Student-Athletes Start Middle School Field Hockey Clinic

For grade 10 students Ilona Bender, Abby Fägersten, and Zoe Woon, field hockey season doesn’t begin in August and end in November—it’s a year-round commitment. Dedicated to the sport and to the Ellis team, Abby, Ilona, and Zoe took matters into their own hands this year to ensure that the Tigers continue their legacy of being a fierce WPIAL competitor. They decided to start a winter field hockey clinic at Ellis to introduce more girls to the game and to work on skill-building in the off-season. 
“We had a lot of seniors graduate this year, so we started the clinic because we want to make sure the team stays competitive,” shared Zoe. “We want to help girls with the transition from middle school to high school field hockey because that was a big change for all of us. Our goal is to get more students to play, make it fun, and to keep the team alive.”

After working with Ashley Dotson, Interim Head of Upper School, and Shayla Scott, Director of Athletics, to discuss logistics and dates, the students hosted three after-school sessions for grade 7 and 8 students. The first session was all about the fundamentals of offensive and defensive play, with a focus on receiving, passing, and movement. The second session focused on dodges and drives and presented an opportunity for students to work on individual skills. In total, eleven young athletes participated in the student-run clinic.

For Tessa Gumbeg, Class of 2025, the clinic was a chance to get acquainted with older players and sharpen her game. “I am planning to play field hockey next year in high school, so I thought it would be helpful to learn skills from the actual players and to meet them,” Tessa said. “It was a great opportunity to learn about the high school team dynamic and to learn some fun new skills I hadn’t learned before.”

Outside of Ellis, Ilona, Abby, and Zoe play travel and club field hockey and have been competing together since they started playing at Ellis on the Middle School team. Their confidence has blossomed since then—and adding “coach” to their resumes has benefited not only the future Ellis squad but their own games as well. 

“I really liked taking on the role of coach. It made me more conscientious of my own skills and what I need to work on,” said Ilona. “If I noticed I was having trouble explaining something at the clinic, I would think to myself that I need to work on that on my own. You have to slow down and really think about it when you’re teaching someone.”

Whether our students are leaving it all on the field during a big game or teaching new skills to the next generation of Ellis athletes, sports are a valuable way for them to practice collaboration and gain confidence.

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