New coach and positive atmosphere gives field hockey a fresh start

Coach Kelly Blackhurst coaching at the game against Fitchburg State University. 

BRISTOL R.I­–136 shots taken, 2 shutouts completed and 24 goals scored this season, all before conference play has even started. As the field hockey team goes into their seventh season, they are ready for success. 

This season, the team is starting off with new head coach Kelly Blackhurst. She will be taking on the position as the first ever full-time head coach for the field hockey team. Blackhurst said she had some time during the spring season to work with the six seniors and 18 returning players.

“They definitely are a group that wants to push the standard. They want to do more,” Blackhurst said. 

Blackhurst believes that there is an opportunity to elevate the program at RWU. She described the team’s work ethic as “outstanding,” and said the team had been working very hard during preseason to overcome adversity. 

“In the short time span, they have been able to put some different things into play,” said Blackhurst. “It has honestly been remarkable.”

Senior captain Alex Coppinger said that going into preseason was about everyone getting to know one another, including the coach, returning players and seven new freshmen. She believes taking the time to do this has really helped the team at the start of the season. 

“It has been one of the best starts we have had,” Coppinger said. “Everyone is having fun at every game.” 

Junior forward Lea Peterson also believes what they have been working on in preseason has benefitted them in the first couple of games of the season. She said this preseason the team focused on getting to know one another and learning how to play together as a team. 

Peterson recalls a specific moment where she knew what the team had worked on in preseason had shined through.

“When we traveled to our game at Eastern Connecticut State University, we usually have time to spend in the locker room before the game but that day we had to go right out onto the field when we got there,” said Peterson.  “Once we got on the field our coach said, ‘this is the game where all your work you put in during preseason comes out.’ We were tied at the first half 1-1 but we ended the game winning 6-1. It definitely showed that game.” 

Peterson believes Coach Blackhurst’s speech at the beginning of the game got the rest of the team thinking about the work they had done in preseason and that helped put them in the right mindset. 

“We knew that we didn’t put this work in for nothing. We want to show the conference what our team is about,” Peterson said. 

Coach Blackhurst sees that the players are holding themselves to a standard and she wants to make sure that the coaching staff is doing the same thing. 

“We have started to add more film into our sessions. We plan on doing three evaluations for the players during the season. We want to make sure they are hitting their benchmarks.” Blackhurst said.

In order to compete for a conference title (regionally and nationally), she said the team has to constantly be evaluating themselves and their performance. 

“I love to win but I also want to make sure that I’m not breaking them down. Positive talk goes a long way,” Blackhurst said. “So many times, you hear coaches yelling at players for missing a ball. If you constantly use positive reinforcement, then I think they do better, they make better decisions and they feel more confident in themselves.” 

Freshman midfielder Olivia Hampe said she did not come from a high school that was as supportive as the team is here. 

“It has been very different for me. It’s a lot more supportive,” Hampe said. 

Hampe believes that it has a lot to do with how successful they have been this season. She said the positive atmosphere is always kept up at practice and games, whether it’s on the sidelines or on the field.

According to senior forward Carly Doulette, the positive atmosphere helps the team continue to work hard and find motivation very easily. 

“I think most of us just want to be the best we can be. We really have high hopes,” Doulette said. “We know that there is so much potential and it forces us to work hard. Working hard will have good payouts and we will reap the benefits if we just keep putting the time and energy into it.”

Coach Blackhurst concurs that the team is looking forward to the season and is excited for every single game.

“I am looking forward to learning what Roger Williams is about, what makes our athletes tick and getting to know the team on and off the field,” she said.