Lehigh Field Hockey: Grateful for Every Moment Together
Creator: Justin Lafleur, Lehigh Sports Communications
The Lehigh field hockey team went into the spring season grateful for every second they shared.
The Mountain Hawks wouldn’t take a moment for granted.
“We expected the unexpected,” said Lehigh’s head coach Caitlin Dallmeyer. “We knew we could be shut down – that the season might not even happen – and we might not be able to play games at any point.”
Although the Mountain Hawks were affected by COVID-19, they were never paused. They were able to enjoy many moments together, not least because of the student athletes’ commitment to one another and to the LUFH program.
“We did a really great job with our COVID logs,” said Dallmeyer. “Unfortunately, COVID was still affecting our program and we had athletes going in and out.”
Despite the atypical and challenging spring, Lehigh built a seven-win season in 2019 that ended dramatically – a win over overtime against defending Patriot League champions, Boston University.
Almost 500 days later, the Mountain Hawks kicked off the spring of 2021 with an equally exciting 1-0 win at Lafayette and followed with a 4-0 knockout against Bucknell (who later won the Patriot League title). Lehigh lost games to Holy Cross (2-1), American (2-0) and Boston University (5-2), but both brought some highlights and reasons to be optimistic.
“I think we succeeded because of the development phase of the program,” said Dallmeyer. “We came in five years ago and focused on re-creating a culture that we thought would be sustainable in order to eventually succeed. We had to make some really tough changes and had to implement a different mentality of training, competitiveness and the desire to want something, popping up every day and making you and your teammates better.
“What it meant to hold one another accountable.”
In challenging times brought about by the pandemic, Dallmeyer’s work in building a culture shines through.
“Our upper class – Lenke (Havas), Drew (Pecora) and Steph (Brabender) – embodied all the values that we introduced at the beginning of their careers,” said Dallmeyer. “Now they are in charge and can ensure that others develop the same qualities and hold others accountable as we continue to move in the direction we want.”
This direction includes intangibles (which are evident in these Mountain Hawks) and material abilities (which are equally evident).
“Our upper class players are now all veterans and have a lot of experience on the field,” said Dallmeyer. “They know what the coaches expect and can deliver consistently. The fact that we were more successful this season than in previous years did not surprise me victories. We have prepared for that. And I think we are well positioned to start the next season and continue to build on our success. “
Due to the unknowns surrounding the pandemic, Dallmeyer and deputy head coach Taylor Dyer focused on the little game during practice.
“We made sure that every training session was designed so that, whether it was our last session or had to take a break, we introduced the game, understood the different positions and the structural needs of the team,” said Dallmeyer. “We focused less on working and developing individual skills, but more on developing the team and making everyone comfortable playing multiple positions (knowing that people come in and out of quarantine at different times and have different needs). “
Although the season featured fewer disruptions than the coaching staff feared, the fruits of those efforts were in full swing and the athletes were ready to take on any role that was asked of them. One example was first grader Erica Steele, who saw the first meaningful game action of her career at American and performed with confidence and poise.
It wasn’t a coincidence. It was the by-product of Steele’s hard work, along with a strong cultural base within Lehigh field hockey.
“There were so many challenges for our student athletes this spring and I was really proud that they could step onto the field, put all that aside and just enjoy being together,” said Dallmeyer. “One of the critical components of developing chemistry on a team is getting into the field and enjoying being with the people you’re playing with, having fun competing and pushing each other. Love that Sport, love the people and love the program.
“I can proudly say that the student athletes on our team show that.”
Because of this, the future in Bethlehem is bright.
“What appeals to me most is the look at our classmates and the development of some mentoring relationships,” said Dallmeyer.
The coaching staff creates the foundation for success, but it’s up to the student athletes to drive the ship.
“Coach Dyer and I wouldn’t be here if we didn’t believe in this program,” said Dallmeyer. “When you come here, part of our recruiting talks with all athletes is that you are the change and when you come here it is your responsibility to be the change. You don’t just come with us to ride …
“You drive it.”
Today the Mountain Hawks haven’t reached their ultimate goal of competing for championships, but they are certainly making great strides. All signs stand for sustainable success, which Dallmeyer has always had as its goal.
“We see that the lower class members appreciate, jump up and want to carry on the legacy that an upper class person like Steph Brabender leaves behind as a selfless teammate who embodies the serving leadership,” said Dallmeyer. “I see this in our early years and sophomore, and I see their leadership styles evolving. I believe that we are set to succeed in our leadership for a very long time. I can say that because our second grade was a tremendous move. ” from first graders to second graders, really developing their own voice and taking on bigger roles. I’ve seen our first graders slowly develop the same way. “
The development of student-athletes is rooted in gratitude. Sixteen months without games only increased the Mountain Hawks’ love of the sport … and one another.
“Our student athletes show that gratitude in everything they do and in all interactions they have,” said Dallmeyer. “As a coaching team, we are really proud that we were able to identify athletes in the recruiting process who develop into phenomenal teammates so that we have the culture that we strive for. Now we’re working on it every day to make sure it keeps moving in the right direction.
“I’m looking forward to the future,” added Dallmeyer. “We definitely need this break to separate over the summer. But I am already thinking of all the great moments that we will share to go into the preseason and then to our first competitions.”
One thing is certain. When preseason arrives, these Mountain Hawks will be grateful for every workout, lift, game, and moment together.