Lincolnshire Sports Association to introduce girls field hockey
Laura Camastro (left) and Sarah Walker, who are lacrosse coaches at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, are starting a Lincolnshire field hockey team for girls in fifth through eighth grade. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 6, 2013 2:10AM
LINCOLNSHIRE — For fitness, for confidence, and for sweet victory: Lincolnshire girls will have a new game to play this spring.
Field hockey will be played in April on the soccer fields of North Park: The Lincolnshire Sports Association is putting together a training camp for middle school girls looking for a new sport to try.
Carolyn Terwilliger, the head of the LSA’s organization effort, said her group had a handful of objectives for their new project; among them, give the Stevenson High School team a stronger foundation, and give girls a new option at an age when some start losing interest in sports.
“You see participation dwindle greatly,” Terwilliger told the Lincolnshire Village Board on Feb. 25. “Field hockey is a new, up-and-coming sport. It’s been hugely popular on the East Coast for years.”
The Village Board unanimously approved the new game for North Park. The association’s camp will last two hours for each of six weeks, with a schedule set by Laura Camastro and Sarah Walker, coaches of the Stevenson team.
“It could change things immensely,” Camastro said Feb. 27. “We’re really excited to now introduce the sport at a new level.”
Field hockey is exactly what its name implies: the ice-born game moved onto a grass surface. Players run instead of skate after a three-inch-diameter, quarter-pound hard plastic ball instead of a puck, and use sticks to shoot it past a well-padded goaltender. Each team puts 11 players on a field about the size of a soccer field, for an 80-minute game.
The Olympics include both men’s and women’s field hockey. The US women’s team qualified for London, but did not earn a medal; the men’s team did not make the cut.
In the northern suburbs, Terwilliger said the dominant powers are New Trier and Lake Forest.
“Their girls start playing this sport when they’re in third grade,” she said.
Camastro, a former Patriot player, said Stevenson’s best years were around 2005.
“At peak, we were averaging around fifth or sixth place in the state, but I’m not sure we ever reached the final four,” she said.
The LSA’s camp could make a tangible difference in later teams’ outcomes, she said. She and Walker plan to spend the first half teaching youngsters the fundamentals, especially dribbling, passing and shooting the ball; the second half could be mostly game play.
“This is the time to get it going, if ever,” Camastro said.
In an age when parents are learning more about the effects of concussions, a sport where players run around with sticks and hit a hard plastic ball could make some nervous. Terwilliger — who learned about field hockey when her daughter, Sarah, started playing it at SHS — said the game is non-contact, and that the ball is supposed to stay below waist level at all times.
“It can leave a bruise, if you get hit,” and players should wear mouthpieces and shin guards, she said.
Terwilliger said the LSA’s hope for field hockey is that it will fill the void currently expanding in the world of softball. She said that, while softball is booming in the southwest suburbs, it is dwindling up north, and some of its former participants are less physically active. Volleyball is also rising in popularity, but is more difficult to organize, she said.
“Gym space becomes an issue,” Terwilliger said. “Having a facility such as North Park opens up possibilities for us.”
And that facility will likely host a maximum of 30 field hockey campers this spring. Terwilliger said that 24 hours after the village’s approval, she had 20 girls signed up.
Camastro speculated that, with training and luck, those 20, and the 10 more that might follow, could someday become the core of Stevenson’s greatest field hockey team. How that team would stack up against their competition, though, is unguessable.
“We can only get so good in four years against kids who have been playing for eight,” the coach said. “It’s going to make a big difference. I hope.”