by Elaine Pack
(original of article published in National Futures Tournament Program, 7/95)
"Mom! Dad! I got selected to Futures!"
With these words two Octobers ago, our family set out on a new adventure in our daughter's athletic life. It has been a "family affair" for all of us, as my husband and I have always tried to be as supportive as possible for Leslie.
We live in a part of the country that, compared to New Jersey, Pennsylvania, or other states, is not exactly a hotbed of field hockey. Leslie had learned her hockey fundamentals in middle school and at summer hockey camps, and was on her school's varsity team. During the school year, Leslie's team only plays about 14 games, including their League tournament. All of the games are over one hour travel time away and some are almost four hours away.
In 1993, when Leslie was only 14, she attended a field hockey camp at Duke. She told us that she was asked to do several agility tests and maneuvers one night for something called "Futures." In October, she received a letter from the USFHA inviting her to participate in the Futures. When we got that letter, we realized that Leslie had been recognized as having enough talent to be selected to a national field hockey program from a camp that drew players from all over the country. We were ecstatic! We had always thought that she was a very good player, but this was our first concrete proof that maybe we, her parents, not exactly unbiased observers, weren't the only ones who thought this.
Our first direct experience with the Futures came on a cold, snowy day in January, 1994. We had driven from Charlottesville, VA, to Richmond, an hour and a half away. Leslie was nervous: she had never seen so many excellent hockey players in the same place at the same time, including players from the state championship team. These were arguably the best field hockey players in Virginia, but she was determined to do well. However, because of the snow, the girls had to play in a gym, another "first" for Leslie at that time. It was chaos; the noise was incredible. There were about 60 players in that small room, all dribbling in every which way on the gym floor. How could the coaches even think, let alone try to teach these kids anything?
But teach them they did. Subsequent sessions were outdoors, and over the six months, Leslie learned an incredible amount of hockey skills. The coaches were excellent and always well organized and prepared. Most of them were willing to work one-on-one with the girls whenever necessary. Just as important, while they expected the girls to work very hard, they made it fun as well.
Leslie didn't make the National tournament that first year, but that didn't quash her enthusiasm or determination. She went to three more camps last summer, made the All-Star team at one, and was again selected for Futures at Duke. She feels strongly that participating in Futures had allowed her to be grouped with the highest level players at the camps right from the start so that she maximized the skills she learned. Playing with the best players in the State and the higher intensity level at Futures also made her one of the strongest players on her school team, helping her team win their League tournament for the first time ever, and to make All-League for the second time.
The 1995 Futures program is a little different from Leslie's first year in the program. We like the innovations that the new Director of Player Development, Laura Darling, has instituted. High on our list is the Player's Handbook. As parents we appreciate being able to see in more detail what Leslie will be doing each session. It also helps Leslie track her improvements and now she can prepare for each session. We also like seeing that there will be more frequent time trials and more drills developing advanced skills. We look forward to an even more productive experience for Leslie than she had last year.
She started the 1995 sessions last January, and already we see a more poised, confident Leslie than we saw a year ago. The Futures program helped her to take her skills to another level by providing her with some of the most advanced coaching she has ever received. The skills she has learned at Futures, from some of the best coaches in the sport, have been priceless. Leslie has dedicated herself to try her very best this year to become the best player she can possibly be.
She finally made the National Tournament team during her senior year. She was recruited to play Division I field hockey at the University of Richmond, where she became a starter during her first year and lettered every year she played. Futures made it all possible.
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