Planting seeds of field-hockey fundamentals Methuen Rec Dept. clinic gives youngsters exposure to high-school sport Byline By Gayle Simone, Valley Dispatch Staff

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METHUEN — Playing field hockey is not as easy as it seems. Dribbling the ball with the stick is a challenge in itself. You can only hit the ball with the flat side of the stick so if you have to change directions, you must do some fancy footwork or learn to flip your stick around in your hands as quickly as you can say foul.

Karen McLaughlin, head coach for Methuen High School’s field hockey team, has created a field hockey clinic through the Methuen Recreation Department to build excitement about the sport.

“I tried to do my own camp before, but I see the response Bill Pare gets through the Rec Department so I decided to go through him,” McLaughlin said. “This is something I definitely want to keep going.”

Elizabeth McLaughlin, a senior at Methuen who played field hockey for the Rangers, helps her mother out with the clinic.

“A lot of kids don’t have time to learn the fundamentals of field hockey,” the younger McLaughlin said. “I learned things this year that I wish I learned when I first started to play. You can get a lot of bad habits in field hockey, and this way they have at least a couple of years to learn and not get into the bad habits.”

Elizabeth McLaughlin also said Methuen has youth soccer and basketball in the town and hopes field hockey will gain the same interest.

“Basketball and soccer seem really big in this town,” McLaughlin said. “It would be nice to see field hockey get the same way.”

Methuen has always been in competition with Central Catholic athletes, and this is one sport the Rangers have over the Red Raiders.

“Central doesn’t have the program at all,” the younger McLaughlin explained. “There was one girl who was really good at both soccer and basketball, but is coming to Methuen because she doesn’t want to give up field hockey. Hopefully this clinic will help generate that same type of athlete in the years to come.”

The clinic is for Methuen girls in grades second through eight.

Junior Allisyn Comei has played field hockey for the Rangers since her freshman year, but never picked up a stick before the first day of tryouts.

“Some of my sister’s friends played and they convinced me to try it,” Comei said. “This (camp) is a really good opportunity for the kids to learn it. By the time they come to high school, they’ll be really good at it. That’s good for the school because it will improve our program.”

Coach McLaughlin said an important part of the clinic is having the high- school players there to help out with drills.

“The younger kids are getting exposed to great role models in the high- school athletes,” McLaughlin said. “The girls are always will to pitch in and help teach.”

Comei said the benefit of teaching is not just for the youngsters but for the older girls also.

“I think helping them helps us,” Comei said. “It brings us back to the fundamentals and being a role model is good for the school and community.

Field hockey may come easier to those right-handed, because there is no such thing as a left-handed stick, a point that Coach McLaughlin made clear early on.

Some of the fundamentals the girls will be learning are passing, dribbling, stick handling and of course, communication.

“When you are ready to pass to a teammate, you need to communicate,” Coach McLaughlin explained to the group. “Communication is something very important in all team sports.”

Each clinic, held for three weeks on Tuesdays and Thursdays, ends in games with the girls divided by grade.