POWHATAN – For some of the students who go to Powhatan schools, the four days they spent with Powhatan Field Hockey’s players and coaches were an introduction to a whole new world…

…while still retaining that fun familiarity you find at summer camp.

They gained hands-on experience with the game through drills and played each other in game time situations, with some girls getting to work on goalie skills. They also smiled as they ran after each other in a game of tag, and kept cool on the hot days with competitions like sponge relay races.

The camp, Powhatan Field Hockey head coach Stephanie Tyson said, is about giving the participants an introduction to field hockey and creating a fun, family-like atmosphere.

Her players agreed.

“One thing I’ve noticed with the younger kids is that they’re excited to come out and play every single day,” said rising senior midfielder Madeline Cecil. “They come and they’re all smiling, ready to warm-up and learn something new and play the sport.”

This most recent field hockey summer camp – which Powhatan has been holding for about five years now – featured quite a few younger campers including middle schoolers.

“We’re seeing a lot more younger kids out here this year…we had a couple of eighth graders on the team last year; a lot of these kids [at this camp] are eighth graders,” Tyson said.

Most of the time, the new campers come in having never played field hockey, so they learn the basics and fundamentals – which include holding a field hockey stick as well as dribbling, passing and hitting - and then progress to games as the week goes on.

“I think it’s really beneficial for the younger girls especially because I know personally many of us who are standing here right now just kind of showed up to tryouts freshman year when a JV team was first established, not even knowing what field hockey was,” said rising senior forward Hayley Moss. “But we have girls out here who…can start founding these skills super early and then they can just come out onto the JV team their 8th grade year and just absolutely rock it out.”

The campers were catching on quick, observed rising senior right defender Alicia Dern.

“They catch on so quickly; we’ll show them one thing, and then they’ll get it after one or two tries,” Dern said. “They’re really good….because it took me years to catch on, and they’re catching on way faster than I did.”

Rising senior forward Erin Barney saw that some of the campers’ athletic experience from other sports – the powerful hits from the girls who also play softball, the strong drives and push passes from the girls who also play soccer and lacrosse – carry over to the field hockey field; Moss picked up on how some of the players were much more determined than she thought they’d be.

“A lot of these girls are really open to coaching and opening themselves up to learning and improving, and they’ll go back and they’ll fix their mistake and they’ll relearn how to do it,” Moss said. “I’ve definitely seen a lot less giving up recently and a lot more willing to improve, and that’s huge.”

The campers’ main teachers – the camp counselors – are also the program’s seniors and older players.

“It’s good because the younger players really look up to the older ones,” Tyson said, adding of those older players: “They basically run the camp, and they’re just great kids.”

When it’s time for camp, Tyson doesn’t even have to ask the seniors – they’re just there. She does meet with them and they talk about their goals for the camp and what they want to accomplish before splitting up into groups, but those leading players - featuring versatile athlete Michala Taylor - look forward to being out on there on the field with the campers.

“And they’re doing a great job,” Tyson said. “They pretty much plan their work schedules around it…by the time they are seniors, they’re excited that they get to be the camp counselors. It ends up being a fun week for them, and I appreciate it. It’s kind of what building the program is all about.”

“I’ve learned how to get a bigger voice,” Dern said, “and how to get people to be more interested in and into the sport.”

“Being a counselor has taught me how to better explain things in field hockey,” Barney said, “and it also feels good to see the younger kids pick up on it and to encourage them.”

“Being a counselor for the camp gets you used to looking for people who need help and then wanting to help them and cooperating with them,” contributed rising junior right forward Hanna Hathaway. “A big part of it is encouragement and it brings a lot of positivity to the field.”

“We’ve always had really good leaders on field hockey,” added rising senior center defender Ella Weber. “It’s [important] to mimic them for the younger girls. We have big shoes to fill.”

“I think it’s really important to have people to look up to…when you’re younger,” said rising senior keeper Emily Stephenson, “and just be able to have something to look forward to going into something new like field hockey.”

By introducing the game of field hockey to a group of students who may have never heard of the game before, the camp also helps Powhatan Field Hockey with its goal of growing the program.

“For the younger girls it definitely…introduces the skill to them before they come out for tryouts and it helps them build confidence and excitability to come out and play for the season,” Moss said. “For the older girls, it kind of gets the family back together and helps us get an idea of who’s gonna be coming into our team and into our lives and spending the next how-many-ever months we’re together…it’s a good thing to have us bond before the season starts so that way we can just skip that awkward phase and go right into it and just grow together as a whole.”

“It allows us to get all the spider webs out before the actual season starts and allows us to come back together as a team,” Stephenson noted. “For the younger girls it lets them explore new skills and realize [if] this is what they want to do in the future or not.”

“If they come in this camp – they have a good time and everything – then they can get their friends to come the next year,” Hathaway said, “and then it just ultimately grows the whole program and then we can improve the whole thing.”

Tyson pointed out that the returning players are both great role models for the younger campers and the type of student-athletes you hope for in a program.

“The community has watched us grow over the past few years and it helps that we have built a winning tradition,” she added. “Also, folks hear about the family-type atmosphere that [fellow field hockey coach Caryn Rehme] and I are working hard to build.

“Rehme and I work side-by-side with both teams on a daily basis,” Tyson said. “We both have the same coaching philosophy, want the kids to have fun and also hope to teach them life lessons along with the sport of field hockey."

Powhatan Field Hockey is holding conditioning through Thursday Aug. 1 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. at Powhatan High School. Tryouts and practice run Aug. 5-23 from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. at the high school.

“It’s a good group of kids that we have – I’m looking forward to the season,” Tyson said. “Camp has been really fun; it’s been good getting to know some of these younger girls, and hopefully look forward to them coming to tryouts…”

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