For the fourth time in less than two years, the Wilcox Chargers Athletic program is adding a new girls sport. After recent debuts of girls lacrosse (spring 2018), competitive sport cheer (spring 2019) and gymnastics (spring 2019), this fall will be the arrival of another first-year girls program — field hockey.
First-year Wilcox teacher Piper Phillips will be the first ever head coach. Phillips was previously a field hockey coach for Archbishop Mitty, while teaching at a local elementary school.
“One of the first things [Wilcox] asked me is why do you wanna work with high school kids and I said ‘well, I’ve been coaching field hockey the last seven years and I’ve just really grown to love the age group,’” recalled Phillips. “And then [Principal Kristin Gonzalez] was like, ‘oh my goodness we’re starting a field hockey team next year,’ so it was kind of meant to be.”
“Yeah, we got lucky there,” chuckled Wilcox Athletic Director Paul Rosa on finding a coach with their newest teacher. “She’s obviously very qualified and sometimes, when starting with a new sport, it’s real tough to find coaches.”
Coach Phillips has already started working with some of the interested Wilcox students. The school held some informal summer practice sessions to learn the sport. All eight of the students were brand new to field hockey. But that is something that doesn’t bother Phillips, as she herself first started playing when she was in high school.
“We’re hoping to get a lot of the kids who otherwise haven’t played organized sports before, because it’s one of the few sports that you can go into high school not knowing how to play and you can be taught from the beginning,” said Phillips. “Most kids around here don’t grow up playing field hockey, most enter ninth grade not knowing how to play.”
Philips equates field hockey as a mix of ice hockey meets soccer.
“There are a couple differences and the hard thing is to break muscle memory,” noted the coach. “Kids see people playing ice hockey and they use both sides of their stick, in field hockey you only use one side, so that’s a learning thing. Also, the sticks are a lot shorter and that’s a learning curve as well.”
Like soccer, field hockey is played with 11 players on the field. With the eight students that have practiced over the summer, and more reportedly interested, confidence is high that they will be able to field a full team in year one. Wilcox will be playing as an independent team, so they won’t yet be part of a league. This route will allow them to have a bit of a lighter schedule as they get their feet wet in their first season.
“I’m just really happy that these kids are going to get an opportunity,” said Phillips. “Field hockey is something that has given me a lot of joy and pride when I played in high school. I’m excited for these kids to get this opportunity, to try something new and get out there as part of a team. That’s so important in making new friends. There’s nothing better than having a team behind you.”