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Archive for December 4, 2006

Dec. 4, 2006 — NAPL Agonistes

Don’t blink or you might miss the 2006-07 North American Premier League’s season.

After a decline in membership last season, this year is a retrenchment of sorts. An NAPL championship will not be awarded this season. Instead, there are two challenge tournaments that will be held in Feasterville and Downingtown, Pa. to choose which clubs will have the right and responsibility to organize the regional teams which will be in the league for the 2007-08 season.

I find this very interesting on a few levels. What happens in a case where an established outdoor team splits in two, and wins both tournaments? Will there be two co-existing teams in one area like the Mets and Yankees?

What if a major metropolitan area (say, New York) does not place high enough in either to merit a team in favor of a team which is in a smaller market (say, Albany)?

And what about player selection once the organizing rights are allocated? What prevents a team holding organizational rights from not selecting anyone from an open tryout?

There are plenty of questions, but the answers will be on full display the weekend of Dec. 16 and Jan. 13 in Pennsylvania. Should be very interesting. And it is an enterprise that deserves your support.

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Dec. 3, 2006 — A pint for Jim

After the 22nd Annual Central Jersey Field Hockey Coaches’ Association banquet, a ritual took place.

Whether the event was at Angeloni’s Cedar Gardens in Hamilton; the Hyatt Regency in Princeton; Good Time Charlie’s in Franklin; or this year’s venue, Mercer Oaks at West Windsor; a small group of people has gotten together for a round of drinks after the festivities.

The alcohol is much less important than what the gathering symbolizes. For years, the core group consisted of Jim Davis, the field hockey beat writer for The Trentonian; Joyce Jones, the head coach at Princeton (N.J.); Barb Major, the head coach at Lawrence Notre Dame (N.J.); and Missy Bruvik, head coach at Princeton Stuart Country Day School (N.J.).

An open invitation was extended to the guest speaker, and some of the most free-ranging — and off-the-record — conversations would take place in the bar after the banquet. Opinions flowed freely and you really got to know the coaches and what made them tick. You also saw how their approach to the game changed over time. I eventually joined up with the group in the mid-1990s as the beat writer for The Trenton Times.

Notes were compared; Jones and Major are the deans of Mercer County field hockey coaching, two of the “Three Amigos” who helped write the history of the sport in the capital region from the 1970s onward. Davis knew Jones, Major, and third Amigo Barb Skiba (the head coach at Pennington Hopewell Valley Central) better than I’ll ever know them. And Bruvik played for Jones at Princeton before authoring a remarkable history at Stuart, one in which she has gotten more out of less than any coach in the United States.

Well, this year was one of the first times that much of that core group returned for a post-banquet round since Jim Davis’ death in 2004. And also joining us were a pair of relatively new faces on the county’s coaching scene: Julie Reisig of Hightstown (N.J.) and Judy Goldstein of Robbinsville (N.J.).

Reisig is a coach who has delved deep into the history of the Rams’ program even while creating new history. She has gotten to know alumnae, knows the school’s field hockey recordholders, and keeps in touch with former coaches.

Goldstein was the head coach at Point Pleasant Boro (N.J.) for two decades and once had a right wing named Christie Pearce. Now Christie Rampone, she is the starting right back for the U.S. women’s national soccer team, having amassed impressive credentials including a World Cup championship and an Olympic gold medal.

You might wonder what we talked about. Did I mention that our post-banquet conversations were off the record? Still are. Even in the blogosphere.