Penn State, Shippensburg, York College among 22 colleges that attended Central Pennsylvania Field Hockey Clinic
The sun was beating down on the Palmyra grass pitches on Monday, where more than 150 players learned how to improve their game under instruction from special guests.
PA Revolution, a field hockey club in central Pennsylvania, hosted its fifth annual clinic. It attracted 22 varsity coaches from Division I, II and III schools. The one-day event started at 8:30 a.m. and ended at 4:30 p.m.
The clinic’s intent is to build relationships, said PA Revolution co-founder Jamie Pollock. As players search for a school, clinics like this give both player and coach the opportunity to filter down who is the right match for them.
“It’s no secret that central Pennsylvania is a hockey hotbed,” said Penn State University assistant coach Laura Gebhart.
The fields of Palmyra have been transformed into six stations. At each, the players worked with a college coach for 45 minutes.
“A lot of our roster is from Pennsylvania,” Gebhart said. “And, Penn State has huge name recognition in this area, which is really cool. Many of these young players, who are here, will come to our games and are the most enthusiastic supporters on the sidelines.
Pollock said she and Brandy Michael specifically picked June 13 for this year’s event. That’s two days before the Class of 2024 can begin talking to Division I and Division II coaches about their prospects of playing for them under NCAA rules.
“It’s really cool to see the players excited to see us here and interact in this way,” Gebhart said. “It’s a great source to help them learn about how we train and work with our athletes.”
His drills focused specifically on defense, the former Penn State field hockey player said.
“High school programs and clubs don’t get into it at a high performance level,” Gebhart said. “I like to focus on some of these concepts that they may have never heard of or seen before.”
There is a “home for everyone,” Gebhart said.
“If you don’t get a call on June 15, there’s nothing wrong with that,” she said. “So many more people are saying June 15 is the start, it’s not the end. If they don’t get the college call they were hoping for, that’s okay too. There are plenty of other opportunities. Keep trying and be open to honest feedback.
PA Revolution’s mission, beyond winning, is to get as many players as possible in front of college coaches, Pollock said. Its coaching staff likes to adhere to a three-pronged approach where the athlete should feel comfortable athletically, academically and socially.
She and Michael were raised in coach Linda Kreiser’s “coaching school,” Pollock said. Kreiser, Lower Dauphin’s head coach, is “very relationship-based.”
“It’s really important to us that our children thrive in this type of environment,” Pollock said. “So at every showcase or tournament that we do, we really strive to meet college coaches because we want them to be able to put a face with a name. Getting to know university coaches is an important aspect of the club world. That’s the end goal.
Monday’s clinic was offered to any player who wished to participate in the Class of 2024 through the Class of 2027. The cost was $265 per player, which included three coaching clinics and two 7-a-side games. additional clinics cost $45 each.
The fee covered payment for varsity coaches, facility rental fees, insurance and equipment, Pollock said.
There’s a lot of feedback that can be taken from a clinic like this, Shippensburg head coach Tara Zollinger said.
“The event provides an opportunity to see many different players from all parts of the state, even other states,” she said. “For us, it’s an hour’s drive away and a perfect opportunity to see the athletes we’re looking to recruit for the upcoming seasons.
Ship had a “fairytale” season in 2021, Zollinger said. They won the PSAC Championship and the NCAA Division II Championship. It was an “accumulation” of all the hard work the players put in over the COVID year manifesting.
“They had their eye on the prize all season,” she said.
Seeking to continue this streak of excellence, Zollinger said she not only observed how players retained information, but also how they behaved when not playing.
“I love seeing how they jog to and from train stations,” she said. “See the intangibles. We like to be dynamic and fast in Shippensburg. We designed our clinic to see if they could pass and receive on the go. Goal drills, I wanted to see how they worked on the angles and see if they took those principles we were teaching and applied them.
Pollock and Michael spent three to four weeks contacting 40 college coaches. The first year the clinic was offered, PA Revolution had a college on site with two coaches. The following year there were five coaches. There was no clinic in 2020. And, in 2021, nine coaches participated.
When York College of Pennsylvania head coach Katie Fost builds her roster, she said she likes to stick to around 24-27 players. She said she wanted to be able to coach, as well as offer athletes “one on one, just in the office as people.”
“We’re a little different from Division I and II because we don’t offer athletic scholarships, so we have a bit more freedom in terms of when we can communicate with rookies,” she said. “We can start communicating with children when they enter their ninth grade. We can talk to them 365 days a year which I think puts us on a playing field as we are not in a position to give scholarships.
Clinics like Monday’s help him see beyond the numbers.
“I’m more focused on who is this person joining us, how is she going to make an impact and what vision do we have for her in her four years,” she said.
While at Salisbury University, where she walked, Fost was part of a national championship team. She has been coaching at York College for five years and credits her college coaches with setting her up for success.
Although hockey didn’t immediately make sense to a beginner, she said she was once that person.
“I tried it and absolutely fell in love with it,” she said. “I think the hockey community keeps a lot of kids here and it makes the game better.”