Kindergartners try their hands at field hockey
Have you ever seen a four-year-old with a field hockey stick?
At Dartmouth Girls Athletic League, it’s possible.
DGAL’s pee wee field hockey division teaches girls as young as 4-7 the rules of the game at weekly practices and Sunday matches through the fall season.
On Tuesday, nine kids reacquainted themselves with each other as well as skills learned at the first practice, such as how to hold the stick properly.
“Last week was our first practice, and the majority of the girls had really never played officially before,” said coach Teresina Francis. “So we just go over basic fundamentals, like how to hold the stick, and some drills and stuff.”
The girls have their first game on Sunday against Penn State’s pee wee league, so they also tried a quick scrimmage — their first one ever.
“Already today you can clearly see a huge growth in their skills,” Francis said. “That really surprised me, I didn’t expect that.”
It’s Francis’ first year coaching, although she played all through high school and college.
She said that DGAL coach Courtney Cohen recruited her after the league experienced triple the turnout this fall compared to previous years.
And she’s already enjoying her first season as a coach.
“It’s a really big challenge,” Francis said. “But I’m so impressed by how quickly they’ve picked it up...I can really see the joys of it.”
Many parents were watching from the bleachers.
“I love [DGAL]. I think girls in sports, it’s the best thing for them,” said Joshua Reis, whose daughters Trinity, 6, and Tallulah, 4, were practicing hitting the ball.
Mom Nicole Power was watching her seven-year-old daughter Elena play field hockey for the very first time.
“She heard some of her friends were going to do the camp over the summer,” Power explained. “So she decided to go do field hockey.”
“I think it’s really great for the girls to be all together,” she added. “And field hockey especially, no other towns do it at that age. So it’s kind of a unique, cool thing.”
As for Francis, she’s trying to find a balance for the kids between learning and having fun.
“I had no expectations on this, so it’s really exciting to see them do so well,” she said. “That to me is success — they’re having fun and they’re learning as well.”
She added that it’s a low-stress environment. “The idea is, just come pick up a stick and see if you like it!”