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Field Hockey Catches on in Naperville

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The first youth field hockey team in Naperville is now playing this fall!

 
2016 Naperville Youth Field Hockey Team. Photo courtesy of Monica Lodge.

The Park District’s field hockey clinic has grown enough to support a youth field hockey team, which will play its first home game against Glen Ellyn at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, October 2, 2016 at Brush Hill Park, located at 203 N. Whispering Hills Road in Naperville. Two more games follow, on Oct. 9 at Glen Ellyn Park District and on Oct. 16 at Brush Hill Park in Naperville.

 What is Field Hockey?

New in fall 2015, a field hockey clinic at the Park District introduced players in grades 5-8 to one of the world’s oldest and most popular sports. Those from the east or west coast of the United States most likely learned the sport in school. However, prior to 2012, field hockey was completely absent from Naperville schools or athletic clubs. Similar to soccer, field hockey is played on a grassy field (or synthetic turf) with a curved stick and a small, hard ball. Introduced to the United States in 1901 as a women’s sport, field hockey is played by both men and women throughout the world and is an Olympic sport.  (View a demonstration of men’s and women’s field hockey.)

Naperville North High School field hockey team. Photo courtesy of Monica Lodge.

Field Hockey Comes to Naperville

In 2012, Monica Lodge and her family moved to Naperville from Connecticut, with two daughters who loved field hockey and wanted to play it as a high school sport. Naperville North High School had no field hockey program, nor were there any clubs in the area.  Encouraged by an advocate in the USA Field Hockey Futures Program, who connected her to a parent who had helped established a field hockey program in Glen Ellyn, Monica set out to start a girls field hockey team at Naperville North. 

Early in 2013, Monica hosted demonstration clinics to introduce middle school and high school students to field hockey, created the Naperville North Field Hockey Club to fund a high school team, and recruited enough players to form a team for the fall.  Most of the players had never played the sport before. They trained in the summer at Glenbard West High school and attended an American Field Hockey Academy program. Maria Brewster, a parent who played at Bryn Mawr College, served as head coach and Monica as assistant coach. That first season the girls played as an underdog team with pride and determination. “Each goal was celebrated and each game was concluded with a level of pride and accomplishment that words could truly not describe,” said Monica in an article for TeamUSA.org.  

Abby Lodge (on right) playing for Naperville North High School. Photo courtesy of Monica Lodge.

In 2015, the Naperville North Field Hockey team stepped up to the varsity level, led by head coach Jenna Ortega, who played collegiately at Ohio Wesleyan University and helped start the Glen Ellyn team ten years ago. 

In 2016, Naperville North’s girls’ field hockey club has grown to 30 players, many of whom participated in the Park District’s youth field hockey clinics.

Khora's Story

Khora Finch, a freshman at Naperville North and a player on the Naperville North girls’ field hockey team, is one of the players who benefited from the Park District’s clinics in fall 2015 and spring 2016.

Khora moved to Naperville from New Mexico when she was in fifth grade, and began to be interested in the idea of field hockey after enjoying floor hockey in PE class at Prairie School.  With no field hockey programs available yet in Naperville at that time, Khora’s mother found a program at the Glen Ellyn Park District. New players were welcome, needing only shin guards and a mouth guard; sticks were available to borrow.  Khora said that the rules of the game were hard to learn at first, but she bought her own stick, began practicing at home and learned quickly. In addition to her experience in Glen Ellyn, she began participating in the Naperville Park District programs when they were available. By 8th grade she was able to play on the competitive team in Glen Ellyn. By ninth grade, she was able to join the Naperville North team with three years of field hockey experience already behind her.

 Khora Finch. Photo courtesy of Christi Malone. 

In fall 2016 both the Park District field hockey program and Naperville North High School’s field hockey club are thriving and growing. The players and coaches are hoping that the sport also will catch on in the other Naperville high schools. 

 The Park District Field Hockey Program - How It Began

The Naperville Park District’s field hockey program began with conversations between Monica and one of the Park District’s program managers, Brock Atwell, about the need for training in field hockey for younger kids and for establishing feeder programs for the high school sport.  The Park District found field space last fall at Brush Hill Park for its inaugural field hockey program for girls in grades 5-8. The youth program met immediately following the high school team’s practices at the same location. The high school players worked with the younger girls and modeled their enthusiasm for the game. “We built on the fundamentals, with drills and games,” said Monica. “The girls loved it and learned so much from the high school players.”

Participants in the 2015 NPD field hockey program pose with members of the 2015 NNHS team. Photo courtesy of Monica Lodge.

Benefits of Field Hockey

In Monica’s words, field hockey has some unique benefits that make it fun to play: 

“It's a high skill sport, requiring a high level of athleticism.  The athletes must be strong, fast, and intelligent.  The sticks are unique, in that the height limit is restricted to the hip height.  The toe of the stick is flat on one side, round on the other. You can only use the flat side; therefore, the skill required to move the ball is very unique.  The use of one’s foot to move the ball is strictly prohibited. 

The game is played like many other field sports, with forward line, midfield line, defensive line and goalies. This sport provides athletes of nearly every shape and size a position they can be successful in.

It’s also a great complement sport for kids who play other sports, such as lacrosse, in the spring. Field hockey challenges both the mind and muscles; it helps develop well-rounded athletes.”

NPD-NNHS scrimmage.   Photo courtesy of Monica Lodge.

Future Field Hockey Opportunities 

Look for field hockey programs at the Naperville Park District in 2017. As interest grows, the sport can be offered to both boys and girls, to an expanded age range, in summer camps, and in field houses in the winter.  

As Monica commented, “It's time to grow the sport of field hockey in the Western Suburbs.  Illinois is celebrating 40 years of field hockey in the state; it's time Naperville was on that map.”

Those interested in learning more about field hockey can email Monica Lodge at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Sophia, Monica and Abby Lodge. Photo courtesy of Monica Lodge.


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Funds raised through the Naperville Parks Foundation support the Naperville Park District’s Fee Assistance Program. The Naperville Parks Foundation supports the recreation needs and desires of the residents of Naperville – encouraging health and wellness, fitness, family time, and fun. The Foundation supports the mission of making recreation of all kinds accessible to everyone across the community, regardless of socioeconomic circumstances.

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On Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011 Naperville Park District officials heard the good news for which they have been waiting for many months: the District has achieved national accreditation through the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA).

The decision was announced at the NRPA national conference in Atlanta following a formal hearing before the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA).

Naperville is only the second park district in Illinois to earn this distinction and the 104th nationally accredited agency in the nation; there are more than 10,000 recreation agencies in the United States. The Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies accredits a handful of park agencies each year that have completed a multi-step process involving a self-review by the agency, a site visit, and an evaluation and formal report by the Commission.

“We are extremely proud to bring this honor to Naperville,” said Park District Executive Director Ray McGury. “It’s an affirmation of our high standards and also an encouragement to continue bringing high quality recreation and parks experiences to our community.”

The Park District’s accreditation process began approximately one year ago and included an extensive self-evaluation by staff and a 5-day visit from CAPRA reviewers this past July. Maintaining the accreditation requires annual reports and 5- and 10-year reviews.

Park District staff members noted that the CAPRA process has helped them see the big picture, focus on long term goals and plans, review plans more regularly, organize documents so that they are accessible and useable, and collaborate more effectively with other departments and outside organizations.

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On Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011 Naperville Park District officials heard the good news for which they have been waiting for many months: the District has achieved national accreditation through the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA).

The decision was announced at the NRPA national conference in Atlanta following a formal hearing before the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA).

Naperville is only the second park district in Illinois to earn this distinction and the 104th nationally accredited agency in the nation; there are more than 10,000 recreation agencies in the United States. The Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies accredits a handful of park agencies each year that have completed a multi-step process involving a self-review by the agency, a site visit, and an evaluation and formal report by the Commission.

“We are extremely proud to bring this honor to Naperville,” said Park District Executive Director Ray McGury. “It’s an affirmation of our high standards and also an encouragement to continue bringing high quality recreation and parks experiences to our community.”

The Park District’s accreditation process began approximately one year ago and included an extensive self-evaluation by staff and a 5-day visit from CAPRA reviewers this past July. Maintaining the accreditation requires annual reports and 5- and 10-year reviews.

Park District staff members noted that the CAPRA process has helped them see the big picture, focus on long term goals and plans, review plans more regularly, organize documents so that they are accessible and useable, and collaborate more effectively with other departments and outside organizations.

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