Upper Arlington’s field hockey players received some startling news last winter when they were told they would be getting a new coach. Throughout the remainder of the off-season the team was left with no one to replace McKenzie Hufford, the former field hockey coach. Finally, in the spring of this year, the team received the news that Derek Aspinall had been hired for the coaching position.
The girls met their new coach briefly on June 4, though he was unable to stay in Upper Arlington permanently until July 1. During the time he was away, working on founding the Miami Surf Field Hockey Club in Florida, the captains were in charge of running practices and making sure the team had all the information they needed to keep preparations for their upcoming season on track.
Senior captain Maggie Igel felt the time apart from the coach did not negatively affect the team.
“We had really good communication with Coach A while he was gone. We skyped him a few times and e-mailed to get instructions for practices,” Igel said.
With the help of Igel and the other captains, practices were able to continue as usual during the summer. Junior field hockey player Nicole Carothers also thought the team worked just as hard during the preseason summer time without a coach.
“The captains all did really well with the situation. They worked a lot with Coach A and it was good communication all around,” Carothers said. “Everyone worked really well together and were very effective in passing on all the information we needed to know.”
When Aspinall first took up his coaching post, Igel said her initial impression was positive.
“I was really impressed and excited when I first met him,” she said. “There was just a great atmosphere from the beginning. In past years it’s been more tense.”
Igel was not the only player to notice the team beginning to take on a new shape.
“We’re a much closer team this year. We all know we can count on each other on and off the field,” Carothers said.
A better atmosphere and a closer team unit was not all Aspinall was able to bring to the field hockey team. Aspinall, who is originally from Durham, England, has a vast knowledge of field hockey according to Igel. He has been coaching for over 18 years, in addition to his experience playing for his hometown club and captaining his team to the National Finals in 2002.
“[In England] they start learning how to play [field hockey] when they’re around 6-years-old. It’s like how lacrosse is here.”
The British style of play is slightly different than the American, so this year has been a great learning experience for the team as well as Aspinall.
“He’s worked with us a lot on doing more small passes and working up to plays,” Carothers said.
One of the most interesting things about their new coach is his many foreign expressions.
“He has a lot of weird British phrases. It’s actually really funny. He’ll say things like ‘put some water on’ [translation: water break]. At first no one knew what he was talking about, but we caught on after a while,” Igel said.
The girls are very excited about their new coach and everything he’s been able to teach them, be it new phrases or new strategies. However, they are even more excited about their chances for success this season.
“We’ve improved a lot so far this season, and our mindset has changed too,” Carothers said. “We’re focusing on the program in the future. We’re moving in a positive direction. I firmly believe that in a few years we will be State Champions.”