August ready to play.  Meanwhile, I will be there on Saturday to witness and record our progress.


Addendum: Because of impending snow the 4 way scrimmages scheduled for Sat April 9 have been postponed….date to be decided!!! The NCAA only allows a finite number of practices and competitions during the spring so the challenge for the coaches is to reschedule and keep an adequate number of practices to have a quality scrimmage. Therefore there is an incentive to reschedule  as early as possible. Next week is a tournament at Columbia so April 23rd seems like a logical alternative for everyone. Sunday, our field is occupied with a pre-scheduled high school event.







Published by

William Rappolt

I am past chairman of the Lafayette Friends of Field Hockey and a former BOT member at Lafayette College. My wife and I are members of the Board of Trustees for USA Field Hockey Foundation. I am currently Chairman of that Board. I am the retired treasurer of M and T Bank Corporation and a 30 year fan of Division one field hockey

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