Parent volunteers keep junior varsity field hockey program afloat

Maxwell Zhang and Ketan Altekar-Okazaki

Junior varsity field hockey coach Sonia Sethi explains the varsity practice routine to the junior varsity team. Sethi is one of two parent volunteers coaching the junior varsity team after Jennifer Crane, the new athletic director, was unable to find a replacement junior varsity coach. “The varsity team lost a number of very strong senior players [this year],” Sethi said. “So there’s an opportunity for… a lot more junior varsity players to come up to varsity.” (Photo: Maxwell Zhang)

Two parent volunteers are stepping up to coach the Palo Alto High School junior varsity field hockey team for the 2022 fall season in an effort to continue the program.

Sonia Sethi and Sara Bishop volunteered to coach this season after Jennifer Crane, the new athletic director for the 2022-2023 school year and varsity field hockey coach, was unable to find a JV coach.

“I learned in the late summer that she [Crane] was unable to find a JV field hockey coach,” Sethi said. “I didn’t want to lose the program, [and] I didn’t want her to have to carry a roster of 40 people, so I offered to help coach in whatever way I could.” 

Sethi, an experienced athlete, spent seven years playing field hockey and actively runs in long-distance marathons. Previously, she was previously a coach at Addison Elementary School and Fleet Feet, a running store in Menlo Park where she coached half-marathon and marathon runners for a number of years.

“My favorite part [was] helping the marathon team because it pushed people to try something new and showed them what they could accomplish, especially when you’re working as a group toward a common goal,” Sethi said.

The two junior varsity coaches, Sara Bishop (left) and Sonia Sethi (right), discuss their agenda for the day with varsity coach and athletic director Jennifer Crane (middle). (Photo: Ketan Altekar-Okazaki)

According to Sethi, she enjoys coaching team sports because of the unique feeling of comradery.

“Something magical happens on the field, and it’s different [from] doing group projects,” Sethi said. “It’s different [from] doing graded work or team collaborations. … Regardless if you’re winning or losing, the constructive criticism that you’re able to share, and the leadership that comes out from people, you never would have expected.”

Varsity field hockey player and junior Hailey Kleiner said she has high hopes for the new batch of JV players and says she believes that the new coaches will be extremely beneficial to their learning process. 

“Speaking from experience, I know that many of the people who joined the JV team, especially the freshman, have no prior field hockey experience, so the coaches kind of have to start from the beginning,” Kleiner said. “I think that they might have a little bit of a rocky start, but I definitely think that over time they will get the skills and they will be able to work well together.”

Junior varsity field hockey coach Sonia Sethi (left) clarifies the importance of teamwork to junior varsity field hockey members Abby Wolf (right) and Amelia Finnis (far right) during a drill. (Photo: Ketan Altekar-Okazaki)

According to sophomore junior varsity field hockey player Isabelle Carlsen, she hopes the JV team will be able to develop teamwork skills with new coaches efficiently since teamwork on the field is just as important as working together off the field.

“My favorite part [of field hockey] is the team because you have to rely on each other on the field and communicate with one another,” Carlsen said. “It’s like a community where you can rely on each other and trust each other.”

Although this is her first season as a field hockey coach, Sethi is thrilled about for the season to come.

“I’m so excited to have these girls who are showing up, who are excited, who are committed and dedicated, and are full of a lot of spirit and willing to work hard.” Sethi said.

The JV field hockey team won their first game Aug. 31 against Wilcox and will face Cupertino Wednesday at home.