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The Yankee Express

Oxford Looking To Build a Field Hockey Program

By Christopher Tremblay, Staff Sports Writer

Last fall, the Oxford High School field hockey program had 21 athletes come out to play the highest number since the pre-Covid years. With that said, the Pirates also have a MIAA waiver that allows seventh and eighth grade students to participate in the sport if they desire.
While last season’s numbers were up, Varsity Coach Dana Peloso was looking to move those numbers even further up the ladder. After putting on a field hockey clinic at the Middle School, he found that there was a large out pouring of fifth grade girls that were interested in the sport. Having such success with the clinic he proposed putting together a club team at the middle school level. 
“After announcing the program at the fifth-grade level, we immediately had 29 girls sign up; we found that they were interested in playing the sport,” Peloso said. “We are hoping that this will be the beginning of a feeder program to the high school. The kids will play on the club level then play at the middle school and right into high school.”
The inaugural season began on April 11 at the Clara Barton School and concluded on May 30 with the girls learning the necessities of the sport every Thursday from 2:45 – 4 pm.
“We wanted to teach the kids the sport using drill-based skills, including all aspects of the game of field hockey,” Peloso said. “We incorporated them each week with the rules and fundamental skills. There were only three or four that knew of the sport, for the rest it was the first time that they had ever picked up a field hockey stick.”
Peloso and assistant Alex “Snook” Kallgren volunteered to run the program. Kallgren, played the sport at East Connecticut State University, where she holds the school’s scoring record.
Having been a main part of the learning process for these young girls, the Oxford varsity field hockey coach could see that the kids on the field were really enjoying themselves.
“Watching them take part in the weekly teachings you could see that they were into the game,” Peloso said. “And a majority of them seem to be enjoying learning and playing the sport, which is good for the sports future.”
If things continue to go well, which they seem to be, Peloso is hoping to put together a sixth grade fall team which would allow the girls from this club extravaganza slide right into the next program this coming fall when they enter the sixth grade. By playing for the Oxford sixth grade team, those girls will then be eligible to try out for the varsity team when they reach the seventh grade.
The only thing stopping them from playing varsity field hockey as a seventh and eighth grader would be if Oxford were able to get more than enough girls to try out for the varsity team – allowing the Pirates to field a junior varsity team as well. If this, a JV team, were to happen then under the MIAA waiver rule the girls could only play for the lower team.
According to the coach, Oxford would need a minimum of 22 girls to have both a JV and varsity squad. Currently, the varsity team has 17 (14 from the high school and 3 from the middle school) players returning next fall, which gives the Pirates a good start on getting its second team. Peloso is also looking at some new seventh graders to try out for the team.
The coaches’ goal is to have a solid 15 players (11 starters on the field and 4 subs) suite up for the Oxford varsity team. If they can then get at least another 7 (6 plus a goalie) they’d be able to field a junior varsity team.
“Most schools would prefer you had at least 11 players on the field, but they’d be willing to play with only 7 or 9,” Peloso said “Ideally the JV team would be made up of the underclassmen with lesser skills, but girls on the varsity team not getting a lot of playing time could also drop down and play for the JV team.”
If the school opts for the sixth-grade team, those fifth graders will be ready and willing to continue playing field hockey for them next fall and if Peloso can get the minimum of 22 girls he’d also have a junior varsity team in addition to his varsity team. With those teams in place, Oxford would know have the feeder program it has needed to be a successful team of the future.
The more girls get involved with field hockey at Oxford, the better the chance of the Pirates taking their game to the next level.
The Oxford field hockey club will be hosting another clinic July 8-9 from 9 a.m. to 3 pm and July 11 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for children ages 8 thru 17. The cost is $80 for the first child and $70 each additional child from the same family. For more information or to RSVP email Dana Peloso at [email protected]