Smith-Puzo hangs up field hockey stick

Jan. 28, 2013, 10:27 a.m. (ET)

Smith-Puzo hangs up field hockey stick after decade on U.S. Women’s National Team
Two-time Olympian and mother-of-two officially announces retirement from field hockey

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Veteran field hockey player and two-time Olympian, Keli Smith-Puzo (Selinsgrove, Pa.) has officially announced her retirement and is hanging up her field hockey stick after a glittering 10 year career as a striker on the U.S. Women’s National Team. 

“There will be a huge void to fill on team with the absence of Keli,” said Steve Locke, Executive Director for USA Field Hockey. “She is a wonderful player, wife and mother and an inspiration to many young athletes. I want to congratulate her on what she has achieved and wish her every bit of success in all her future endeavors. Most recently, Keli played an important role on the search committee for USA Field Hockey’s Women’s National Team Head Coach.”

“Keli is one of the fiercest competitors I've ever come up against, but also one of the greatest teammates to play alongside,” said former U.S. captain and 2008 Olympian Carrie Lingo. “Keli's career on the field has been remarkable. From her time at the University of Maryland to working her way from the U.S. Junior Teams to the Senior Team and even playing overseas. To top off her career, Keli balanced the life of being an elite athlete and a mother. Keli is an amazing woman and USA Field Hockey will greatly miss No. 13.”

The 33-year-old’s resume is chock-a-block full of athletic accomplishments, ranging from representing the U.S. in 179 international matches to competing in two World Cups, two Pan American Games and two Olympic Games, to being an NCAA Division I Champion. 

On top of all her athletic achievements and catalogued somewhere after her 100th international cap but before training for the 2012 Olympic Games , Smith-Puzo got married, started a family and then became a mother-of-two. 

“I have many amazing memories from my 10 years on the National Team and I will hold the 2008 and 2012 Olympics as my most precious memories,” said Smith-Puzo. “I will also never forget the days that we qualified for both of those Olympics Games. The 2008 qualifier was in Russia and I was on the field.  But, in 2011, the team qualified in Mexico while I watched with my two sons from the couch. It was very surreal, in a completely different way.”

Smith-Puzo launched her career with the National Team in 2001. The balancing act of being an elite athlete and a mom began January 8, 2010 with the birth of her first son, Xavi. In August 2011, the Puzo family grew, welcoming baby Ian to the world on August 31. Still recovering from the birth of Ian, Smith-Puzo sat on her sofa with her two boys and watched her teammates win the biggest upset in USA Field Hockey history and earn a berth to the 2012 Olympic Games. 

Just five months after giving birth to Ian, Smith-Puzo reunited with her teammates at a training camp in California. The Olympics were less than a year away and Smith-Puzo had dreams of being a two-time Olympian and mother-of-two. 

On June 11, 2012 Smith-Puzo was named to the 2012 U.S. Olympic Women’s Field Hockey Team. She would cap off her impressive athletic career in London.  

Making it to the zenith of athletic competition while raising children deserves a medal in itself and there is a reason why only 13 mothers were on the U.S. Olympic Team in London. But, it wasn’t achieved alone. Smith-Puzo credits the support of her parents and husband, Inako Puzo, to her success on the field.  

“A huge thanks to my family for making my dreams a reality. Without their support and patience, I would have retired long ago,” said Smith-Puzo.

When asked if the temptation of winning a gold medal will pull her back into future Olympic Games, Smith-Puzo said “No, I have always feared I wouldn’t know when it was time to call it quits. Some of my teammates would ask me when they know it’s time to leave because they’re unsure. If you’re not sure, you’re not ready. I’m very lucky to know I’m ready. At this point I’m eager to support the team and follow their successes.” 

Smith-Puzo says she is now enjoying parenthood and is focusing her energy on Inako, their boys and her training academy, Field Hockey Life. 

“I am hanging up my playing stick but when hockey has been such a huge part of my life for all these year, it's fair to say that I love this game and hope to use the avenue to have a positive impact on young athletes everywhere,” said Smith-Puzo. 

Smith-Puzo graduated from the University of Maryland in 2001 with a degree in communication and psychology. A three-time All American and starter in every game of her collegiate career, Smith-Puzo finished her tenure ranked 10th all-time in Maryland goals, and seventh in assists and points. She has since worked with a variety of NCAA Division I programs, including, Georgetown University, University of Virginia and American University. Smith-Puzo played professionally in Spain for Real Club de Polo de Barcelona and she is the founder and owner of Field Hockey Life, a club in Charlottesville, Virginia and Columbus, Ohio aimed at providing a high quality-training environment for players to excel on the field after high school graduation.