Gene Sweeney Jr., Baltimore Sun
Paige Burkett (in yellow) and CJ Reuland (in blue)love playing field hockey so much that they decided to share their passion with some of the little girls in their neighborhoods. Last year, they started a weeklong field hockey camp through the Towson Recreation Council to introduce girls 8 to 12 years old to the sport. It was such a success that they scheduled another camp this summer -- July 15-19 at Dumbarton Middle School. Both girls played soccer when they were younger before switching to field hockey. Now 17 and rising seniors on the Towson High field hockey team, Burkett and Reuland said they wish they had started playing the sport earlier. "We got the idea because both of us didn't start playing field hockey until middle school," Reuland said, "whereas in other parts of the county, they start at 6 and 7, and we just didn't have that background here. A lot of our [Towson High] players were newer and a lot of other counties were doing better in their high school programs, so we wanted to introduce field hockey at a younger level to girls that were probably not exposed to field hockey in other ways." Burkett said she had never even heard of field hockey before the sixth grade. "I think if all the girls on our high school team had started that young, our team would probably be a little more advanced, and the game would be a little more intense at this age," said Burkett, who along with Reuland and other Generals teammates will attend field hockey camp in August at Alvernia University in Reading, Pa. Once Reuland and Burkett, who have been friends since first grade, hatched their idea for the summer camp, they turned to Towson Recreation Council president Jennifer Bolster, a family friend, to help make it a reality. "They came to me and asked how they could use a field," Bolster said. "They just wanted to do something for the kids in their neighborhood, and I explained that it's not that simple. I told them you need permits to use the field and you have to be willing to put the effort into it." They were willing. "[Bolster] told us to make a plan for it, a financial plan," Burkett said, "and figure out when we want to do it. We had to propose it in front of the Council and they had to approve it. Once they approved it, they gave us some money and we went from there." The girls said it took about four months from start to approval. In addition to the basic plan, they had to recruit an adult with a field hockey background to help out. M.J. Britt, who coached at Woodlawn, helped last year, and Alex Chambers, a former Towson player and Mercy coach, will assist this summer. They faced a big surprise on the first day last summer when 42 girls showed up instead of the 22 they expected. Apparently, 20 double-sided advertising fliers with field hockey on one side and volleyball on the other were filed under volleyball when they should have been under field hockey. But it didn't matter. The girls brought in a little more help and the camp ran smoothly. "What I liked the most," Bolster said, "is that I sensed from the very first time they were talking about it that both girls were well liked by young children and they wanted to have a fun summer camp. It started as something they wanted to do in the neighborhood as a way to teach the sport they love, instead of someone coming in and focusing on how much money they could make. They did the math on what their expenses would be, not on how much money they could make. Their motives were pure." The girls do make a little money, but that was never the point. "I just liked the way the girls really looked up to us," Reuland said. "They had no idea what they were doing, and it felt good to teach them the basics. They seemed really happy to learn these skills. Passing the ball harder than they did the day before was really exciting for them." Burkett said: "I really liked hanging out with the kids. It seemed like they were all having a lot of fun. I hope they love it enough to continue playing."
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