Four senior captains will lead Big Blue this fall, as the team aims to capture the Somerset County Championship title.
A native of the Netherlands—where field hockey is a celebrated national pastime—former field hockey player and experienced coach Izaak Pels will take over from Julie Delinsky to lead the Girls' Varsity Field Hockey Team.
Mr. Pels grew up playing soccer, but switched to field hockey at the age of 11 thanks to the influence of his two older sisters, both of whom played. He immediately fell in love with the sport, and never looked back, he says.
He began playing with his local youth team in The Hague, was soon picked up by their player development program, and, within two years, "slingshot" his way to the national championships with their U14 boys team. As a young adult, he played with several competitive club programs, including the fourth men's team of HC Klein Zwitserland, based in The Hague, and the second men's team of HDS (Houd Dapper Stand). He also spent several months playing with a club team in Sardinia, Italy.
As a student of history at Utrecht University, and later as an international law student at The Hague University, Mr. Pels always found time to coach as well as play. For many years, he trained youth teams with his local field hockey club and coached summer camps in Amsterdam, Belgium, and Barcelona for SportWays, an affiliate of World Camp USA. Six years ago, a longtime friend invited him to serve as a summer coach with the American club team Total Dutch Field Hockey, located in Somerset, whose philosophy is to introduce the Dutch training method to American players. Not long thereafter, he secured a permanent position, and has been instrumental in growing the program. Among the club's members—and Mr. Pels athletes—are Josie Jahng '19 and Hannah Dillon '20, both members of Pingry's Girls' Varsity Field Hockey Team.
After years coaching on the club level, both abroad and with the Total Dutch program, and observing the differences between American and Dutch style of play, Mr. Pels is excited to extend his coaching skills to a school team, and learn from the experience. He got his feet wet last fall, when he served as an assistant coach at Princeton Day School, helping the team advance to the finals of the Mercer County and Prep B Tournaments. "I'm most excited to have the opportunity to develop a new culture within Pingry's team, to share with the players my interpretation of field hockey values and skill development," he says. "Pingry has a very rich athletic culture—I've seen the team play over the last four years during my time at Total Dutch, and I see a lot of athletic potential in the program." (As an aside, Mr. Pels was destined to bring his coaching skills to New Jersey; his mother, a Dutch transplant, was born in Asbury Park!)
Acknowledging the differences in both the development and popularity of the sport in Europe versus the U.S.—namely, it's an immersive club experience abroad, with no divisions among recreational, club, and high school-levels of play—Mr. Pels is eager to share his perspective. "I have a chance to help develop a sport at Pingry that I love, and to reach out to lots of new athletes. I hope to bring my passion to help the sport grow and influence the players in a positive way."
Contact: Andrea Dawson, Senior Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org