Field hockey gains momentum in the Lowcountry
On a recent Friday afternoon in January, the Bishop England field hockey team battled it out in an inter-squad contest with Team England beating Team Bishop 3-1.
But the score was the least important outcome for the day, and for the season. The game and the season highlighted the success and growth of field hockey in the Lowcountry.
This year, through the efforts of a group of dedicated students and with the help of the school administration, a dedicated staff coordinator and volunteer coaches and referees, 45 Bishop England girls went from a ragtag cluster of players with little knowledge of the game to a team that spread out the field, worked the ball between players, and learned skills such as the L-dodge, dribbling, the Y-dodge, defensive recovery, flat and through, flicks and scoops.
At half time, with her team up 2-1, assistant coach Aimee Burgos encouraged her players, “I saw a lot of really great things…I’m impressed with how smooth the play went and the passing was good….I’m seeing you picking your head up – that’s awesome….you have the skills, now let’s bring it up a step by anticipating passes.”
The Bishop England squad progressed naturally from Daniel Island resident Andrea Dussault’s early efforts to bring field hockey to the Lowcountry. In 2015, Dussault relocated from Connecticut to Daniel Island with her family. A collegiate player herself, Dussault was disappointed to learn that field hockey didn’t exist in the area.
Dussault played field hockey at Babson College and ran a youth program in Connecticut. She put together a group of like-minded former players, including Tiffany Mizzell, and started a youth winter program on Daniel Island through the Charleston Recreation Department.
She explained, “The first clinic began in December of 2015, with 10 players and a few coaches. This past year we had 30 players join our youth clinic and 45 BE students join our new high school club team.”
Since its humble beginnings, the program has developed from youth clinics to high school competition and now goes under the moniker Charleston Field Hockey.
Last fall, Dussault’s daughter, Olivia, a BE student, and some of her classmates and fellow teammates (Caroline Jackson, Gillian McMurtry, Annalise Keefer, Jordan Guancione, and Emma Mazur), approached Dussault about an idea to start a team at Bishop England.
The girls put together a proposal and presented it to the administrators and athletic director at BE, who approved the team. Christine Ronco served as the school team advisor, the girls advertised and recruited players, and the team secured field space next to the track.
Traditionally a fall sport, the team played through the winter months - November through January.
The squad has an upcoming off-season game on Saturday, March 23 against a team visiting from Charlotte, NC.
Dussault enthused, “Charleston Field Hockey has some exciting plans for growth! We are now officially the first field hockey club team in South Carolina, having just received our Club designation from USA Field Hockey Association.”
There are other signs of local growth for this Olympic sport. Charleston Field Hockey is applying for non-profit status and is working on securing field space to use on Daniel Island. The group has 12 coaches and is designing a number of new programs for 2019.
Dussault is a true ambassador of the sport, extolling its virtues and lessons beyond the field.
“The perseverance, leadership, teamwork, courage, integrity, focus, confidence, and responsibility that are learned by the players are valuable traits that can help them throughout their lives and not just on the field,” she said.
Charleston Field Hockey will roll out a new Fall Club League at the end of the summer for girls aged 8-18. They are forming a High School Club League, with plans to invite area high schools to participate during the winter season.