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Field hockey insider: Getting college attention tough for some players

Posted Thursday, September 27, 2007 by Newsday
BY DARREN SANDS | darren.sands@newsday.com
September 27, 2007

In the three years Genna Kovar starred for her school's field hockey team, Hampton Bays did not make the playoffs once. Her coach, Diane Burkhardt, understood that in order for Kovar to begin to get noticed by Division I programs she was going to have to push Kovar into the spotlight herself.

Burkhardt made sure that Kovar was on the U-19 National team and the Futures Developmental Program. She also made sure Kovar attended clinics at several colleges, including one that got her noticed by the coaches at Hofstra.

Kovar is not alone. Field hockey athletes vying for the attention of Division I programs often follow-up their rigorous scholastic schedule in the fall with club teams in the winter and summer. Burkhardt was unsure if Kovar's accomplishments at Hampton Bays alone would have afforded her the chance to get noticed by the schools that she has offers from: Hofstra, Maine, and UMass.

"If you have a team like Ward Melville that is a dynasty in hockey, it's going to be a lot easier" for those students to get noticed, Burkhardt said. "Here we have this kid who is an all-state athlete, and we had never made the playoffs. Genna doesn't have that luxury."

Even though playing field hockey for Hampton Bays was important to her, Kovar acknowledges that her involvement with the club teams that she played for gave her the exposure that she ? and her coach ? was looking for.

With so much at stake for the Island's top field hockey athletes during the winter and summer, what incentive do athletes have to play for their schools during the fall scholastic season? Garden City athletic director Nancy Kalafus says that non-scholastic teams could never duplicate the social aspect of school sports ? nor can they give student-athletes the chance to represent their school.

"We certainly hope that kids are going to continue to play," Kalafus said, adding that because of the increase of participation in club teams, many student-athletes specialize in one sport year-round which causes them to suffer from physical and mental fatigue.

"They need to be having fun, too," Kalafus said.

In the eyes of the athletes and their parents, the benefits of participating in non-scholastic field hockey club teams often justifies the strenuous demand. In addition to paying close attention to the regional and national U-19 Futures Development teams, Hofstra field hockey coach Kathy De Angelis and her staff spend a great deal of time and resources evaluating players at the National Indoor Tournament in Virginia Beach, and the National Field Hockey festival held annually during Thanksgiving. She says that its easier to recruit from the club teams because nearly "100 percent of the time, those players will go on to Division I sports."

But De Angelis stressed that an athlete's involvement in the year-round teams is not a prerequisite for being evaluated by her staff.

"We've recruited players who have not been in the U.S. program," De Angelis said. "I mean we're still recruiting players we haven't gotten the opportunity to see. The main thing is if they're interested in Hofstra University, we're also going to be interested in them. We're going to give them every chance."

Recruiting players who do not have the time or resources to participate in the highly recruited non-scholastic club teams is more of an inexact science than the club teams are, De Angelis said. Reaching players of a certain caliber outside of the club teams often means there is inside communication between high school and college coaches. De Angelis says that her staff relies on tips from coaches on players ? and even from the athletes themselves.

"There's thousands of kids who write you," De Angelis said. "Each year you may need four athletes, some years you might need to fill eight (spots). The coaches who E-mail us really make an impact on giving us the opportunity to see their players. Other times we'll follow the websites and hear about players having great statistics, and you wonder about who that player is.

"But I'm sure there's plenty of talented kids who don't make it because they never get the right exposure to colleges," De Angelis said.

Might the lure of scholarships and the attention of college coaches make high school field hockey, and other scholastic sports, irrelevant?

"I don't know that I've seen a change," Kalafus said of the emergence of club teams. "So far I haven't seen them hurt high school sports and I hope that I never will."

Players to watch

Ward Melville's Emilee Rahner has scored at least one goal in all six games this season. She scored two in games against Northport, Smithtown West and Comsewogue. She leads Ward Melville with eight goals. Ward Melville will play Division I foe Centereach, which is 0-2, on Friday, Sept. 28.

Continuing their solid senior campaigns, Seaford's Kim and Cassandra Cardenas each scored two goals in Monday's 6-0 win against Wheatley. Seaford is 4-0 overall and will take on Oyster Bay on Friday, Sept. 28. They will face undefeated Cold Spring Harbor (4-0) on Tuesday, Oct. 2.


Copyright 2007, Newsday Inc.


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