Each week on Wednesday, USA Field Hockey will highlight one 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 6 is Mid-Jersey Knights FHC.
Club Name: Mid-Jersey Knights FHC
History: Mid-Jersey Knights FHC was founded by Meredith and Joey Civico in 2015, the same year they got married. This husband and wife duo runs the club out of Piscataway, N.J. A big part of the Civicos’ motivation to begin the club came from a young athlete who attended a clinic at Rutgers University they were holding. The athlete’s mother explained that she was 11 years old and had been cut from her middle school program, but she was determined to keep playing. The Civicos thought that her perseverance was fantastic but were horrified that could happen to such a young person who just wanted to play the sport she loved. That athlete’s experience has remained at the heart of the Mid-Jersey Knights' philosophy, as they believe everyone should have the opportunity to play and learn from great coaches.
Accolades/Awards: Mid-Jersey Knights are currently tied 88th in the U-19 Girls USA Field Hockey National Club Rankings. The club is currently unranked in the U-14 and U-16 age divisions.
Below is a list of recent finishes:
- 2020 National Indoor Tournament: U-14 Pool U – Second Place
- 2019 National Indoor Tournament: U-19 Pool S – First place
Most Recent Event: 2020 National Indoor Tournament
Joey and Meredith (Long) Civico on Club Life
Meredith played at Ocean City High School in South Jersey, one of the strongest programs in the state. She went on to play at the University of Maryland where she won the NCAA National Championship in 2005 under the inspirational coaching tutelage of Missy Meharg. Following college, while living and working as a snowboard instructor in Vermont, she ended up coaching at the University of Vermont. Her coaching path eventually led her to Rutgers University, first as an assistant and now as head coach of the Scarlet Knights. As an athlete she was part of the USA Field Hockey Olympic Development Pathway for many years, including competing in the Young Women’s National Championship even while she was the head coach at Rutgers. She has also captained the U.S. Women’s National Indoor Team.
Joey has played since he was about 8 years old. Growing up in England, like many of the boys in the United States who begin to play, he followed in his sister’s footsteps, as she played for England juniors at the time. He played hockey throughout his youth before seriously getting into coaching while living in London. He moved to the United States in 2010 and made New Jersey home in 2014. His coaching experience includes associate head coach at Fairfield University before moving on to Lafayette College and now to Rutgers and Mid-Jersey Knights. He is a USA Field Hockey Level 3 certified coach.
“For both of us, our [field] hockey journey still seems so much in its infancy - even though we are getting older,” said Joey. “But as a coach you learn every day. Whether that is from peers, from athletes or from society around you. That is what makes our job so much fun.”
Field hockey has given them both amazing opportunities, most of all at Rutgers where Meredith is the head coach. They wanted to give something back to the New Jersey community - to everyone who wanted to play the game - boys and girls, beginner and elite. They have both coached and ran New Jersey Level 1 Futures sites and regional High Performance for a number of years, but no matter how high the level they still found fundamental skills were not at the standard they could be. With the fantastic AstroTurf12 facility at Rutgers, and the amazing coaches they have alongside them, the Civicos wanted to help correct that. They also knew that starting a club would mean it could affect young athletes on a personal level. It was amazing how many had a negative experience with the sport - especially emotionally.
“Helping build strong, respectful, positive young men and women, giving them values they could carry with them throughout life, is at the core of what we do,” added Joey. What they didn’t know when Mid-Jersey Knights started was that they would have two children. Both Noah, age 3, and Elodie, age 1, are really loving field hockey at the moment so hopefully that continues and they will be training as part of the club soon.
As a club, they have grown year-over-year, with each graduating class larger than the previous year. In 2020, they had 16 seniors commit to NCAA programs. But they are equally proud of the players who graduate from the club and choose not to play at the next level. They have brilliant student-athletes going to schools such as Boston College and Villanova University. Joey says they may not be playing NCAA field hockey but these athletes are people who will do incredible things in life and go on to have a huge, positive impact on society. He knows Mid-Jersey Knights has been a massive part of their lives, and vice versa. Whatever the next step, seniors know, “Once a Knight, always a Knight”.
Aside from the incredible athletes, the best thing about Mid-Jersey Knights is their fantastic group of coaches. Civico added that Maddy Sposito is one of the best goalkeeping coaches in the country. She is an assistant coach at Rutgers and also coaches with the Junior U.S. National Teams. Ajai Dhadwal, U.S. Men’s National Team captain and Rutgers assistant coach, also offers his level of expertise.
During the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the coaches have hosted weekly “Virtual Knights” sessions so the club members can say hello to each other, work on their field hockey skills, and be led through some HIIT (high intensity interval training) exercises. Thanks to Coach Jenn Staab, they even have workouts to the players’ own musical playlist. Joey also sends out a technical skill program through the club app.
What the Civicos have not done during this time is charge any money. Instead, they ask members to donate to Feeding America as the pandemic has had a terrible economic impact on many people. The generosity of Knights members has been amazing and has helped put food on thousands of tables.
Joey’s short-term goals for the club are to have everyone who is part of the Mid-Jersey Knights to love it, to love the game and to have fun - that includes coaches, players and all their family members.
“If this pandemic has taught anything, it’s that you never know what may be around the corner,” said Joey. “So, enjoy the moment and be ready for anything. As an athlete, if you look too far into the future you can lose sight of what is right in front of your nose.”
Looking farther down the road, in the longer-term, Mid Jersey Knights have six boys who regularly train with the club. They are not only a super-talented group, but are also lots of fun; their goal is to expand this group of boys even further. Once the club can field a full boys team and compete against other boys’ squads from across the country, they know they will have achieved something special and helped drive boys development in the United States. Some male members are part of the U.S. Men’s National Team Olympic Development Pipeline: Gavin Chung (U-18 USMNT) and Ishaq Inayat (U-16 USMNT).
In addition, the Civicos and their coaching staff are really excited to see their younger group grow and develop.
One notable alumna of Mid-Jersey Knights is Gianna Glatz, goalkeeper for the U.S. U-21 Women’s National Team.
Their favorite part of being members of the USA Field Hockey Family is being a part of an international sporting community. “The opportunity to be part of that here in the U.S., to help young athletes grow and strive to achieve their potential, whatever that may be, is really special,” said Joey. “To hear people such as Craig Parnham and Phil Edwards share their love of the sport, their concepts and ideas, is fantastic and it drives us to be a better, more inspiring coaches.”
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