The right blend of familiarity and experience can sometimes make a surefire coaching hire, something USA Field Hockey is hoping for in hiring two-time Olympian Caroline Nelson-Nichols as new women’s national team head coach.
Nelson-Nichols, 35, assumes the top job with Team USA after five seasons coaching the women’s team at Columbia University following three seasons as an assistant. Nelson-Nichols’ appointment as head coach in 2015 came shortly after the end of her playing career in 2014. Nelson-Nichols made 165 international appearances for Team USA from 2007–14 as a defender.
The hire was announced just under a month after USA Field Hockey parted ways with Janneke Schopman, a two-time Olympic medalist for the Netherlands who served as Team USA's head coach for nearly three years and was part of the coaching staff for more than five. The U.S. women fell short of qualifying for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 in early November, its first time to do so in 12 years.
“I am honored and humbled to serve as the next head coach for the U.S. Women’s National Team,” said Nelson-Nichols in a press release. “USA Field Hockey has given me so much as an athlete and I look forward to paying all of that forward to the USWNT. … This program is incredibly special to me and I can’t wait to get started! Go USA!”
Nelson-Nichols played at Old Dominion University where she was an All-American and conference Player of the Year in her senior season in 2006. Nelson-Nichols became a key member of the U.S. national team’s defense, making two U.S. Olympic teams in 2008 and 2012. She retired at the top of her game in 2014, having led Team USA to its first-ever win in the Women’s Hockey Champions Challenge and a fourth-place finish at the Women’s Hockey World Cup, the team’s best result there since 1994.
Nelson-Nichols was already well into her coaching career by the time of her retirement, having worked with the USA Field Hockey Futures Program beginning in 2008 and starting her college coaching career at the University of Iowa in 2010 prior to moving on to Columbia.
There won’t be much time for Nelson-Nichols to rest before assuming her new duties. Team USA faces the second edition of FIH Pro League play beginning in January.