Women’s History Month: Meredith Long (Rutgers Field Hockey Coach)
Added by Shannon Hovan on March 29, 2012.
Back to the college ranks we go as we continue our Women’s History Month celebration. Meredith Long is in her first year as the head coach of the Rutgers University women’s field hockey program. Earlier this month, we interviewed a Rutgers student athlete, soccer captain Tricia DiPaolo. Today we feature Meredith Long and talk to her about coaching and field hockey in general.
One hears of young girls getting involved in sports at a young age by playing basketball, or soccer, or softball, most commonly. How did you begin playing field hockey, and when was the moment where you thought, “I love this game. I want to spend my life being involved in this sport?”
I grew up in Ocean City, NJ where there is a very strong tradition of field hockey. Trish LeFever, the Ocean City High School coach worked closely with the middle school coach Barbra Henzel to create a strong feeder program to the high school. I loved field hockey the moment I picked up a stick. Having such amazing women coach and develop me at a young age definitely had a big influence on my decision to pursue coaching as a career.
In your eyes, how has the game grown since you began playing?
The game has grown immensely since I began playing. There are so many more playing opportunities for young women, especially in New Jersey. I think there are more middle school/high school programs in New Jersey than anywhere else and our club field hockey programs are consistently some of the best!
Building on the previous question, how has the talent changed since you started playing? Further, how competitive and expansive has recruiting become? (Your first recruiting class includes a player from Canada).
I think the game has evolved tremendously in the last few years, especially with some of the rule adaptations, particularly the implementation of the self-play rule. The young players coming up are far more skilled and the game is being played at a much higher pace. There is really no stoppage of play anymore. It has become a much more exciting game for fans!
Meredith Long (L) coaching Gia Nappi. Photo credit: Tom Ciszek
After playing and coaching in Boston, Maryland and Vermont, how does it feel to have your first head coaching position be at a well-admired school in your home state of New Jersey?
I am truly honored to be the head coach at Rutgers in my home state of New Jersey. Rutgers is my home in every sense. My parents grew up and met right down Route 18 in South River and dad graduated from Rutgers and Rutgers Law School. I share the same values and vision for the field hockey program as Rutgers Director of Athletics, Tim Pernetti. Rutgers is truly a special place and I am very fortunate to be surrounded by so many great people genuinely committed to the success of this program.
What is your view on the growth of women’s sports in the US? The WNBA has been a league for 15 years now, while the WPS (Women’s Professional Soccer) has recently stopped play for the second time since its inception. Do you think women’s sports can expand and thrive?
I do believe women’s sports, especially field hockey, can grow and thrive in the US. It already is. We really need to get more players/coaches/umpires/fans involved in promoting the sport.
Do you think Women’s Field Hockey can some day be supported in the same way that the WNBA has, for example?
There is a growing community of people here in the US committed to growing the sport of field hockey and working very hard to do so. There is a lot of excitement surrounding the USA Women’s Team beating Argentina in the Pan American games to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in London. My hope is that one day field hockey will be a widely publicized sport and players like Kelly Smith-Puzo, Katie O’Donnell, and Rachel Dawson will be household names!
What are your expectations for your first year as the head field hockey coach at Rutgers?
My expectations this year are really to compete and improve in the Big East Conference. The culture and expectations have really shifted and I am excited about the foundation we are building here at Rutgers.
What are your long-term goals as the head field hockey coach at Rutgers and how do you want your program to be viewed?
I want to build a strong culture of winning here at Rutgers. This is going to be a program that top players are going to want to be a part of, I can guarantee that.
What advice would you give to young women who want to pursue coaching?
We need more young women becoming involved in coaching at every level. There are so many great opportunities to become involved in this sport and plenty of great coaches to get you involved. Reach out, meet people, and give back to the sport that gave you so much. We really do make a difference!
Meredith (c) coaching at Rutgers with Jenn Staab (right) and Gia Nappi (left). Photo credit: Tom Ciszek
Follow the latest happenings of Rutgers Field Hockey on Twitter, @RUFieldHockey
Previous Women’s History Month Interviews: