10/05/07 — Field hockey becomes latest sport added to tradition-rich Wayne Country Day athletics program

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Field hockey becomes latest sport added to tradition-rich Wayne Country Day athletics program

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on October 5, 2007 3:11 PM

With 85 to 90 percent of Wayne Country Day students already involved with one of the school's 15 athletic teams, the list of sports for students to choose from just got a little longer.

Wayne Country Day is now the lone Class 1-A independent school in the state to offer field hockey.

After observing a recent decline of female student-athletes participating in tennis and volleyball during the fall, athletics director Michael Taylor sensed the need to provide the school's female athletes with another option. The initial response to starting a field hockey program confirmed Taylor's beliefs, especially when 13 girls have participated in the first few weeks of practice.

To keep the interest sparked, Taylor plans to add field hockey to the school's physical education curriculum. He hopes that will further pique excitement not only among the female students, but the male student population, too.

"We wanted to get the other girls that aren't playing a sport involved in extra-curricular activities after school," Taylor said. "We thought that adding a field hockey team would get some more interest into the athletic program. Having 13 girls, it's worked out pretty well."

Catherine Tanner, a parent of two Wayne Country Day students, has been chosen as the Chargers' first head coach. Tanner played field hockey at Salem Academy in Winston-Salem, and at St. Margaret's School in Tappahannock, Va.

"Ever since (I finished playing) I've always loved the sport," Tanner said. "I've just never had the opportunity to play, or coach or really be involved. (Headmaster Todd Anderson) just kind of threw the opportunity out there at me, and it's been really fun."

Tanner plan this fall to focus primarily on practice and developing her players' skills, with the possibility of scheduling one or two exhibition games. Practices are open for girls in seventh through 11th grades who will return next fall to participate in the school's first season of varsity competition.

The Chargers will play a 10- to 12-game schedule in 2008 with a minimum number of home games. Finances, particularly paying a $250 officiating fee, will keep Wayne Country Day on the road most of the season. Taylor doesn't mind the numerous trips and seeing other schools absorb the cost.

Tanner said that the players purchased an equipment package from a northern-based company that includes a quality hockey stick, ball and mouthpiece for about $30. The most-expensive endeavors involve the goals, goal netting and equipping the team's goal keeper. The estimated cost is nearly $1,000, according to Tanner.

The players' uniforms are the school's responsibility.

"Financially it's very expensive, especially if you start from scratch," Taylor said. "You have to order new goals, new socks, new uniforms, mouth guards, the goalie equipment and everything else. We're willing to travel to places like Cape Fear Academy and Parrott Academy in Kinston ."

In just a few short weeks of practice, Tanner has seen a team with virtually no previous field hockey experience, start to take shape.

"Their skill level is incredible," Tanner said. "In just a couple of weeks they have really come a long way. We're really starting to see who the leaders are and the positions that they are going to be able to play. We already have our goalie in place and that's good."

Taylor and Tanner -- as well as the players -- understand that competing against more-established programs will help them improve. Wayne Country Day has a long-standing tradition of athletic success on the conference and state level, which is something Taylor hopes will happen in field hockey.

The N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association offers a single field hockey championship for all three classifications combined.

"It's motivation, because with us being such a small school, we're going to offer something that no other 1-A school offers in the state and the area," Taylor said. "Parrott is the only school in the area that offers field hockey. We thought that might be another marketing tool for us to bring in field hockey."