This year, about 20 new varsity field hockey programs begin play across the United States. From Philadelphia to Denver, each of the new teams have their own story and their own struggles.
Take Manassas Charles J. Colgan (Va.), a fine and performing arts school which opened this year with a multimillion-dollar arts center, as well as Prince William County’s only aquatics center connected to a high school. The population of Colgan is taken from four nearby districts in the county — Manassas Osbourn Park (Va.), Woodbridge (Va.), Woodbridge Cecil D. Hylton (Va.), and Woodbridge Forest Park (Va.), meaning that every class, every activity, every sports team is subject to developing up to four cliques.
But that’s just one of a number of obstacles that inaugural Sharks head field hockey coach Natalie Latimer has had to face this year.
“So far, it’s been a positive experience,” said Latimer, who coached at Osbourn Park the last few years. “We’ve had players with no experience all the way to those with previous varsity experience, and the girls have been putting forth the effort.”
Another obstacle is the fact that there are no seniors at the school, which has forced leadership roles on younger students and student-athletes.
But Colgan’s most immediate concern upon starting the season was the overhead sun. The regular season opener for the Sharks was last week’s Under The Lights tournament at Springfield Robert E. Lee (Va.), which was contested over the course of two days in 93-degree heat. The tournament was subject to Virginia High School League rules on “humiture,” where no outside activity is recommended when a combination of heat and humidity leads to a reading of greater than 105.
It was a hot opening to the 2016 season, with Colgan losing its first three matches. But the Sharks have a number of good athletes, and the simple act matching skills against live competition is one more accomplishment level for this young program.
“Our expectation,” Latimer says, “is continuous improvement.”