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Organized youth sports are a great way for athletes to learn the game, and build and hone skills in time to try out for the high school teams. Thanks to Newtown Parks and Recreation’s youth field hockey program, up and coming players enter into the high school program with having absorbed some background of the sport throughout the years.
Expansion of the youth program by new Coach Amy Krompinger, is allowing for younger players to become involved and for game-playing opportunities for middle school age participants and, as a result, become that much more experienced with the game. Previously offered to girls in grades 5-8, the program now includes athletes in grades 1-8, giving the developing players a jump-start on grasping field hockey skills from a younger age.
“It’s been a great first year for the program. We have girls in first through eighth grade. All the girls are learning the basics of the game; the older girls are learning a little bit of the strategy with it,” Krompinger, the head coach of the program, said after a late-season game at Treadwell Park.
The younger players practiced throughout the late summer and fall weeks, and the sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders also played games throughout the campaign.
“The girls have improved tremendously. Since the very first practice they’ve really played together as a team. Our skills are improving. We’re only going to get better as a program,” Krompinger said.
As the new-to-the sport participants get a feel for the game, and the more experienced players continue to build skills, the future looks bright.
“I think we’ll have a more competitive program next year,” Krompinger anticipates.
Shannon Kelleher, a defender and eighth grader in the program, said there is a lot for the players to improve on in practice and games.
“We try to work on our spacing and out passing,” said Kelleher, who is following in the footsteps of her sisters, current Newtown High field hockey player Ali Kelleher, and Megan, who graduated last year.
Since 2013, Krompinger has offered field hockey playing opportunities year-round through Aim Athletes (aimathletes.com), a premier field hockey team which will hold Monday night practices at NYA Sports & Fitness, beginning December 4. The youth program provides an opportunity for girls to learn the game and experience being part of a team, and it stands to pay dividends for their future in the game, including at Newtown High — and perhaps beyond.
These year-round opportunities are a welcomed sight for Newtown High Coach Stephanie Kearns.
“Having an established youth program for younger players and year-round playing opportunities in town will benefit the high school team, as skills will be taught before athletes enter their freshman year. This will also, hopefully, spread the word about the sport of field hockey around town to increase involvement and the number of incoming freshman athletes for the sport,” Kearns said.
“In my past five years coaching the high school team, we have had a few athletes that participated in our Park and Rec field hockey program who come into the high school with knowledge of the game, however, there is also a large majority of girls who pick up a stick for the first time at tryouts. Having this established youth program in town is going to make a huge difference to our level of play and we are very fortunate to have Amy building these youth teams,” Kearns added.
Krompinger is a former University of Connecticut, NCAA Division I field hockey player. While at UConn, the defender was a part of a team that reached the Final Four. A native of Delaware, the Newtown resident has six years of experience coaching youth and elite players.
Members of the grades 6-8 team are: Julianna Battaglia, Julia Cirone, Catherine Dalton, Margaret Donovan, Grace Gibbons, Ava Hanson, Summer Harrell, Aidan Herbstman, Amelia Hufschmied, Emily Jackson, Paige Jackson, Shannon Kelleher, Angela King, Brooke Kinsey, Alexa Manfredonia, Erin Marshall, Morgan Melillo, Ellie Meyer, Alexa Norton, Jessica Powers, Kaelin Rising, Erin Shah, Sara Stampp, Meghan Tarpey, Madelyn Twitchell, Katie Viselli, Nella Walsh, and Kiera Wrage.
The participants in grades 1-5 are: Rachael Albrecht, Brooke Bulkley, Kiersten Daigle, Helena Draghi, Vivian Eaton, Ellie Ehret, Bridget Gioffe, Reese Kenny, Lyla Kopp, Claire Kortze, Zoey Lehecka, Maggie Mattera, Allison Nowacki, Pearson Previdi, Riley Ragan, Sadie Singlak, Lila Spencer, Chloe Turoczi, and Annie Wellman.