Relocated New Englander brings favorite stick and ball sport to Charleston girls
Where was field hockey?
Last summer, Andrea Dussault and her family moved to the Lowcountry from Connecticut. They quickly learned that Charleston loves baseball, puts soccer on a pedestal, and is still widely considered the nation’s Best Tennis Town. But, seriously, where was field hockey?
The answer, to Dussault’s disappointment, was that the sport was nearly nowhere in the area. “I spent a year prior to our move looking high and low for any programs or school teams in the area, but none existed,” Dussault recalled. Rather than trade in her allegiance for the sport to another, she decided to introduce it to Charleston by creating a clinic through the City of Charleston Recreation Department. It was an endeavor with which she’d had experience; she had built a similar program back in the northeast that had grown to over 60 players in grades third through sixth and a successful middle school team to help “feed” the existing high school team.
Dussault played field hockey in middle and high school, and went on to play for Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. “I have been coaching and teaching the sport since the early 90s, and just love it,” she states. “Once field hockey is in your blood, it never leaves!”
And the other two women teaching the 12-14 year-old girls’ clinics demonstrably concur; co-coaches Sue Detar and Tiffany Mizzell regularly find themselves scrimmaging with Dussault and their young players just to get some play time in. “It’s just so much fun, and quite a workout!”
The all-girls clinic ran for seven weeks from December into January, with all meet-ups taking place at Freedom Park behind Daniel Island School. The program was designed to introduce the basic skills and rules of the game, culminating in the opportunity to apply what was learned in a fun, non-competitive scrimmage. Dussault is seeking to grow the program in order to have multiple teams to compete with in the future. Next year’s winter clinic will be offered to an expanded age group, most likely eight to 18 years old, and the coach has hinted that a summer camp may be on the horizon.
As for the sport itself, Dussault says that it has grown in national popularity over the last 20 years, particularly on the East Coast. The U.S. sends both men’s and women’s teams to compete in the Olympics (watch for it this summer!), and the game is beloved across the globe, particularly in Australia, India, Pakistan, Netherlands, Germany, and the U.K. “Yes, Princess Kate used to play!” confirms Dussault.
Traditionally played on grass, most competitive teams today play on artificial turf, which Dussault says makes for a much faster and cleaner game. “It also allows for more technical stick skills and moves that have been introduced to the sport in the last two decades,” she states, adding, “It’s a very entertaining sport to watch.”
But as intense and action-rich as field hockey is, Dussault points out that it also offers the opportunity for players to develop a number of intangible skills. “It is a game of teamwork, communication, hustle, dedication, drive, leadership, and discipline, which are all life-long skills that are applied to many facets of our lives,” she maintains. “Being a part of any team helps build upon these skills, and in such a way that the players don’t even realize that they are building them.”
Dussault has taught field hockey to girls as early as third grade, and says that these young players catch on remarkably quickly. And by the time they reach middle school, her observation is that they are much more skilled and ready to play competitively. But to be building real, sustained interest in the game from grade school to high school is the ultimate goal.
“We are so excited about the opportunity to bring the sport here to Charleston and hope it continues to grow,” Dussault relates. “We have already had a tremendous response to the clinic from both young girls as well as adult women who would like to help coach. This is a wonderful community full of active residents, so we hope that introducing this sport will only enrich the community by offering our children another sport to learn and play.”
For more information about future field hockey clinics and camps, contact Andrea Dussault at email@example.com.