Niles explains why this season, in particular, his teammates are playing with urgency and hustle.
By Carolyn Coyne '21
With our long-awaited Amsterdam trip cancelled and preseason bumped to the start of the school year, Pingry Field Hockey (PFH) had to rethink a lot of its team goals. How can you always play to win when tournaments won't happen? How can you establish a team culture without normal social interactions?
As captains, Kaitlyn DeVito '22 and I had to rethink what our season could look like. Our coaches also had to adapt quickly, altering schedules and converting close-contact defensive dodging drills into shooting skill sets and many, many, many sprints (being a small team with around five substitutes per game, we condition harder than ever since most of us play without typical breaks).
To be honest, at first this felt really weird. A defining aspect of our team is our "family," and COVID-19 made "togetherness" trickier.
But, because Kaitlyn, the other seniors, and I love this team, we made it work. We held new team bonding sessions, like our socially-distanced outdoor movie night on Babbitt Turf Field and our tie-dyed T-shirts decorating session.
Besides the popcorn and paint, we also have begun our engagement with the more serious aspects of team bonding.
There are multiple "pandemics" going on in America. There's COVID-19, and there's also the continued issue of racial injustice, specifically against Black Americans. Racism has the pervasive power to infiltrate everything, even without us realizing it.
In order to combat this "pandemic," Kaitlyn, our coaches, and I decided to hold a team talk about inclusivity and anti-racism. PFH has always described itself as an inclusive and welcoming team, but we had never held a talk specifically about being anti-racist.
So, Kaitlyn and I reached out to Ms. [Taunita] Stephenson [Associate Athletic Director and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Coordinator for Athletics] about holding a discussion. Ms. Stephenson, [Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion] Mr. Olvera, and [Director of Athletics and Community Wellness] Coach Abbott joined our team during practice as we talked about subjects like the state of our country, field hockey demographics, and implicit bias in sports. The session may have only lasted 30 minutes, but we all agreed it was a worthwhile and an effective first step. We fleshed out team goals related to inclusivity and anti-racism that we are committed to developing and implementing throughout the rest of our season, through more discussions and plans of action.
I encourage other sports captains (and any other leaders) to use your platform to address these issues. Sports aren't just about winning—sure, winning is amazing, and I'm proud to say PFH is currently undefeated—but they're also about building character and a community, especially during this time. There are many ways to build community—popcorn and paint being some—but a community is also solidified by plunging into the pool of "hard topics." It may not be comfortable to recognize racism in sport and actively work to create anti-racist environments, but isn't this what we all must do?
Photos: Field Hockey captains Carolyn (right) and Kaitlyn DeVito '22 (top); the team's socially-distanced movie night.
Contact: Andrea Dawson, Senior Writer, email@example.com