Hit the ball off the boards, said Lauren Powley as one of her KaPow Hockey Klub athletes pushed a ball off a wooden board on the indoor basketball court and deflected it to another player.
The high school field hockey season ended two months ago, but athletes from the Wyoming Valley and surrounding areas haven't put their sticks down. Many high school field hockey athletes are playing indoor field hockey to help improve their skills, train during the off-season and get recruited by colleges.
They get more touches on the ball, said Powley, club director of KaPow Hockey Klub, about the indoor field hockey game, The reaction time is quicker. There is not enough space to just work with individual skill so they have to make decisions quicker.
The indoor game, usually played on a hard surface like a basketball court, is extremely fast. Therefore, the small dimensions of the court and speed of the game is sometimes challenging for athletes making the transition from playing on turf or grass.
Transitioning from outdoor to indoor is never easy, but one thing we focus on is trying to effectively execute small skills like receiving and individual defense, said Lissa Munley, manager of Valley Styx Field Hockey Club in Wilkes-Barre. If we can execute skills coming from outdoor, then the rest of the game becomes easier as we move through learning larger concepts or skills specific to the indoor game.
Additionally, the rules and regulations for indoor field hockey differ from the outdoor game -- specifically in the way athletes execute plays and use their stick.
It is not just a small adjustment, but a whole different game, said Kyra Castano, a U19 Valley Styx athlete. It is much quicker and it focuses more on players' skills. In indoor you can't bring back your stick and drive the ball into the goal. Instead, indoor focuses on the player keeping the ball close to the stick and lifting it into the goal.
Field hockey, similar to other sports, is becoming a year-round commitment for athletes nationwide. Indoor field hockey is one of the key skill development and training activities used during the off-season.
Off-season is not the time to be lazy. I firmly believe it is up to you to better yourself for your high school team, said Lunda Comiskey, Wyoming Area head coach and KaPow Hockey Klub coach. The harder you work, the harder you teammates will be willing to work for you. It's a time to focus on your weaknesses, and it will all pay off in the end.
The pay off is different for every athlete. For some, it may mean winning the state championship, receiving all-state honors or playing at the collegiate level.
Yes, my dream would be to play at a D-I level, said Castano, a Laflin resident and Coughlin standout. Anyone who goes the extra mile in any sport usually has the same dream I do. Indoor gives me an advantage opposed to a player who just plays in the fall season. Most coaches can definitely tell if a girl participates on an indoor team by her level of play.
KaPow sent 14 athletes to play at the collegiate level last year and Powley agrees indoor hockey helps players have the opportunity to play in front of collegiate coaches. Both KaPow and Valley Styx send teams to the National Field Hockey Festival, National Indoor Tournament and the Disney Classic, as well as other regional tournaments every year.
There are multiple recruiting opportunities through our club, said Powley whose club has 25 teams ranging from the U6 – U19 age divisions. We go to travel tournaments and we try take those interested in playing at the next level to recruiting events.
However, some players are recruited who have very little indoor experience. Serra Degnan, an all-state player from Wyoming Area, is playing indoor hockey for the first time this year, but was recruited to play at Syracuse University.
So far, the KaPow field hockey club has improved not only my physical skills, but my mental attitude during a game, said Degnan, who led the Warriors with 10 goals and eight assists in the fall. Although I have only been a KaPow member for a few months, I have experienced the various aspects of the organization, including team building, self improvement, mental toughness, and nutritional and physical preparation.
While stick skills and speed are vital to the indoor game, Powley said the actions athletes take off the court are equally important.
It's not just about indoor skills, but about body and eating right and lifting… the different factors that go into becoming an elite athlete.
To help athletes get the additional training, Powley has also partnered with MBSC Thrive in Wilkes-Barre.
We train one day a week, said Ken Wall, the director of fitness at MBSC Thrive. We put an emphasis on basic movement, speed training, power training and strength training.
Athletes can't always get to practice themselves, which means multiple parents understand the importance of off-season training. Cristin Cavallaro, parent of two KaPow athletes, travels 152 miles round trip from Matamoras to drive her daughters to practice every week.
As a family, we have made a commitment to all three of our children to allow them to play sports that require a great deal of traveling, Cavallaro said. It's what they've chosen and we do what is necessary to allow them to pursue their interests at whatever level they choose.
Despite the intensity of indoor field hockey programs, Powley said athletes still enjoy the game because practices are both competitive and exciting.
We have ‘secret psychers' for major tournaments, Powley said of the Secret Santa-like activity where athletes anonymously give their teammates inspirational quotes.
The KaPow Hockey Klub also organizes team-bonding activities like bowling and roller-skating for girls to get to know each other before tournaments begin.
Additionally, many of the indoor hockey clubs only schedule practice once or twice a week, which leaves time for athletes to participate in other school activities.
A lot of athletes play basketball and track, and we encourage them to do so, Powley said. They practice one night a week and have a league on Sunday, which allows players to compete in two sports.
Powley, Munley, Comiskey and other coaches from both KaPow and Valley Styx competed at the collegiate level. Most have come back to the area to teach athletes what they know.
I like to make sure I am a part of every athlete's experience in our club, said Munley, a standout during her playing days at the University of Iowa. We are small, but we want everyone to get the right amount of attention and coaching.
Powley also has a passion for coaching, especially when she has the opportunity to help players reach their athletic goals.
My love for field hockey and passion for the sport has led me to where I am today, said Powley, who was an All-American at the University of Maryland and a 2008 Olympian. I am happy to do this and give back to the community by bringing back my knowledge of experience I have in the sport.
According to isport.com, indoor field hockey began in the 1950's in Germany to give players the opportunity who lived in cold climates a chance train during the off-season.
• The indoor game is played with six players per team instead of the outdoor 11-player setup.
• A regulation indoor court is 48 yards long and 24 yards wide.
• Indoor field hockey is played in two 30-minute halves.
• Athletes play with indoor field hockey sticks, which are thinner and lighter than outdoor sticks.
• KaPow's and Valley Styx's major indoor competition from Pennsylvania includes: Mystyx, XCalibur and W.C. Eagles indoor teams.
• Recent collegiate All-American athletes from the Wyoming Valley who participated indoor club field hockey include: Kelsey Amy (Valley Styx), Kelsey Kolojejchick (Valley Styx); Kat Sharkey (Valley Styx); Paige Selenski (Valley Styx).