Over Three Decades of Field Hockey with No Sign of Slowing in Sight

Sept. 16, 2013, 11:43 a.m. (ET)

For some, field hockey is a pastime. For longtime Futures and Lakeland High School coach, Sharon Sarsen, it’s a way of life. Sarsen began her field hockey career during high school in the early 1970’s. She continued playing through college at the State University of New York at Cortland and began coaching at Lakeland High School in 1982. This season marks her 32nd year as a coach. Throughout her tenure, she has won seven state championships with four of them coming consecutively over the last four seasons. Also, she is the proud high school coach of Melissa Gonzalez, current Women’s National Team member and Olympian. Sarsen also coaches for Hudson Valley Club in New York and USA Field Hockey’s Futures Program. In between her busy schedule, USA Field Hockey caught up with Sarsen to ask her a few questions. 

USA Field Hockey: Last season you created an impressive list of accolades as you were named 2012 Dita/NFHCA North Region Coach of the Year, earned your 500th win and won the state championship.  What do you consider your “secret” to success?
SS: I think it’s a combination of things: having stability and consistency within a program, whether its club or high school, developing youth programs and incorporating the community, creating a culture of success and having the kids know that they will have great opportunities ahead of them if they come into the sport.

USA Field Hockey: You are a club, high school, and Futures coach, do you have any free time? What are your hobbies outside of the field hockey world? 
SS: It’s consuming, but yes, I try. I’m going to the movies to see “The Butler.”  I love Oprah! I do a lot of travelling in between a summer league and camps that I run. I love the Yankees, and we traveled to Boston to watch a game. I went to Virginia Beach to watch my Futures athletes play and traveled to Saratoga. I really make an effort to capitalize on short opportunities when I have them.

USA Field Hockey: How many years have you been involved with the Futures Program?
SS: I came in when the Futures program began in 1990. At that time, we volunteered, we didn’t get paid as coaches. I have done everything from assistant to head coach, regional director, and back to coaching. I have been Level I and Level II certified. Wherever the need is, I try to fill in the gap and pick up what is needed.

USA Field Hockey: Do you encourage your players to participate in Futures? If so, what are the benefits for you and for them?
SS: Absolutely! If the kid really wants to develop in the game, Futures is phenomenal. We definitely support the program in this area. I get my younger kids to do the trials and have them practice the trial before we run them at the JV level. A couple of my kids have done really well in the program—Melissa Gonzalez, Emma Bozek (U21). We have great role models in the community and kids really have seen the benefits of Futures pay off right in front of them.

USA Field Hockey: What is your advice to players and coaches considering the Futures program?
SS: If you have a kid that loves the game and wants to improve, not just physically but tactically and technically, it’s the best place for them. If they aspire to play at a higher level, it really gives them an edge. Futures gives them all the tools to be successful at the next level.

USA Field Hockey: How does it feel to have coached an Olympian? 
SS: Shannon Taylor and Melissa Gonzalez did actually come here and do a clinic here for us, but Melissa usually doesn’t give me advice unless I ask for it. After 30 years and coaching my athletes across different capacities, I do try to look for new, fresh drills for them. I asked Melissa for a couple drills for the first day of pre-season this year and she drew something up and sent it over to me. 

USA Field Hockey: What was it like watching her play in London?
SS: Amazing; it was so much fun. I had never been abroad before so that in and of itself was really exciting. When she made the national team, she asked me, 'If I make the Olympic team, will you come?' It was an easy commitment. I went with her brother-in-law, two sisters and mom. I had a great time in the village - it was like Disneyland times a thousand. Being in Olympic Park, hearing the National Anthem, seeing Melissa on the field, and watching world class athletes at the pinnacle of competition was just amazing and a great opportunity.