Despite the cancelation of Patriot League sports this Fall, the Boston University field hockey team is making the most out of this time without matches.
The pandemic has forced the squad to alter how it conducts practices while keeping athletes safe.
BU field hockey head coach Sally Starr said that instead of full-team practices, players are in separate groups, each assigned to different coaches.
“It’s going great,” Starr said. “We’re really able to work on our technical skills right now.”
The elimination of league competition this season has enabled players to further fine tune skills such as dribbling, receiving and passing, Starr said.
Last season, the Terriers trailed their opponents in goals and shots per game, leading to a conference record of 2-4, their lowest record since joining the Patriot League in 2013.
Despite these smaller practice groups, Starr says her team has been enjoying the change because it has opened up the opportunity for more hands-on coaching and individual improvement.
In addition to Starr, the field hockey coaching staff helping with these improvements includes assistant coach Tracey Paul and assistant strength and conditioning coach Kyle Czech.
Starr said her squad maintains an optimistic outlook despite the new restrictions and said players are still finding ways to enhance their skills during practice.
“If anything, we’re kind of looking at it as a positive,” Starr said. “They’re finding the practices fun, challenging and they feel that they’re getting better.”
Players are also bonding and interacting outside of practices while living together in West Campus. Starr said the freshmen have had a chance to get to know each other while living on the same floor in Sleeper Hall, while upperclassmen are getting acquainted while living together in Student Village 2.
One challenge the team is facing this semester, because of new campus restrictions on socialization, is incorporating freshmen into the rest of the team. There are six new freshmen joining the squad this season, three of whom are from outside the United States.
“The freshmen are in their own little pod,” Starr said. “They’re not able to integrate with the rest of the team yet.”
Freshmen usually get acquainted with upperclassmen by meeting in their dorms or apartments, but BU has prohibited students from visiting residence halls in which they do not reside.
Starr said it is still important for the team to make an active effort to get to know the freshmen. She said the team is still continuing to bond with traditions like “date night” around Boston.
This tradition typically occurs during the team’s two- to three-week preseason, although it did not transpire this year. During that period, players are usually placed in groups of four, formed randomly by class year, before heading into the city.
But returning players are still taking it upon themselves to interact with the freshmen and are organizing their own events.
Starr said players have voluntarily planned a Sunday brunch, with freshmen divided up to incentivize them to meet other players.
As for field hockey games, the focus for the future is being on top of the Patriot League again. In 2019, the Terriers did not play in the Patriot League final after winning four league titles between 2014 and 2018 and finishing as runner-up in 2016.
Starr said she wants the team to redeem itself after a “disappointing” 2019 season and is looking forward to getting her squad back out on the field.
“That’s been in our rearview mirror,” Starr said. “We’re just really looking forward to reestablishing ourselves as the team in the Patriot League to beat.”
Starr credited this season’s seniors for demonstrating strong leadership already, saying they could lead the team to a championship again.
I have a fantastic group of seniors, a leadership group, and I really look forward to kind of flipping things around this year,” Starr said. “We’re happy to be back on New Balance Field.”