Few people involved with the sport of field hockey know more about winning than Marcia Pankratz. After turning in one of the most impressive player resumes in the history of American field hockey – including appearances in the World Cup and Olympics – Marcia has coached the University of Michigan field hockey squad to multiple Big Ten Championships, along with a NCAA National Championship victory in 2001.
As coach of the Wolverines, evaluating incoming talent and coaching that talent into competitive shape is a major responsibility for Marcia. That being the case, aspiring NCAA field hockey players can make a better impression on college coaches if they pay attention to five valuable pieces of information that Marcia provides.
1. Get A Video Camera
According to Marcia, getting recruited to a college field hockey program is all about exposure. Sometimes she receives online videos from top high school field hockey players, and other times, she’ll look up the footage herself on Youtube. From there, getting recruited by Marcia is a matter of whether or not she likes what she sees.
“If a player looks like they’re at a high enough level from watching them on the video, we’ll make an effort to watch them play in person,” Marcia said. “Every coach is different, but in general it’s nice if they’re fit and tall, and being fast is always a great thing. We’ll also look for things like playmaking skills and ball-handling ability. Then we look for the subtleties like leadership ability, presence on the field, and whether they’re lazy or aggressive. We try to read between the lines.”
2. Get Conditioned
Field hockey has changed over the years from being an analogue to soccer, and it has become a sport that more closely resembles ice hockey, with rolling substitutions and no stoppages in play. With this in mind, Marcia says modern field hockey players need the endurance of middle distance runners.
“If my athletes aren’t fit, I’ll put them on the track and make them fitter,” Marcia stated. “We’ll have them run 400 and 200 repeats. We’ll have them do agility drills, and all kinds of running and transition drills. You can practice people into shape real quick.”
3. Get Stronger
When Marcia brings in a new crop of athletes, she’s often surprised to find that some of the women she coaches can’t even do two pushups despite their athletic prowess and game-ready conditioning. In order for today’s field hockey players to compete for space out on the field, many find that they need to add some muscle.
“It may be a modern trend of inactivity, but for some reason, many young women today lack core body strength,” Marcia explained. “In order to play, their abs, obliques and back all need to get stronger. We’ll have them do squats, deadlifts and Olympic lifts, and we’ll also have them add box jumps and other movements that are explosive.”
4. Get Healthy
Before Marcia can fine-tune her athletes physically, she first evaluates their diets to see if there are any flaws that will prevent them from either shedding pounds or adding muscle from the workouts she is putting them through to improve their conditioning. Like anything else, it helps if women arrive in her program with at least basic nutrition knowledge.
“Learning how to eat well at an early age is critical,” Marcia reiterated. “Learning about nutrition and learning what the building blocks are for great health are things they could always get better at. For instance, if we need an athlete to add muscle, first we need to see if we need to add protein and calories to her diet. Those amino acids are the building blocks that will build those muscles.”
5. Get Coordinated
When playing field hockey, hand-eye coordination is essential. How else is a player supposed to maneuver the ball through the defense with a stick and get it into the opponent’s net? Although time on the field can be limited, Marcia says there are many ways for players to develop the hand-eye coordination required for field hockey success.
“Players can develop their hand-eye coordination even when they’re playing other sports,” Marcia said. “In softball, you have to look the ball into the bat just like you have to look the ball into the stick when you’re playing field hockey. Some of my best players were burned out from playing soccer, switched to field hockey and made the national team; there are so many transferable skills, including hand-eye coordination. Even something like playing the piano can stimulate brain-to-hand coordination.”
The Meijer State Games of Michigan is a multi-sport, Olympic-style event(s) that welcome athletes regardless of age or ability level. The Games embody the values of participation, sportsmanship and healthy living.