Blurring the lines on the playing field


Field hockey coaches and players work together and learn from each other in county summer league


Sarah Masek found a great way to improve her field hockey skills this summer: playing alongside her coach.

As part of the summer league organized by the county Department of Recreation and Parks, the Severn School co-captain wound up playing with Severn coach Jessica Burke, as well as South River head coach Katie Corcoran and assistant coach Megan Atkinson. The South River Seahawks have won consecutive state titles.

"It was so much fun," Masek said. "I was mixed with a lot of older kids who'd already graduated from college. Their skills were so much beyond my own, and they helped me a lot."

This fall, Masek is starting her senior year at Severn, a private school in Severna Park, and wanted to improve her skills after her team lost in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference semifinals last year.

She had played in the 14-team league last summer and helped recruit teammates for this year's competition.

Her team, Light Blue, won the championship last week, scoring a 2-1 victory over the Royal Blue squad.

Nine coaches played on the Light Blue team, which had a mix of players in their teens and others in their 20s.

Its formation was tricky. Corcoran began to put a team together but had room for no more than seven high school girls.

Rather than cause any hard feelings with her South River girls, Corcoran hooked up with Burke, Atkinson and other coaches and pulled in the Severn girls.

"I think that, for [the coaches], it's just about the fun," Corcoran said. "It lets us keep the sport close to us and to keep playing and not just coaching."

Field hockey is one of the few sports where adults and teens can competitively play together. Corcoran played at St. Mary's in high school and Frostburg State in college. Atkinson competed at Broadneck High and later at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Several of the coaches who play have similar field hockey resumes.

In fact, in this league, many players and groups stick together for long periods. The Light Blue team has players who've been together for about 10 years.

"It's a lot of fun to get together every summer," Corcoran said. "It's not stressful. It's just fun."

The Light Blue squad has 28 players. Corcoran said they worked out a rotation system where each of the players got a fair amount of playing time.

Players and coaches alike also got to see many of the athletes they'll face in the coming season.

"You get a good idea of what they've been working on in the off-season, who plays together in the off-season and what kind of pack of players play together year-round," Atkinson said. "I find it interesting to play against the girls [that South River] will play against."

Corcoran said it's particularly fun for the teens to play against their coaches.

"The girls get pumped up because they want to beat their coaches," Corcoran laughed.

Masek said she liked seeing how well her coach played.

"I really got to see [ Burke] show off her skills," Masek said.

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