Killingly Redgals prepare for field hockey season

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Killingly - posted Tue., Aug. 30, 2011
The Redgals will concentrate on endurance, agility and skills drills in preseason. Photos by D. Coffey.
The Redgals will concentrate on endurance, agility and skills drills in preseason. Photos by D. Coffey.

On Aug. 27, Killingly High School field hockey coach Souki Syharat was using every means at his disposal to prepare his young team for the new season. He ran them through a series of drills that most of them had seen before on YouTube videos.

Syharat uses YouTube a lot in his coaching. The skill videos show the girls what they would learn in clinics and workshops, he said. And because the sport isn't as popular as others in the area, he has a lot of ground to cover before his Redgals take to the field.

“Field hockey is an international sport,” Syharat said, “but there are  no feeder programs for high schools in this area.” His first order of business was to see where his players were in terms of endurance and agility.

“I need to see where they are after taking the summer off,” he said. “I want to know how they can help the team. My skill players might not be in shape. We need to know these things.”

Syharat has an easygoing manner with the girls. He had to remind them to listen, as he explained the drills. Not all of them had been able to watch the videos. Perhaps some forgot, he said lightly. So he went through each of the drills himself before putting the players through them. He is in his eighth year coaching field hockey, four of them he spent at Norwich Free Academy and four at Killingly. He also coaches the University of Connecticut club team.

The first item on his agenda was a Bleep test, an endurance test commonly used in Europe. The girls had to run a short distance in the time between beeps on a recording. The beeps got shorter and shorter, and the girls had to run faster and faster.
“I'll work you to the level you want,” he told his players, “but the minimum is 5.5. Lower than that and you're not ready for field hockey.”

Syharat put them through drills that tested their body control, their ability to accelerate and decelerate, their ease with running backwards, as well as forwards. The drills were repetitive and focused more on the players' ability to control their position and balance rather than the speed with which they moved through them.

“Body control, body control, body control,” he shouted, as he walked the lines like a commander in chief. “This is a field hockey position.” He crouched.  “Stay low. I want you to open up your shoulders. Look straight ahead. See the field.”

Killingly sports a young team this year. Only two veterans are returning to the lineup. Ideally, Syharat would like more time to raise their level of play, but he has two weeks and three scrimmages to hone their skills. It will take some time for those girls who have never touched a stick to get efficient at the game. So he puts them through one drill after another, shouting out directives, reminding them of the importance of footwork, body control and keeping their eyes on the field ahead of them. And he hopes they watch those YouTube videos until their nights are filled with dreams of them.

The Redgals take on the Pomfret Griffins on Saturday, Sept. 10, in their first regular season game.

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