Transitioning from an Athlete to a Coach
By: Rachel Hartman
I have been playing field hockey for as long as I can remember. I grew up in Oley, PA which has a very successful youth program, and if you follow field hockey, a very successful high school program. When I started playing field hockey in 4th grade, I never imagined it would have taken me where it did. I started out as a field player, but quickly transitioned to goalkeeper where I had quite a bit of success as an individual.
I got the opportunity to continue my field hockey journey at LaSalle University, a Division 1 Field Hockey program. I loved being a student-athlete more than I could ever put into words, it challenged me to get stronger not only physically, but mentally and provided me with structure and guidance that I use everyday, but to be honest, by the time the end of my senior season rolled around I was ready for a new adventure. I wanted to find a new path for myself, experience new things and find new activities to enjoy. Little did I know field hockey wasn’t finished with me yet. I graduated in May of 2017 from LaSalle with little idea of what I wanted to do with my future. All I knew was that I was going back to graduate school to get my Master’s Degree and hopefully along the way figure it all out. I was enjoying my break from field hockey, but there was no doubt I missed it every single day.
Fast forward to July of 2017 (a mere 2 months after graduating), I was approached by the Field Hockey Coach at Daniel Boone High School in Berks County that the school was looking for a replacement since she was stepping down from the position, and asked if I would be interested in the job since it was a possibility the program could be dropped if they couldn’t find someone to fill the role. That factor alone is what got me truly considering this crazy idea.
You can probably guess that my immediate reaction, as a 21 year old kid, was absolutely not. I had very little experience in coaching, let alone coaching 22 high school kids. Besides I was going back to grad school to figure it all out, but these kids needed a coach and I figured in this crazy world there was a reason I was approached about it, so two weeks after first hearing about the opportunity I was offered and in turn accepted the position. I didn’t have much time to overthink what I had just gotten myself into since the season was set to start in only 3 weeks. All I could do was hunker down, prepare as much as possible and get ready for the journey.
As you can imagine, the first season was an adjustment. An adjustment for me and for the girls. For over a decade my priority on the field was to keep the ball out of the cage, and here I was in charge of 21 field players attempting to guide them on how to successfully move the ball up the field and get it in the back of the cage. It was a tough adjustment mentally, but I had committed to these girls and I was ready and willing to take any steps possible to adjust, learn and better my ability for them. Besides, I knew the sport in-and-out after playing for 10+ years. As a goalie I was always able to see the whole field, so I was already essentially coaching my teammates since it was my responsibility as the last line of defense to communicate to them what they couldn’t see. It didn’t hurt the situation that I get a bit crazy and am whole-heartedly passionate about field hockey, so at my core I knew I was going to dive head first into this team, whether I was ready for it or not.
My second and most recent season with Daniel Boone was easier. I was more confident, more comfortable and had built a solid relationship with my team. They trusted me to guide them in the right direction which I do to the best of my ability every single day.
Now at 23 years old, I am more confident than ever that 2 years ago this opportunity fell into my lap for a reason. I didn’t believe it then, but I do now more than ever that I was meant to be a coach. Now, I couldn’t imagine my life any other way. At this point I don’t know who I would be if I wasn’t a field hockey coach. Getting the opportunity to positively influence these girls, grow their love for the game and foster a fun, competitive environment is more rewarding than I ever thought it could be. Coaching has made me a better person overall. It has taught me to adapt to uncomfortable and challenging situations, to speak with confidence, to be a role model in everything I do and to take every lesson as an opportunity to better myself, for them.
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