TopOfTheCircle.com

Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Jan. 25, 2016 — Two addresses for a special occasion

This evening, your Founder was scheduled to make a pair of presentations at the postseason banquet for the Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) field hockey team. The text below is what I would have said had a 31-inch snowpack not been dumped in our neighborhood over the past weekend:


Coach Heilig, distinguished coaching staff, parents, friends — and most of all, the 2015 Eastern field hockey team:

Two months ago, you completed your fifth consecutive undefeated season. Playing the likes of eventual Kentucky state champion Sacred Heart, Oak Knoll, Warren Hills, and Wyoming Seminary, you once again never backed down from any challenge set before you.

For the fourth straight season, your team exceeded 220 goals. Now, let me give you an idea of what that is like. There are entire conferences of teams — eight to 10 teams that play each other round-robin over the course of a season — that don’t get up to 220 goals in a year.

For the fourth time in five seasons, you won the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions. For the 17th straight time, Eastern is the NJSIAA Group IV state champion.

Since starting this site back in 1998, I’ve always wanted to chronicle what champions do, what their best practices are. This site, since 2002, awarded a trophy to the best field hockey team in the country. It was something inspired by an award once given to a former Philadelphia Eagle named Harold Carmichael. When he broke the existing record for consecutive games with a catch, Eagles owner Leonard Tose came up with a trophy that matched Carmichael’s height — for reference, Carmichael was six inches taller than me.

Before I award the TopOfTheCountry trophy to this program for the eighth time, I’m going to let you in on a little something. This award is going to have a second life this spring; we’re going to have a weekly Top 10 for girls’ high school lacrosse, with a TopOfTheCountry trophy at the end of it for the best team. Of course, if we had done this the last four or five years, McDonogh would have won them with ease, but we’ll see how it goes this spring.

It’s my pleasure to call up the captains of the Eastern field hockey team to give this award to the finest team in all the land.

[PAUSE FOR PICTURES AND APPLAUSE]

Now, I have a second presentation this evening, which I don’t have to tell you about. You all lived it.

There are many ways that the 28 states that have field hockey in America choose a champion. In many cases, the state tournament winner plays its most difficult match right at the end. In others, the tournament final may be an anticlimax because the champion may have to face a regional rival in the sectional final.

Usually, these games are set out at a leisurely pace — two games a week, if that.

Then, there was “The Tweet Heard Around The Field Hockey World.”

The tweet that told everybody that you weren’t good enough for the top seed in the Tournament of Champions. The tweet that sent you to a play-in game just two days after winning a state final. The tweet that told everybody that Eastern, in order to win the Tournament of Champions, would have to win four high-tempo, high-energy games in seven days.

And this, you have to remember, is field hockey — a game in which goals are supposed to be rare. A game where one missed trap, one blown defensive assignment, one bounce of the ball, or one deflection can change the entire course of a game.

Only one coach could have focused a team even more tightly on the job at hand as they were already, having come off the state title win that Saturday at Bordentown.

The United States Coach of the Year Award is given to a head coach or co-head coaches who made a marked difference in the performance of a scholastic field hockey team in a particular season. The coaching performance is not limited to progress made in the year which the award is given.

Now, when I envisioned this award a decade and a half ago, I envisioned it being a bit like the Nobel Prize in that I thought there would be enough diversity in the American coaching community that a coach would likely only receive the award once.

But, Danyle Heilig, what you did over the course of the week of the 2015 Tournament of Champions stands for all time as a testament to your dedication to this sport. For the second time, please come forward and receive the award for United States Coach of the Year.

 

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