DALLAS TWP. – While more high school programs across various sports tend to struggle with roster numbers, the Dallas field hockey program has shown steady growth in a decade under Kylie Fisher’s leadership.
That growth may be traceable to an annual offseason event in which the team participates.
Nearly 70 youngsters in kindergarten through seventh grade, the largest group to date, were in attendance June 4-8 at Dallas Mountaineer Stadium when the Dallas team conducted its annual camp for two hours each evening.
“I think this is the best year that we had,” said Fisher, who oversees a high school program that has gone from “low 20s” to “high 30s” in roster size during her tenure.
Every returning player in the Dallas varsity program participated at some point in the week, with most of the players being there throughout to provide instruction to the younger girls who may follow them onto the team in the years ahead. The camp serves as the introduction to the sport for many of the girls and an addition to the experiences for those who have already sought out chances to play on club teams.
“I would say a little under half of them have never played before,” Fisher said. “The rest have had some experience, whether it is the seventh-graders who have played for a year on the junior high team, or some who have been to the camp every year since they were real little or early in elementary school.
“ … I have a wide range of experience, which is nice, and of course we have our little, little ones.”
Fisher said even the youngest of those girls came prepared with their own sticks.
While helpful in potential future recruiting for a team battling to keep up with some of the nation’s top high school squads in a demanding Wyoming Valley Conference program, the camp serves other purposes.
High school players have another team experience together and also get a different perspective when teaching a drill than when simply following their coaches’ directions.
“It reiterates to my high school players what they should be focusing on, too, as they’re working on their skills,” Fisher said. “I think it gives them an impression of their love of the sport and introducing it to another age level. Then, hopefully the younger girls’ love for it carries over into the years to come to help build the program.”
Hannah Yanovich and Grace Young, who are preparing to enter their senior seasons in the fall, have been instructing at the camp since the end of eighth grade. Fisher said having the upcoming freshmen participate helps them get comfortable with their older teammates.
Yanovich said hearing from the high school players helps the campers, too.
“Having older girls talk to me made me feel better and it was easier to understand than from a coach,” Yanovich said. “I guess you could say I wasn’t as scared.”
Young added: “It’s easier to relate to someone who’s more your age and it gives you someone to look up to.”
The final day consisted of games and contests in a carnival atmosphere that Young said allowed the camp to have a fun finish.
Fisher was thankful to have so much help from her team, allowing players to get plenty of attention as they learned basic skills.
“I really couldn’t have pulled the camp off without the team being involved in it,” she said. “To me, it’s a proud moment to see how dedicated they are to the sport and to me as their coach to be willing to take time out from their schedules to help the little kids with it.”
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