FSK's diminutive field hockey coach has no shortage of intensity

September 27, 1992|By Bill Free | Bill Free,Staff Writer

As the late August evening sun rays splashed across the Francis Scott Key athletic field, a tiny woman with blond hair called a halt to the Key field hockey practice.

With a no-nonsense look on her face, the woman delivered a stern lecture to the players who towered over her.

The blond woman looked more like a younger playmate of the girls than the new coach of the Eagles.

But sure enough, it was Mindy Wagner, all 4-foot-11 of her, giving the Key players a speech they wouldn't forget very soon.

Wagner blasted her players for walking slowly to the huddle, for loafing on the field and for not being intense. She said that no one had a position won on the 1992 team, no matter what had happened in the past.

There could be no doubt that Wagner was in charge even though she is only 23 and one of the youngest field hockey head coaches in the state and the youngest in Carroll.

"Sorry you had to hear that," Wagner said after her players had departed. "But these girls need a jump-start."

By this time, Wagner once again had become the warm and friendly person she is off the field.

Off the field, Wagner said, she encourages her players to come to her and talk about anything to ease their minds.

On the field is a different story.

"I hear about too many coaches wanting to become friends and party with the kids," Wagner said. "That doesn't work. I enjoy being with the girls but they know where I stand on discipline. I'm very Christian in my beliefs. We need coaches to stress morals while coaching."

Being a disciplinarian has come naturally for Wagner.

"I got discipline at home," she said. "We [Mindy and two older sisters] were raised with it. One glance from mom and dad and we knew what to do."

"Dad" is longtime North Carroll wrestling coach Dick Bauerlein, who is known for being a disciplinarian.

"There is nothing complicated about discipline," said Wagner, who is in her first year of coaching after completing an outstanding field hockey career at Messiah College. "It's by the book."

However, Wagner said, other problems in coaching prompt her to call on her father and on her former high school field hockey coaches (Westminster's Sue Hooper and Brenda Baker) for help.

"I just got off the phone with my dad," said Wagner, who was married last summer and now lives in Melrose. "We talked about stuff concerning the team that I consider personal. And I often turn to Hooper and Baker for advice. They've been through almost everything in a combined 34 years of coaching."

Wagner said part of being a successful coach is listening to others.

"You should use your resources," said the coach. "There are times I just need someone to talk to after a tough day or a tough decision."

Some of Wagner's worst fears about her team were realized when the Eagles started 0-3-1 this season.

"You have a helpless feeling on the sidelines," she said. "You tell the players what to do but they might not do it, and you can't go out there and do it for them."

In the first four games, the Class 1A Eagles lost to 4A Westminster, 2-0, tied 2A North Carroll, 1-1, in double overtime, and lost twice to Fairfield (Pa.) High.

The first loss to Fairfield came by a 2-1 score in overtime in the season-opener and caused Wagner some embarrassment.

"As the game got closer to overtime, I told our players not to let it go into overtime," she said. "We hadn't practiced what to do in overtime situations. So when it happened, it was like 'Oh no, what do we do now?' "

In keeping with her honest and open approach, Wagner said, she shared her anxiety about the overtime with her players.

"A couple of kids have told me this is the funnest year," said Wagner. "It proves winning isn't everything. Right now, I'm just trying to keep the girls' spirits up. We're still alternating a lot of positions."

As promised by Wagner in her fiery post-practice speech, no one had a spot locked up.

"I woke up a few people," said Wagner, who long since has learned to deal with being 4-11 when the rest of the world is a lot taller.

"I make do with what I have," she said. "I've always been smaller than everybody else. But I don't let anybody intimidate me. I speak softly and carry a big stick. As a player I outran people."

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