Field Hockey: A Feel-Good Family


by Sarah Schwartz

photo by Sofia Kekalainen

It’s hard to miss South’s field hockey team on their light-hearted “competition day” team bonding when they’re decked out in blorange as if they had just raided a Party City. If you are anywhere in Newton and listen close enough, you just might be able to hear the team on their way to and from away games, as the group screams along to songs at the tops of their lungs. 

The closeness of this year’s field hockey team and the positive culture they have cultivated has shone through in a unique way that exemplifies the great experiences school sports can create.

Although match results don’t always always turn out in the team’s favor, senior Alex Laurie said the team has continued to have a blast while helping each other grow on and off the field and creating lasting memories. 

“We may not be the best team out on the field playing-wise, but I think we have the best team in terms of our ability to play the game and have fun doing it and not making it such a competitive environment that it becomes toxic,” she said. 

A large part of the close bond the team shares has been because of this year’s senior captains, who have been able to stoke an excitement within the team that keeps morale up.

Senior captain Abby Ustayev said that keeping spirits high during practices and games is a key component to the team’s fun energy.

“As captain, we’re really focused on just making the environment be positive and supportive for everyone,” she said. “If the score isn’t in our favor, it’s up to us to make sure our team is still putting in full effort and not looking back or looking at the score and feeling down on themselves.”

The familiarity that many of the players share with one another is also a major reason for the team’s tight-knit community. Last year’s team graduated 18 seniors, so the majority of the current roster is composed of players who have already played side-by-side on last year’s junior varsity (JV) team. 

Junior Megan Tarmy said that since much of the group has already played together, the team is able to play freely — this continuity shows up off the field as well.

“It’s one of those things that if you know someone so well, everybody understands their part,  and everybody can work with them and everybody’s included,” she said.

Coach Colleen Francis, former JV coach of two years, became the varsity coach this year. Francis said that her time coaching JV has proven to be very helpful and effective in her work to build the varsity program. 

Francis previously coached all but one player on this year’s roster, which has allowed her to strengthen connections with her players and push them in areas she knows they are able to grow.

“It’s been very helpful that we can use the progressive techniques where I can go in and say, ‘I know you know how to do this. We went over this last year, two years ago, here’s the next step to build up your skill set, to build up your decision making,’” she said. “So that has been very helpful as far as the transition from JV to varsity for me.”

Sophomore Cecily Farrow said the activities Francis has the team do, even during preseason, has really helped the group create a community and a great bond with one another.

“One thing that Coach Francis did during tryouts this year was we had the upperclassmen pair up with freshmen,” she said. “

When we ran the mile, we split into two groups, and you would cheer on your partner who was running. So all the freshmen had seniors cheering for them as they ran the mile, which was a really nice way to get to know people.”

Ustayev said the team does “shout outs” at the end of each game. The team goes around and highlights a good play or skill or something they noticed someone did well, demonstrating the inclusion and appreciation for the whole team.

“No matter the score, if we’re losing really badly, whatever. We always shout out people and it just makes everyone feel good about themselves,” she said. “That’s a great part of our team and a great tradition that should be continued on.”

The team’s constant support for each other creates an environment where players feel comfortable growing and learning. Sophomore Jane Tremaglio said the tight-knit atmosphere this year has helped her feel less timid.

“[Field hockey] is not cutthroat to the point where it feels suffocating,” she said. “We’re able to have fun and support each other and we’re able to let each other make mistakes, which is so important.”

Ustayev said the team’s uplifting and positive environment offers a safe space where everyone is there for one another.

“Field hockey is definitely a very, very encouraging and supportive place,” she said. “I don’t think there’s ever a moment where we get mad at each other or have anything bad to say about each other.”

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