Each week on Wednesday, USA Field Hockey will highlight an active club from one of the nine regions around the United States to shine a spotlight on what makes Member Clubs unique. From coast-to-coast, clubs big and small will be featured to increase awareness of field hockey across the country, and administrators and coaches will have the chance to talk about initiatives, training, and favorite parts of the game. This week’s featured club from Region 11 is San Jose Fly.
Club Name: San Jose Fly
History: San Jose Fly was founded by Justina Williams in the spring of 2001. Based out of San Jose, Calif., Williams has been the head coach at Archbishop Mitty High School since 2000. She is a former U.S. U-21 and U-23 Women's National Team athlete and was an All-American at Stanford University. When Williams originally began coaching at Archbishop Mitty, she was tasked with coaching both the junior varsity and varsity teams by herself. She quickly recruited her brother and a childhood friend, Anthony Gourley, to assist. With a lack of club presence in the northern California area, she saw an opportunity to create that platform and was able to send a team to the coveted California Cup. In 2008, Williams turned the club over to Gourley and Mary Donahue. Since its inception in 2001, the club has grown from 20 athletes into the largest club in northern California with approximately 190 players.
Accolades/Awards: San Jose Fly is currently 49th in the U-16 Girls USA Field Hockey National Club Rankings. The club is currently unranked in both the U-14 and U-19 Girls age divisions.
Below is a list of recent finishes:
- 2019 National Hockey Festival - U-16 Pool H fifth place
- 2019 California Cup - U-16 Champions
- 2018 National Hockey Festival - U-16 Pool N fourth Place
Most Recent Event: 2019 National Hockey Festival
Gourley on Club Life
Gourley had an uncommon introduction to field hockey. Before joining Williams at Archbishop Mitty, he had never played. Williams handed him the USA Field Hockey Rule Book and left him to coach the junior varsity squad on his own. Immediately, he found success from 2002 to 2011 as the junior varsity squad went undefeated winning 141 consecutive games. A few years ago, he stepped down from coaching high school to focus on the club and is now co-director for San Jose Fly, along with Donahue, herself a former Stanford player, and head varsity coach at Los Altos High School for the past 12 years.
Gourley leads a strong set of senior coaches, many of which have a wide breadth of field hockey experience. Gourley and Donahue are the U-16 head coaches, while Williams heads up the U-12 and U-14 age groups. The high performance and U-19 groups are led by Elise Ogle, a recent Stanford standout, Christine Couteau, current 2020 U.S. O-55 Women’s Masters Team member and coordinator of the local high school referee association, and Jote Atwal, former Singapore National Team and current active official. This experienced group provides high level coaching across all age divisions in the club.
San Jose Fly is very active in the San Jose and San Francisco Bay Area areas. The club does not pull from one school as athletes come from all over northern California to join and participate. The club participates in a local fall youth leagues in which the younger players are given an opportunity to play and older players can learn to officiate. The spring season of the club is spent improving skills suited to the wide range of athletes, including high-level training for U-16 and U-19 high school teams which focuses on ramping up the intensity and conceptual knowledge of the game to prep these players for collegiate play. San Jose Fly also offers a robust summer clinic open to every level of player, boys and girls. In another community, older Fly athletes volunteered at elementary schools to introduce field hockey to younger kids. Unlike many other club sports programs, the club also encourages their athletes to diversify in sports. When they come to a Fly practice, it is because they want to, not because they feel forced to by their coach.
The club's short-term field hockey goals right now are simple: to get back on the field and return to practicing. Gourley mentioned that everyone knows how important the sport is for so many of their athletes and right now that part of their life has been missing. As a response to shelter in place rules in California during the past few months, the club has developed a “Fly-At-Home” program for the athletes with a focus on stick skills and individual conditioning, as well as offered Zoom-based workouts lead by senior coaches. In the long term, Fly’s goal is to return to normal operation. The whole club, their coaches, players and families, look forward to when they can return to play and participate in their first tournament.
Gourley’s favorite part of being a member of the USA Field Hockey Family is the sense of family that has been built within the club. He says it is more than just a sports club, the coaches are friends with each other and are mentors to the athletes, who look to them for advice beyond what happens on the field. He also enjoys having the opportunity to leave a lasting impression on athletes and help support the players and their families’ field hockey and scholastic dreams.
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