Archive for February 2, 2011
One in an occasional series.
It was on a grass field on a sprawling campus of a preparatory school north of the state capital of New Jersey when I first noticed her.
In high school, Jessica Reed was a decent player on an Allentown (N.J.) team that, in the early 1990s, was on the cusp of ultimate success, but for bad luck or a bad bounce. But the spring and summer of her senior year, an inner realization and drive switched on. Reed was the first player to arrive for these summer pickup matches and the last to leave, working on her stick skills with a frenetic energy that was completely unlike her peers.
She took her talents to American University, where she played with distinction, but not without cost. She wrote an unforgettable first-person piece a decade ago on the physical toll the game took on her.
About seven years ago, she agreed to help start up the field hockey program at the Stevens Institute of Technology, a small Division III college in Hoboken, N.J., whose field hockey and lacrosse complex abuts the Elysian Fields, where the first organized baseball game took place.
As coach since the team’s launch in 2004, her teams went from winning one game in 2004 to making three consecutive appearances in the NCAA Division III tournament, showing continuous improvement throughout. Given the school’s admission standards, which amongst New Jersey universities are second only to Princeton when it comes to mathematics, the improvement was spectacular.
Reed was able to get players from some of the finest programs in the United States, such as West Long Branch Shore Regional (N.J.), Carlsbad La Costa Canyon (Calif.), and Moorestown (N.J.). As such, she tapped into what their high-school coaches (including U.S. national teamer Caroline Nichols) taught them.
In addition, she didn’t think twice about giving back to the game, as a coach in the Futures program as well as playing host to the Garden State Games field hockey event the last few summers.
The results showed on the pitch; the Ducks lost in the NCAA Division III octofinals this year after posting yet another winning record. Only now, we know that was Reed’s last game as coach of Stevens, as she is leaving the program to former Maryland star Emily Beach.
Jessica Reed’s commitment to the sport and her willingness to give so much back is one of those stories that reminds you of the passionate hold field hockey has on its participants 110 years after Constance Applebee first landed on these shores.
She’ll be hard to replace in her roles, but you get the feeling you’ll be hearing from her again one day.