11/05/11 — WCDS field hockey trio honored

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WCDS field hockey trio honored

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 5, 2011 11:54 PM

A future Olympic star at Wayne Country Day? Four years ago, Catherine Tanner-Stuber would have immediately dismissed that thought when she started a girls' field hockey program from scratch.

Now, after more than 40 matches, endless hours of practice and valuable instruction time in summer camps from some of the sport's best coaches, Tanner-Stuber is entertaining the thought of seeing a Charger in a Team USA uniform.

Will it be Karis Hawkins?

Or nieces Crawford and Margaret Tanner?

Perhaps all three?

The trio has been selected to participate in the USA Futures Program -- an organization created to identify talented Olympic-level athletes and to further strengthen one of the fastest-growing sports throughout the United States.

But Tanner-Stuber didn't nominate either Hawkins or her nieces for the prestigious program. They asked about the Futures Program each time they attended camp at Wake Forest University, and that curiosity drew attention from camp coaches.

"I can point out players who showed interest, but after that, I have no say at all," said Tanner-Stuber. "It was the biggest thrill because I knew for them it's an opportunity of a lifetime. Not many people are chosen and it's going to be great for them going forward.

"I always think it's good for athletes to study under other coaches because every coach coaches different, and brings something different to the table. I'm not an Olympic coach. I'm not a college coach. They will teach them things that I can't."

Hawkins and the Tanner siblings will receive 27 hours of specialized training from some of the nation's top field hockey coaches on the collegiate, national and Olympic level. They'll undergo a standardized training curriculum that was developed by Terry Walsh, USA field hockey technical director.

More than 5,000 athletes attend Futures sessions all over the country from January-June on either Saturday or Sunday for three- to six-hours per session. Upon completion of their training, the athletes will compete in regional tournaments that are contested in either May or June.

The players are re-evaluated again and could be selected to the National Futures Championship -- the springboard to the Olympic pipeline.

Hawkins, Crawford and Margaret got a taste of the program during the four-day camp at Wake Forest. They stumbled out of bed at 6 each morning and engaged in three sessions a day.

"Non-stop training, stick work and running ... the basics," said the soft-spoken Crawford Tanner. "We were sore the whole time. We couldn't walk up the stairs (to our rooms) and sometimes carried each other piggy back. It takes time to learn and understand the sport.

"There are certain ways to play and you have to get used to those things."

Crawford and Margaret constructed an obstacle course in their backyard, including boards that they rebound shots off of which helps define how shots might come off the flat side of hockey sticks during actual game play. The work paid off throughout the season with Crawford as the team's shot stopper and Margaret as the first shooter on penalty corners.

The duo constantly asks their aunt how they can improve their game.

"They're always thinking ahead on the field, but those girls, I can honestly say, think of the team before themselves," said Tanner-Stuber. "They are true team players. They are not 'me, me, me.' They want to score, but they have just as many assists as they do goals.

"They'll play any position I put them in."

Hawkins, meanwhile, patrols the cage.

A natural goalie with lightning-quick reflexes, Hawkins has developed skills that most high school players don't commonly see in a match. Each summer at camp, the sophomore picks the coaches' brains about numerous skills and practices what she's taught until she executes them with perfection.

"I just really like how unique the sport is," said Hawkins, who has played four seasons for the Chargers. "It's fun to walk into a restaurant in your uniform and have people ask what sport do you play. I tell them field hockey and they ask what is that?"

Hawkins, Crawford and Margaret asked themselves that very question when Tanner-Stuber asked them to try out. Each readily agreed to the request, but little did they know they'd reach this point so early in their respective careers.

"I am kind of surprised," said Margaret.

Not Tanner-Stuber -- any more.