Head Coach of the Lafayette Leopards, Jennifer Stone, has annually organized two camps in early July to help young players develop their skills, and to improve team dynamics. The first of those camps is a camp devoted to individual skill development, and the second camp is a team camp. The camp instructors and demonstrators are the Lafayette coaching staff, and some of the current Lafayette players. This year there was an added opportunity for athletes preparing for the fall season. Stone invited two members of the USA Field Hockey team defender Julia Young and Midfielder Amanda Magadan to instruct. For those of you looking for a metaphorical comparison, it would be like two members of NFL champion New England Patriots giving instruction on how to play football.
The two USA players are part of a young squad, that will be defending their title at the important July 26-August 11 Pan Am Games this summer in Lima Peru. As an olympic qualifier, the games have added significance. Both athletes have a list of honors too long for this blog. Amanda and Julia both graduated from college in 2017, Amanda from Lafayette, and Julia from UNC. Both were named all-Americans and first team all-conference. Both were members of the World Gold Cup semi-final teams in South Africa in 2017. That was after working their way up to the US Team through the various junior national teams. Amanda has 67 international caps, and Julia has 44 caps. Illustrating the youth of our national team, only 7 team members of the 27 listed on the roster have more caps.
I was able to have a short conversation with both of these athletes and posed a few questions to them:
What makes or defines an “elite athlete.?”
Both agreed elite athletes have to be able to put in the work, and prepare every day. In Amanda’s USA bio she quotes Emerson, ” What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside you.” In Julia’s bio she says, ” Hold yourself to a high standard and don’t stop raising the standard as you grow and get better.”
Can you spot a future US Team member early?
Both agreed, you can only see potential, but that potential has to be nurtured. Julia started playing futures in 7th grade in 2004, Amanda an excellent softball player, only began playing field hockey in 2009.
What is the one skill you practice everyday?
Again the two elite athletes agreed, as they almost said in unison “the right foot pass.” Now as a 25 year hockey dad, that was a new one, and it had to be explained to me. Since the stick is always in essence a ” right handed” instrument, the tendency is to step with the left foot when passing. Developing a right foot step can give you an advantage against a defender and a player can shield the ball from the defender.
How do we “grow the game.”
As a trustee for the US Field Hockey Foundation I was curious about their vision. Julia felt people need to hear more about the game, and there is a need for more publicity about Field Hockey to get people interested. Amanda pointed out the need for equipment for younger players to play, and cited that the team has been giving sticks to younger players to encourage them. That was symbolically demonstrated at the FIH game with Germany this year when before the game sticks were given away by the team.
The rest of the day was filled with drills and Coach Stone organized stations around the field where individual skills were demonstrated and tried under the watchful eye of Julia, Amanda, Coach Stone and her staff.
The 30 or so campers were certainly advantaged to have the opportunity to learn skills that will used in their respective fall seasons.
I was pleased to have the opportunity to speak to these young women. This fall I will be expanding my writing beyond just Lafayette Field Hockey. I may start covering and attending other college games in the future, and I will certainly be covering the journey of the US Team in their quest for Olympic recognition.