Field hockey continues to grow in the Lowcountry
She might one day be remembered as the Joan Appleseed of field hockey in the Lowcountry.
When Andrea Dussault moved from Connecticut to Daniel Island in 2015, she left behind her heavy winter clothing. But she packed her passions, and among them was field hockey, a sport she played up north and in college.
While John Chapman, aka as Johnny Appleseed, introduced apple trees to large parts of Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Canada, Dussault’s mission was more southerly. She introduced field hockey to Daniel Island youths and the frontier has expanded to Bishop England High School.
About 10 players bought into the program the first year, and Dussault also tracked down coaches, officials and other supporters who had the potential to grow the sport.
Five years later, field hockey is still blossoming with heavy growth in the Mount Pleasant/East Cooper area. Dussault’s dream is to offer a sport for young women to help them grow confidence and teach discipline.
Looking back, she admits it might have been a bigger challenge than expected.
“When we moved to Charleston, we were very surprised to learn that there was no field hockey here, especially since there are so many strong collegiate teams in neighboring North Carolina,” Dussault said. “My daughter, Olivia, and I initially thought to start a small clinic here on Daniel Island for middle school aged students and spread the word through her classmates and in the local paper. Being new to the area, we didn’t really know too many people, but we were able to get a dozen girls out there that first year. Our biggest obstacle has been introducing a brand new sport to the Charleston area, where people are unfamiliar with the sport. Luckily, we have a lot of talented athletes here who love to be outside and try new sports, so the response has been great.”
The local push developed from youth clinics to high school competition and now is known as Charleston Field Hockey.
Two years ago, Dussault’s daughter, Olivia, and fellow BE students pushed for the school to approve the team.
Now, the mission is to keep the sport growing.
“Over the past four years, CFH has experienced a very positive growth trend, which we hope to continue,” Dussault said. “In the past year alone, we have doubled in size and believe we will double again this upcoming fall. We have gained momentum among all age levels, but have seen our largest numbers among the high school level. In Bishop England’s second season as a school club team, we currently have 55 players on the team. Many of them are brand new to the sport, and some have relocated here from other areas of the country where they previously played. It has been so great to watch these young women learn the sport and encourage each other. Wando has just also approved a club team and we are so excited to help them get up and running! We hope to include some additional high schools next year, and we are also looking into some afterschool enrichment programs at some of the local elementary and middle schools.”
Either way, field hockey has provided life skills for Dussault and she hopes other young women can reap the benefits of this sport.
“Physically, field hockey is a very intense, fast game, where athletes can develop physical fitness, cardio, and incredible technical and strategic skills,” Dussault said. “However, aside from the tangible skills that the sport offers, it is the intangible skills that I learned from the game as a youngster that have made me who I am and have fueled my continued love and passion for the sport. Field hockey is all about grit and hustle, and never giving up. It’s also about empowering each player to make good decisions on and off the field, and carrying a level of discipline and commitment as a member of a team. Having respect for yourself, your teammates, your coaches, and your opponents builds strong character and encourages good sportsmanship. Above all, field hockey taught me how to be a leader on and off the field, and to apply these skills to all aspects of my life. It is my goal to empower all of our players to get a taste of these important life skills as they grow into future citizens of our community and the world.”