Grades 4-7 come together following their clinic at Wellesley College last fall. Photos by Kelly Uller
By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
There are many factors that go into making a specific sport take off and become popular. Maybe the most significant factor, however, is integrating children into that specific sport and developing them at a young age through youth programs. The Wellesley Scoops, an associated club with USA Field Hockey and non-profit organization, is looking to do just that, and then some.Founded in 2014 and run by Kelly Uller and Meghan Swenson, the Wellesley Scoops are becoming the go-to for local youth field hockey development clinics. Throughout the last three summers, the Wellesley Scoops have grown at a rapid pace, starting out as a clinic with just around 40 attendees to now around 350. The program teaches these local girls from grades two to seven the basics and fundamentals of the game of field hockey. The clinics are not exclusive to just Wellesley children, either - the program now has girls from towns such as Needham, Dover, Weston, Newton, Jamaica Plain, and West Roxbury all come and take part.
“Our goal is to grow the sport and introduce field hockey at a younger age,” said Uller. “Coach Stickle [head field hockey coach at WHS] and her girls, as well as Deb Morris, who runs Stix4Chix [lacrosse and field hockey], have been really helpful in allowing us to mentor these kids. The Scoops, Stix4Chix, and the varsity program at Wellesley High have really begun to embrace one another.”
In 2017, the Wellesley Scoops are offering a series of ways for local girls to learn or improve field hockey skills and techniques, with traditional fundamental skills-based programs for grades two through seven in the fall. A three-day conditioning clinic is also offered for middle and high school players looking to sharpen up their skills and legs before fall tryouts. The majority of the WHS varsity field hockey team will be taking part in their conditioning clinic from August 21-23 at Babson College.
Additionally, the Scoops are also in the process of implementing a tryout-based competitive travel club team that will test itself against other local clubs. Uller says that the travel team will be for experienced and committed players already enrolled in the Scoops’ fall program who are looking to take that next step in their development.
“We’ve grown a lot over the past few years,” said Uller. “This fall, we’ll be introducing a 25-player travel team that will practice and play once or twice a week for girls looking to take the next step in their competitive development. The tryout will be more of a focus on who has the commitment and wanting to grow their skills into something, all while learning specific aspects of the game such as strategic plays and positioning that will allow them to succeed once they move on from the youth level.”
As a non-profit organization, the Scoops have been able to donate approximately $50,000 to Wellesley College, which allows the Scoops to set up and operate clinics on some of their facilities, $5,000 to the Wellesley Field Fund, and approximately $3,000 to Dana Hall throughout the past three years.
So, where does the Wellesley Scoops go from here?
Uller says the plan is to expand into other towns such as Newton to allow more girls the opportunity to learn the game.
“Unfortunately, with our numbers capped around 350 due to safety reasons and having the correct ratio of players to coaches, we’ve had to turn away about 40 girls who wanted to take part in this year’s development clinics. Our goal is to expand into Newton and establish a program there so that more girls from these surrounding towns like Weston, Newton, and Needham can take part and that way nobody is stripped of the opportunity to learn the game of field hockey.”
The fall development program kicks off on September 10 and will run until the first week of November. In order to enroll (at the time of print, there are still two spots left for grades 1-3), players and their families must register on the USA Field Hockey Website.