USA Field Hockey NEWS Taking the Lead in K...

Taking the Lead in Kentucky

By Jody Schaefer, Kentucky State Chapter President | Oct. 30, 2020, 4:50 p.m. (ET)

Two years ago in December, I received the call that every coach waits her entire career to hear: “I MADE IT!”, she screamed into the phone. It was electrifying to know that two Kentucky athletes would travel to Germany to play with the U.S. U-17 Women’s National Team. Assumption High School junior Lee Ann Gordon and Christian Academy of Louisville sophomore Claudia Thomas both made the 2019 U-17 USWNT after a rigorous process of selections, beginning with Futures training, moving through the National Futures Championship and on to Junior National Camp, and final selections for the squad. Watching these girls grow from U-12 teammates on their IFHCK club to competing on the Junior USWNT displays the potential that Kentucky has for growing players who can achieve at the highest level. 

Although Kentucky field hockey players are reaching the pinnacle of their sport, there were questions last fall regarding high school sanctioning by Kentucky’s governing body for athletics, the Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA). Sanctioned sports are reviewed periodically and the lack of member schools participating in fi eld hockey was a concern. Happily, the sport’s community was vocal and the KHSAA was supportive, so high school field hockey remains a member sport. The connections made during the sanctioning meetings resulted in USA Field Hockey’s desire to support and fuel growth in Kentucky by adding the Bluegrass State to the list of pilot State Chapter programs.

State Chapters are partners in USA Field Hockey’s regionalization efforts to promote and develop the game for future generations to enjoy. Their focus is to grow the game, inspire and serve membership in their state, while developing their respective state’s fi eld hockey stakeholders to succeed both on and off the field.

Although small, the field hockey community in Kentucky is tightly woven.

There are currently four NCAA programs in the state: Bellarmine University and the University of Louisville in Division I and Centre College and Transylvania University in Division III. Approximately 20 high schools and dozens of middle school teams are in Louisville and three Louisville clubs represent the state in Bluegrass, IFHCK and Stealth, which provide athletes with opportunities to play year around.

Kentucky has a strong community of umpires who offer their services to organize matches for all the groups mentioned above. There are also a host of other adults including parents and coaches, league organizers and club owners, who sustain and support the sport.

Oftentimes a crisis clarifies priorities, and the development of the Kentucky State Chapter is a direct result of that clarification. The community realized that, in order to sustain the sport that we all love, some changes had to be made. With the help of Sally Goggin, USA Field Hockey’s National Development Director, and Chip Rogers, Miami University Assistant Coach and USA Field Hockey Board of Directors Vice-Chair, and after a survey of interest and several virtual meetings, we developed an Executive Board for the State Chapter. The Board is in the process of drafting a mission statement, vision statement and philosophy, and creating a strategic plan to clarify priorities. While we have not solidified our plans, we do know that we are prioritizing the stabilization and support of field hockey programs in Jefferson County, growing the sport beginning with the Lexington area and ensuring that we are offering more opportunities to novice players from varied backgrounds.

There are some outstanding opportunities offered through our partnership with USA Field Hockey. Firstly, we will have a Kentucky State Chapter website.

This will allow players and their families easy access to information about field hockey events and school programs in their area. Our three current club programs will also have an opportunity to link to the website, offering easy access more intense instruction. Eventually, our State Chapter organizers will be able to include USA Field Hockey clinics on the calendar, bringing to fruition our desire to grow the sport beginning with our youngest and least experienced players.

Our three current club programs will also have an opportunity to link to the website, offering easy access more intense instruction. Eventually, our State Chapter organizers will be able to include USA Field Hockey clinics on the calendar, bringing to fruition our desire to grow the sport beginning with our youngest and least experienced players.

Even in these difficult times when so much is unsure, we can have confidence that growth is on the horizon. Kentucky-based U.S. Rise Women’s National Team athletes like Lee Ann Gordon, Claudia Thomas and the countless others who played before them, have made our state stand out in the Midwest. The work that we are doing today will offer the generations to come the opportunity to continue to excel and, more importantly, grow into strong individuals with lifelong enthusiasm for their sport. It is a worthy task.

Kentucky State Chapter Leadership
President: Jody Schaefer

Vice President: Olivia Netzler-Gray

Secretary: Stephanie Seeley

Treasurer: Chris Ward

Members at Large: Lucy Miller

Committee Leaders
Webmasters: Nicole Woods and Chris Niblock

Umpires: Erin Maguire and Chris Niblock

High School: Brittany Johnson and Brittany Vencill

Club: Yasser Hayat 

Diversity: Bailey Higgins

Lexington Development: Suzie Stammer, Katie Hasting, Janelle Anthony, Anna Cook

If you are interested in learning more about the Kentucky State Chapter of USA Field Hockey and getting involved, please email kentucky@usafieldhockey.com. Look for announcements about the launch of the Kentucky State Chapter website!

This article is featured in the Summer 2020 issue of FHLife Magazine. To read more inspiring, knowledge-packed and fun features revolving around hockey, fitness, healthy eating and how to strengthen your game, subscribe to our quarterly publication by clicking here.