IR field hockey aims for improved season with new coach

For Jolene Williamson, field hockey has become much more than a game. It has become a passion and a lifestyle. Now, stepping onto Indian River High School’s field for the first time as the head coach, she’s hoping to make a difference in the lives of 32 girls this fall season.

As the assistant coach of the team for the past two years, Williamson has worked with most of the girls already and understands how they play.

“A lot of these girls have been playing with each other a while now,” she said. “We have a lot of juniors on the team and some seniors. I understand what works with them.” She worked alongside Kaitlin Harker, who took on the head coaching position last year.

As a field hockey athlete herself, at Indian River and later at Wesley College in Dover, she respects their styles.

“I’ve worked with a lot of different coaches,” she said. “My first coach taught a more aggressive style. Once I got to college, I was playing a different style. There’s an aspect of compassion you have to take on as a coach.” She said she hopes to bring in teamwork with the new season. “Not all girls respond the same way,” she added. “You have to be there for everyone.”

So far, the team has started practicing in preparation to their upcoming season. This weekend, they will be traveling to Seaford for a play day. They also have a number of scrimmages before hosting the season opener against Dover on Sept. 3.

“I’ve worked with a lot of these girls,” said Williamson, “and I know where they’ve played before.” The play day and scrimmages will help her get a feel for where the team ought to fill out on the field. Five spots were left up for grabs for this year’s roster after the class of 2008 departed this spring. The departure of Abi Buchler, valedictorian of the 2008 graduating class, put the goalie position up for grabs, but Williamson said confidently that she has filled the spot.

“There are a couple places on the field that are open,” she said, “but we’ll figure it out.”

“I’m very excited about the year,” she said. “I think there’s so much talent out here on the team, and I’m looking forward to having a great season. I’m anxious to get the season going to see how things play out.”

With 16 games ahead of them in the season, the Lady Indians are going to have to come out strong this year.

“The whole [Southern] conference is tough competition,” said Williamson. “To win the South, we’re going to really have to come through against Delmar. They’re probably our biggest rivals, since they usually take the division. Sussex Tech, Caesar Rodney, Lake Forest and Seaford are all going to be serious match-ups, and, as always, we want to beat Central.”

This year, she will be accompanied by Michelle Clark, an IR alum making her assistant coach debut, and Deborah Hagans, who taught and coached at Selbyville Middle School.

SMS is widely known for their feeder programs when it comes to interscholastic sports but, Williamson noted, such is not yet the case for field hockey.

“It’s a shame,” she said. “There’s not a big feeder program for the field hockey team. We only have one girl coming out this year [from the middle-school team]. Luckily, we have plenty of girls returning, but we lose a lot of the girls to [Sussex] Tech or volleyball.”