One thing you quickly learn about field hockey is that the sport does not have nearly the number of participants of soccer and many other sports, but the love for it by those who embrace it boils over.
Take South Burlington High player Abby Guenther as an example.
She fell in love with field hockey in middle school and soon realized that the avenues for improving her game were not as available as the ones her friends enjoyed in soccer, lacrosse and ice hockey.
She had a goal, though, of being one of the few athletes to ever pull on the South Burlington blue and gray as a freshman on the varsity field hockey team. She found local camps to attend at places like St. Michael’s College, the University of Vermont and Dartmouth College. She signed up for the USA Futures program.
She convinced her father to build an indoor turf field in the basement along with a regulation size goal with a circle in the backyard.
It all went into reaching that goal of making the South Burlington team as a freshman.
She joined the Green Mountain Field Hockey Academy Club and began to coordinate small group sessions with an assistant coach at the University of Vermont.
Now, she is a member of the Element Field Hockey Team in western Massachusetts, an affiliation that requires a three-hour drive form her home.
A member of the Class of 2022, she has college field hockey as a goal and her scoring prowess on display this season has to make her extremely marketable to that end.
The new Fair Haven field hockey coach Allison Resnick is of that same mold. She loves the game as much as life itself and it is obviously contagious. Her players are beginning to play the game at a level not seen in Fair Haven in years and years.
Resnick played at Rutland High and then played four more years at the University of Rochester.
All of her enthusiasm for the game manifested itself in an incredible 2-2 tie with Otter Valley this week.
Incredible seems like a curious word to attach to a tie until you realize that her Slaters lost the previous two games to Otter Valley this season by a combined score of 11-0.
That love of the game that is so apparent in field hockey is probably a main reason the sport never went away at Fair Haven through all the losing seasons and with no field hockey programs in any of the sending middle schools.
Coaches like Tosh Stickney and Jen Clement never wavered in all those seasons where just picking up a victory or two was a very big deal.
Their passion for the game kept burning. That passion was too strong to let a lack of success in the win-loss column discourage them. They kept teaching the game and kept their players’ heads up during all the adversity.
Resnick’s excitement over the 2-2 tie was akin to the excitement that comes with state championship celebrations. She was talking fast and the inflection of her voice as she described the game left no doubt that the afternoon had meant an awful lot to her.
But she wants more. She doesn’t want to have the program at a level where she and her players are ecstatic about ties.
That is why she will invest time in a summer program for players in the Fair Haven area. She has designs on taking the program to where it went in 2007 and beyond. That was the year the Slaters made their only appearance in a state championship field hockey game, losing to Stowe 4-0.
Field hockey purists not only love their sport, they are anxious to spread that love as ambassadors of the sport.
When Joy Benson was coaching the Green Mountain Union High School field hockey team back in the 1970s, she offered to have this reporter come over to the school and sit down in a classroom for a session on the nuances of the game.
Benson could not have caught her love for field hockey from a better place. She played for the late and legendary Bev Osterbeg at Stowe High. Osterberg won more than 500 games and 16 state championships.
Osterberg touched a lot of people and maybe nobody spread the gospel of field hockey quite as prolifically as she did.
Coaches like Otter Valley’s Jodie Keith, Windsor’s Jody Wood, Rutland’s Karen Pojacik, Burr and Burton’s Barb Miceli, Resnick, Hartford’s Heather Scudder and just about every official you meet, all share that same burning passion for the game.
Their numbers are fewer than for the game of soccer which has become a national mania from the ground up.
But for those who have found field hockey, there is something about it.