USA Field Hockey NEWS Athlete Spotlight: A...

Athlete Spotlight: Alex Grassi

Oct. 16, 2020, 3 p.m. (ET)

Each athlete that wears the red, white and blue has a unique story to how their careers came to fruition. From the junior level to the senior squad, USA Field Hockey is putting national team athletes under the spotlight to share their journeys.

Depending on who you ask, being an athlete can personally mean something simple or complex. For U.S. Men’s National Team athlete Alex Grassi, it means playing with one’s entire being, not just with a jersey and equipment given to anyone.

Grassi has been actively playing field hockey since 1997 and was introduced to the game by his physical education teacher in the first grade at Mater Amoris Montessori School in Ashton, Md. From there, once old enough, he joined the school’s U-12 team that consisted of fourth, fifth and sixth grade students. This team also frequently competed in the U-12 Mixed division at the annual California Cup, and as Grassi gained in experience, it opened up the door to further playing opportunities in the Men’s Olympic Development Pipeline.

“When I was old enough to play on the team, I traveled with them for the Cal Cup near Los Angeles,” explained Grassi. “When I turned 13, my coach got me a tryout for the U.S. U-16 Men’s National Team out in California. I flew out with my dad and I made the team.”

Step by step, Grassi’s confidence grew alongside his skillset and before long developed a dream to represent the red, white and blue. 

“I always just played because I really enjoyed the game,” continued Grassi. “I didn't know if I was any good, but it was fun. When I made the U-16 USMNT, I realized I could potentially play on the Senior team one day, that’s when I made it one of my goals.”

He slowly but surely made his goal a reality moving up to the U-21 USMNT in 2007 and played in the 2008 Junior Pan American Championship in Trinidad and Tobago where USA finished with a bronze medal. While pursuing his endeavors on the pitch, Grassi was also an active soccer player throughout his time at McDonogh High School and helped the school claim two Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) state championships. When it came to decide where to attend college, sports played a major role in both as an undergraduate at Franklin and Marshall College and graduate school at San Diego State University (SDSU).

“I chose Franklin and Marshall for college because I wanted to continue playing soccer and they had an engineering program that seemed right for me,” said Grassi. “I chose SDSU because I wanted to be able to study and train full time with my teammates at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista Calif, which is about 30 minutes away.”

While balancing school, Grassi was named to the Senior U.S. Men’s National Team in 2012 and earned his first international cap in a series against Chile in the lead up to the 2013 Men’s Pan American Cup.

“I was definitely nervous, but realizing a dream is such an exciting moment, I'll never forget it,” added Grassi, regarding his first international cap. “After the game, I remember immediately setting my next personal goal, which was to score a goal for USA.”

That same year, Grassi also competed in his second Junior Pan American Championship, this time in Guadalajara, Mexico, where USA placed fourth. The Brookville, Md. native was also a recognizable face in 2017 when the team claimed bronze medals at Hockey World League Round 2 in Trinidad and Tobago, and the men’s Pan American Cup in Lancaster, Pa. The latter remains among his favorite memories thus far in his career, not only to play on home turf wearing USA’s colors, but a chance for those most important to him to watch in person.

“Playing at home on the east coast in front of my friends and family was a great moment in my career,” noted Grassi. “So many of our games are outside the US, many of my friends and family had never seen me play before, so it was great to have so familiar faces in the stands.” 

Through it all, the game taught him humility, how to better communicate and leadership skills among several others. 

“You can take a lot of lessons away from a team sport like field hockey,” continued Grassi. “A few examples would be learning to deal with adversity, communicating effectively with different people, how to follow, and how to lead. I think one of the main lessons I learned from field hockey is to embrace imperfection and weaknesses. If you aren't willing to admit you have any weaknesses, then you'll never be able to focus on them to improve them.”

The sport has also given him many opportunities to be a teacher as well. Grassi added that he has been very lucky to have coached multiple groups of eager athletes in California, Maryland and New Jersey over the years. This includes collegiately at American University and Rutgers University, as well as with the Junior U.S. Men’s National Teams.

“Coaching is something I really enjoy and I've been lucky to work alongside some great coaches. I’ve learned a lot over my time working with them ” said Grassi. “Finally, I have also been able to start my own club near [Washington] D.C.! Mustangs Field Hockey Club is for all ages and skill levels. And it is open to boys and girls.”

In the first few days of the New Year, Grassi served as captain of the indoor U.S. Men's National Team that competed at the Rohrmax Cup in Vienna, Austria. More recently, while his schedule remains full and active, Grassi has remained well connected with the rest of the USMNT through the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic by supporting each other in individual trainings as they await to retake the field as a full unit. 

“The team group chat is always active," commented Grassi. "We have done a few different things through COVID-19, from small accountability groups to team-wide discussions on training. Since we are spread out all over the world, team training isn't an option, but some guys can get together in small groups. Most of the team is at a point where they know how to train themselves to stay fit.”

Though they cannot train together in person just yet, Grassi and the rest of the Wolfpack keep their individual and team goals front and center while counting down the days until they walk onto the pitch together once again. 
If you aren't willing to admit you have any weaknesses, then you'll never be able to focus on them to improve them.

Alex Grassi

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Alex Grassi