Parent volunteers keep junior varsity field hockey program afloat

Junior varsity field hockey coach Sonia Sethi explains the varsity training routine to the varsity junior team. Sethi is one of two volunteer parents who coach the junior varsity team after Jennifer Crane, the new athletic director, was unable to find a replacement junior varsity coach. “The college team has lost a number of very strong senior players [this year]“, Sethi said. “So there is an opportunity for … a lot more junior college players to come to college.” (Photo: Maxwell Zhang)

Two parent volunteers step in to coach Palo Alto High School’s junior varsity field hockey team for the fall 2022 season in an effort to continue the program.

Sonia Sethi and Sara Bishop volunteered to coach this season after Jennifer Crane, the new athletic director for the 2022-23 school year and college field hockey coach, was unable to find a JV coach.

“I learned at the end of the summer that she [Crane] couldn’t find a JV field hockey coach,” Sethi said. “I didn’t want to lose the program, [and] I didn’t want her to have to carry a list of 40 people, so I offered to help the coach any way I could.

Sethi, an experienced athlete, has spent seven years playing field hockey and actively participates in long-distance marathons. Previously, she coached at Addison Elementary School and at Fleet Feet, a running store in Menlo Park where she coached half marathon and marathon runners for several years.

“My favorite part [was] helping the marathon team because it inspired people to try something new and showed them what they could achieve, especially when you work as a group towards a common goal,” Sethi said.

The two junior varsity coaches, Sara Bishop (left) and Sonia Sethi (right), discuss their schedule for the day with varsity coach and athletic director Jennifer Crane (middle). (Photo: Ketan Altekar-Okazaki)

According to Sethi, she enjoys coaching team sports because of the unique sense of camaraderie.

“There is something magical happening on the pitch, and it’s different [from] doing group projects,” Sethi said. “It’s different [from] doing graded work or team collaborations. … It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, the constructive criticism you’re able to share and the leadership that comes out of people, you didn’t expect.

College and junior field hockey player Hailey Kleiner said she had high hopes for JV’s new group of players and said she believed the new coaches would be hugely beneficial to their learning process.

“From experience, I know a lot of people who joined the JV team, especially the first year, don’t have any previous field hockey experience, so the coaches kind of have to start from the beginning,” said Kleiner. “I think they might have a bit of a rocky start, but I really think over time they will pick up the skills and they can work well together.”

Junior varsity field hockey coach Sonia Sethi (left) explains the importance of teamwork to junior varsity field hockey members Abby Wolf (right) and Amelia Finnis (far right) during ‘an exercise. (Photo: Ketan Altekar-Okazaki)

According to second-year junior varsity field hockey player Isabelle Carlsen, she hopes the JV team will be able to effectively develop teamwork skills with new coaches because teamwork on the field is just as important as working together off the pitch.

“My favorite part [of field hockey] is the team because you have to rely on each other on the field and communicate with each other,” Carlsen said. “It’s like a community where you can rely on each other and trust each other.”

Although this is his first season as a field hockey coach, Sethi is excited about the upcoming season.

“I’m so excited to have these girls showing up, who are excited, who are committed and dedicated, and who are high-spirited and ready to work hard.” Seti said.

The JV field hockey team won its opener on August 31 against Wilcox and will face Cupertino on Wednesday at home.

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