Oct. 10, 2007

New All-Star Game a sign of the (good) times


Mark the date, Kentucky high school field hockey fans.

On Sunday, Oct. 28, one of the state’s most unique and rewarding events - in any sport - will make its debut at the University of Louisville’s Trager Stadium.

The first annual All-Star Game, set to begin at 2 p.m., will put the state’s best seniors on the field together and also will include the announcements of the new Miss Field Hockey award, the revised Bunny Daugherty Defensive Player award, and the renamed Kentucky Select teams.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Presentation coach Jill O’Bryan, one of the event's organizers.

"It should be a great day for hockey in Kentucky," Collegiate coach Wendy Martin said.

The All-Star Game, for which the new Kentucky High School Field Hockey Coaches Association deserves the credit, is an opportunity to acknowledge the efforts of more student-athletes than previously was possible and, the KHSFHCA hopes, showcase them in front of college coaches.

“We were brain-storming ways to really show what we have in Louisville and give college coaches a reason to come,” Ballard coach Kelly Logsdon said. “And we were trying to find a way to recognize a big group of people without taking away from other awards.”

The All-Star selection process is underway, and the seniors chosen to play in the game will be informed as early as next week. They will be split into two teams of approximately 20, O'Bryan said.

The Miss Field Hockey award, which this reporter officially proposed at the sport’s postseason meeting in January and is sponsoring, also will be presented to a senior - in line with several other sports in the state. Sixteen players were nominated for the award.

“I think it’s great,” Sacred Heart coach Liz Lewis said. “As hockey grows, it needs to catch up with other sports. And it’s great recognition for young athletes. It gives them something else to work for.”

“Even being nominated is an honor,” Assumption coach Debbie Judd said.

The Sacred Heart-sponsored Bunny Daugherty Defensive Player award was formerly known as the “Way to Go” award but now, as the name suggests, is intended to identify the state’s best defensive player.

The Kentucky Select teams likewise reflect a name change, and what formerly was known as the All-County team also has been expanded into first and second teams.

Three players from each district’s first-place team will be placed on the Kentucky Select first team and three more will be placed on the Kentucky Select second team. Two players from each district’s second-place team will be placed on the Kentucky Select first team and two more will be placed on the Kentucky Select second team. Every other team will have one player placed on the Kentucky Select first team and one player placed on the Kentucky Select second team.

“Anytime you can get more recognition for kids, all the better,” Martin said.

The All-Star event reflects larger, if unseen, changes in the sport and is only the most visible achievement of the KHSFHCA.

Finally kick-started at the aforementioned January meeting after several years of discussions, the coaches association has created bylaws that address internal issues and establish awards and rules committees.

“We needed things written down and set in stone,” Logsdon said. “I played here, and this is my sixth year coaching here. There’s never been anything to go to.”

But, most important, the KHSFHCA has improved communication between the coaches, which in turn has made them more organized and thus more influential as a group.

“It’s pretty groundbreaking stuff, I think,” Assumption coach Debbie Judd said. “We needed representation. We know how we want this sport to evolve.”

Martin, the state’s longest-tenured coach in her 27th season at Collegiate, is the KHSFHCA’s president. Judd is the vice president, Logsdon is the secretary, and Kentucky Country Day coach Amy Charasika is the treasurer.

“Anything I can do to improve hockey, I’ll do,” Martin said.

That’s the kind of attitude that has most impressed Assumption athletic director Angela Passafiume, who manages the state tournament.

“They’re great,” she said. “They’ll take on anything.”

Passafiume had been, for all intents and purposes, the manager of field hockey in general until she announced in January that Jerry Wyman - the director of activities and athletics for Jefferson County Public Schools - had agreed to do it instead.

She worked with Collegiate athletic director Tim Williams and former Atherton athletic director Bob Peters to bring Wyman on board, and his involvement gives field hockey the kind of oversight that the Kentucky High School Athletic Association provides for its sanctioned sports.

“(Wyman) is in charge of field hockey, for lack of better terms,” Passafiume said. “He’s the commissioner, as I call him.”

And so begins a new era in Kentucky high school field hockey.