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Field Hockey: North Carroll youth camp celebrating 30 years

North Carroll Rec Council's summer field hockey camp is celebrating 30 years.

Denean Koontz runs the North Carroll Recreation Council’s summer field hockey camp, which is celebrating its 30th year in 2018.

Koontz gets help from a dozen or so counselors, all of whom played the game at either North Carroll or Manchester Valley, home of the camp these days. Girls range in age from 7-14 and get four morning sessions to learn the ins and outs of the sport.

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This year, 30 girls have sticks in hand — and they’re in good hands, it seems.

When your summer camp is run by a Carroll County Sports Hall of Famer and former state championship coach, and your counselors own Times Player of the Year honors from their high school playing days, you’re bound to learn a lot.

Koontz scanned the playing field at Manchester Valley on Wednesday and saw former campers turned counselors, like Jensyn Koontz, her daughter, and Rosalia Cappadora, helping the younger girls with everything from stick technique and goalie maneuvers to mini-games that featured 1v1 and 5v5 scoring situations.

Koontz won Player of the Year in 2014; Cappadora took the award in 2015.

“It’s been nice to see them come through,” Koontz said about all of her assistants. “I couldn’t do it without them.”

Koontz, who coached at North Carroll for 24 years and guided the Panthers to state titles in 2013 and 2014, said the NCRC summer camp features a wide range of skill level and is open to anyone in and around the area (some girls from Pennsylvania are coming for the four-day camp, she said).

“I find that each year they come in with a stronger foundation,” Koontz said. “You can definitely see that hockey is growing [at] the club level and the rec level. We do things with them now that we didn’t do five, 10 years ago.”

“It’s for anyone, any ability, any age, any level,” she said. “I love hockey, and it’s probably one of the most enjoyable things I do. Working with the kids, watching them grow and watching them learn, without the pressure to compete. So it’s fun. …A lot of people are doing a lot of good things for the game.”

Some players have club experience. Others play more than one sport and use the camp to give field hockey a try. And some are relative newcomers, like Courtney Bell.

She attended the camp last summer when she decided to experience a new sport. The 14-year-old, who recently graduated from North Carroll Middle School, looked anything but new as she dribbled the ball through various drills.

“I went to the camp last year and it was just a lot of fun,” Courtney said. “And so I kind of just wanted an opportunity to try a new sport in the fall.”

Denean Koontz, center, and daughter Jensyn Koontz, right, work with Manchester Elementary School fourth-grader Layla Servin, left, and Spring Garden Elementary School's Izzy Penczek during a field hockey camp at Manchester Valley High School on June 20, 2018.
Denean Koontz, center, and daughter Jensyn Koontz, right, work with Manchester Elementary School fourth-grader Layla Servin, left, and Spring Garden Elementary School's Izzy Penczek during a field hockey camp at Manchester Valley High School on June 20, 2018. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Flanked by Maddie Fisher, also 14 and a recent North Carroll Middle grad, Courtney said getting ready for high school tryouts is a big deal and participating in camps like this one can only be beneficial.

“I just want to make sure I have my stick skills up before tryouts,” Maddie said. “Making sure I have my hits and my stick skills up … making sure I’m consistent with everything.”

Personal goals such as those have to make Denean Koontz smile. She took over as camp director in 1992, three years after it made its debut. Attendance has fluctuated over the years — Koontz said she had almost 100 girls one year — but numbers are never a sticking point.

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It’s about playing the game they love, or introducing it to someone for the first time, Koontz said.

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