Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

March 17, 2023 — Another course-correction

It was announced yesterday that Youngstown State women’s lacrosse coach Kendyl Clarkson, a scant seven months after being named to the position, was being relieved of her duties.

Clarkson, who came over from St. Bonaventure, had a 2-5 record in 2023 as head coach. She had won her most recent game against Gardner-Webb on Tuesday, and had a full Mid-America Conference schedule ahead of her.

This makes Clarkson’s dismissal incredibly curious in terms of timing. Usually, if an athletic department fires a coach in midseason, there had to have been a very serious cause to do so. Absent a cause, especially in the first year, a precipitating event could be the discovery of some kind of misconduct or resume-padding in the hiring process.

But has learned of a recent incident involving alcohol and some of the players. We don’t know if any of the players on the team were suspended formally because of this incident, but we did notice that there were two Penguins who started the first six games of the 2023 season but did not play at all against Gardner-Webb.

This story has yet to be fully written, so we can’t verify a lot of the more tabloidesque assertions about why Clarkson was fired. However, it will be interesting to see what allegations are proven to be true.

March 16, 2023 — A needed course-correction

Remember this?

Yesterday, a story came out on that the Collegiate Women’s Lacrosse Officials Association and the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association made the tightening of safety rules in women’s lacrosse agenda items in recent meetings.

In particular, the discussion surrounded stick-to-body contact, especially in vulnerable areas of the torso.

“I think this injury caught everybody by surprise,” said IWLCA executive director Liz Robertshaw. “You don’t hear about this kind of thing often.”

Apparently, neither did the NCAA. According to the ESPN story, the classification of women’s lacrosse as a non-contact sport necessarily means that there are fewer medical personnel at women’s games than there are at men’s games. According to Stony Brook athletic director Shawn Heilbron, the 90-minute delay before the diagnosis of Taylor Everson’s kidney injury came from the fact that there was no foul called on the play and the game was not stopped. There were two physicians staffing the game.

Now, I’ve never seen, in the third of a century I’ve covered sports, a mid-season course-correction of this type when it comes to officiating. Usually, the preseason interpretation meetings are enough to get the information from the central rulesmakers out to umpires and game officials.

And most decisions that rulesmakers make often take time to filter down to teams and groups of officials. Let’s hope what they do will mitigate the potential for another major injury.

March 15, 2023 — Lacrosse’s lows and highs

In the last few days, the first-year women’s lacrosse program at Clemson has felt the polar opposite of emotions.

Monday, the Tigers were feeling great. Coming off a win over nationally-ranked Duke, Clemson was afforded the status of being ranked in both the US Lacrosse and the IWLCA polls.

Yesterday, however, the program released a video message recorded by head coach Allison Kwolek.

In the message, Kwolek revealed that she has breast cancer and would be away from the team periodically during treatment.

“I have full faith in my incredible staff and our athletic department support system to carry on our standard and continue to move this program forward,” Kwolek said in her remarks. “I know there will be good days and bad days, but I will fight.”

Former Rutgers men’s goalie Bill Olin and former Penn State attacker Madison Carter will be taking on parts of Kwolek’s duties during treatment. Both have had varied coaching experiences in the last few years.

But I’m pretty sure that neither have had to become an interim head coach in a situation like this.

Somehow, I think the Clemson program will find its inner fortitude during this time of trial.

March 14, 2023 — Another all-time great field hockey coach retires

Linda Kreiser, who helped the U.S. women’s national team to a bronze-medal finish at the 1979 World Championships and coached Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) with distinction for more than 40 years, has announced her retirement from coaching.

She is yet another coach of veteran stature who has decided to hang up her whistle, following on the retirements of Enza Steele, Anne Parmenter, Karen Shelton, Lori Hussong, Karen Klassner, Lori Hussong, Ange Bradley, Ann Simons, Beth Arsenault, Lori Smith, Michele Martin-Moore, Sharon Coulton, Sharon Gallant, Jody Harmon, Gloria Hewitt, Pat Toner, and Becca Main from various teams in the American collegiate and scholastic scenes.

Kreiser is a person who has devoted her life to the game of field hockey. Her arc started at Millersville University, where she not only played top field hockey, but was also a fine lacrosse, basketball, and even a squash player.

She played for the U.S. women’s national team and was in the pool of players for Vonnie Gros’ side for the 1980 Olympics, but the team never got to play because of the Western boycott. Kreiser still played long after her retirement from the national team, distinguishing herself in club play with the Red Rose field hockey club.

At Lower Dauphin, she taught an unbroken blue line of athletes for 45 years. The players were skilled, mentally tough, and able to make their teammates better.

The Falcons have won seven state championships in the always-tough commonwealth of Pennsylvania, but there have been times when Lower Dauphin teams have been more memorable in falling short of state championship glory. On numerous occasions, Lower Dauphin would encounter Emmaus (Pa.) in the state semifinal round, and the teams often played games which were worthy of a grand final.

There was also a situation in the early 2000s when Lower Dauphin, sailing along with an undefeated regular season record, and playing as well or better than anyone else in the country, received the top seed in their District 3 championship, only to fall out of the tournament in the first round, thereby missing the state championship.

In 2019, Lower Dauphin fell a goal short in a penalty shootout against West Lawn Wilson (Pa.). But the Falcons got their revenge in 2022, beating Wilson in overtime of the state final.

It turns out that was the last game Kreiser coached.

She has been honored with membership in numerous athletic Halls of Fame, and with co-naming of the bandbox of a hockey stadium just north of the main high school that bears her name and that of Bea Hallman. She also carried the American flag at the most recent FIH World Masters championship and carried the Olympic torch before the Salt Lake Olympics.

One might say that she also carried the torch for the game of field hockey in a highly competitive area of the country.

And for that, I think hundreds of young women in Dauphin County and elsewhere owe her a debt of gratitude.

March 13, 2023 — Has a third pro women’s lacrosse promotion materialized?

Over the weekend, a select group of players from the Premier Lacrosse League, a well-backed professional men’s lacrosse circuit soon to be playing a fifth outdoor season, took its act overseas to play a Japanese all-star team under the proposed Olympic rules.

But one hidden aspect of that venture is the fact that there was a group of women playing a Japanese women’s team, also playing under Olympic rules.

Huh? What’s going on here? Isn’t the PLL a men’s-only promotion?

Well, there they were, a group of women wearing uniforms with the same uniform sponsor (Champion) as the men, and the same number font as what the men were wearing. The names on the back of the jerseys should be familiar to you: Growney, Watson, Gilbert, Ortega, Mastrioenni, Colson. The team, called “Unleashed,” beat their Japanese opposition by a score of 11-7.

If the PLL is going to start a women’s promotion, it would be a third professional women’s lacrosse effort, alongside Athletes Unlimited and By The Pros.

I’m amazed at this feeding frenzy for companies and venture capitalists looking to give female lacrosse players an opportunity to make a living playing the sport they love. I would like to think it is more than just an altruistic notion.

March 12, 2023 — A tragedy in Colorado

Last fall, Anna Burhmann arrived as a first-year student at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn. There, as a member of the varsity field hockey team, she started seven of the Pioneers’ games in a 2-14 season.

The Dusseldorf, Germany resident was credited for giving good energy whenever she patrolled the pitch.

But six days ago, she was on a ski trip in Colorado when she left the trail and crashed into a tree. She was rushed to a hospital where it was discovered that her spinal cord was severed and her C6 and C7 vertebrae were broken.

As with many of these kinds of personal tragedies, a GoFundMe account was set up to pay for medical care. And if you look at the donors, the breadth of support she has received has been astounding. Teams such as LaSalle University, Franklin & Marshall, Delaware, Princeton, Bryant, the Souderton Strikers club team, and Point Pleasant Boro (N.J.) have chipped in with donations and words of support.

It is times like this when the American and international field hockey communities come together as one and show strength and support. I invite you to do the same.

March 11, 2023 — A bad look before a signature event

A few days ago, the French Football Federation announced that it would be parting ways with longtime women’s national team coach Corinne Diacre.

Diacre, who has been in charge since 2017, has run afoul of a number of players in her charge, including captain Wendie Renard. Renard, and a few of her teammates, left the national team pool and told the media of their dissatisfaction with their manager.

Last week, several members of the Canadian women’s national team, your current Olympic champions, testified in front of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. They expressed their lack of confidence that Canada Soccer would come through on their demands for equal pay with the men’s team.

Meanwhile, the seventh-ranked team in the world, Spain, is dealing with the aftermath of a player revolt last fall which has resulted in head coach Jorge Villa dropping 15 veteran players from the selection process.

In many places across the world, women’s soccer players appear to be in a full-on revolt against their respective national federations, and sometimes, their coaches.

This dissatisfaction is not unjustified. These women are wearing of being underpaid and sometimes overcoached in comparison to some of their more successful counterparts in worldwide women’s football.

I sincerely hope FIFA takes notice of this. We’re not so far away from the crown-jewel event in the women’s game, the World Cup. And with three of the top seven teams in the world rankings in turmoil, it’s not a great look.

March 10, 2023 — The second skate drops?

Remember this?

Today, The Athletic wrote this.

There are questions being asked about the future of the current women’s ice hockey coach at Harvard, but it appears as though the athletic administration has doubled down on the side of Katey Stone. In a conversation with the student newspaper three weeks ago, Harvard athletic director Erin McDermott declined comment on the situation.

In truth, I think the team itself made its biggest comment. The Crimson lost its last nine games of the 2022-23 season, and closed its regular season with a 10-1 loss to Yale.

If that’s not rock-bottom, I don’t know what is.

March 9, 2023 — An era of restlessness in college sports

Two months ago, a study was released by the NCAA. The study looked at survey results of more than 6,000 colleges in NCAA sports at all levels.

A number of figures have been pulled from the data. But for the purposes of this blog entry, we’re looking at the mental health concerns of the surveyed coaches. Some 40 percent of head coaches say they have “constantly” or “most every day” felt mentally exhausted. One in three have trouble sleeping. The number of coaches overwhelmed by their workday is around 37 percent.

At the same time, think about a couple of statistics that UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma threw out during media availability a couple of years ago. He said that there were approximately 1,000 female basketball players in the portal, and some 200 of them were never contacted by any college.

Behind the excitement, behind the pageantry, behind the color and sound and action of college sports, I think there are an awful lot of very unhappy people.

Indeed, when you look at the world of college sport, there’s only one team per level per sport that finishes off an ultimate winner at the end of the season. That’s an awful lot of losing teams, and players, as well as coaches who feel as though they are not getting the requisite support from their athletic administrations.

Today, The Great Retirement in college coaching has claimed 47-year head coach Jim Boeheim of Syracuse, a coach in a high-revenue sport: men’s basketball. This is a man who survived an early 90s period of probation to win his lone national championship 20 years ago, then saw a number of blocks shifting around him as the school went to the ACC and the team’s home, the Carrier Dome, get a major refurbishment and a new corporate name.

But Boeheim seemingly has become the latest veteran head coach who lost the confidence of an athletic administration and/or the group of players in that locker room. Many coaches who have been interviewed have cited players as the major reason they have decided to quit. Much of that stems from players’ contacts with name, likeness, and image companies and the ability to use the transfer portal.

This is turning the offseason in many sports into something resembling a Spanish-language telenovela. And I don’t think that’s the best thing to happen to college sports in America.

March 8, 2023 — A well-deserved award

This evening, Danyle Heilig, the greatest scholastic field hockey coach of the 21st century, goes into the South Jersey Coaches of Athletics Hall of Fame.

Since her sudden departure from the sidelines of Voorhees Eastern (N.J.), Heilig has turned her coaching energy to her club side, Uprise. Clad in the purple and gold of her alma mater, James Madison University, the teams that Heilig and her coaching staff have been shepherding through various indoor and outdoor tournaments have done pretty well in the last few years, winning the occasional tournament pool championship.

Given Heilig’s ethic and take-no-prisoners attitude as a coach, it’s not surprising.

Nor is it surprising that Heilig has been garnering a bunch of honors befitting a Hall of Fame career.

Congrats, Danyle.