Golden vision: U.S. field hockey great on value of playing many sports
By Greg Bach
Katie Bam’s legendary field hockey career – the high-scoring striker is playing in her second Olympic Games in Rio this week – was modeled in part by playing multiple sports throughout her child and teen years.
By blending natural talent with a passionate work ethic, and capitalizing on the skills she learned throughout those varied sports experiences, she has emerged as one of the nation’s most decorated field hockey performers.
And a real headache for opposing teams to defend.
“I would encourage anybody to play as many sports as possible because there are things you can learn in every sport,” says Bam, who led Maryland to a pair of national championships and is the school’s all-time leader in points, goals and assists. “I feel that I really learned my field sense from playing soccer and I learned my pressing from basketball. There are just so many things I learned from playing all those different sports that I have carried over with me into my field hockey.”
Growing up in Blue Bell, Pa., Bam loved trying all sports. “I was one of those kids who wanted to play every sport possible,” she says. “Basketball, baseball, tennis, karate – you name it – I probably played it.”
It’s a path that she sees fewer and fewer young athletes traveling these days.
“It’s so sad to see so many kids these days only going to one sport at age 11,” Bam says. “And I’m sure those kids are going to burn out. I played three sports in high school all the way through – lacrosse, basketball and field hockey.”
And she clearly turned out great.
Practice is where skills are taught and honed; teamwork is forged; and a deep love of the sport is developed.
So Bam urges youth sports coaches to not take these sessions with players lightly.
“Do your homework and have a plan,” she says. “Watch your games and take something away from there to work on in practice so you can help the kids improve. Make the most of the time you have with them.”
PRACTICING WITH A PURPOSE
“I always loved when coaches did little competitions,” says Bam, who was a two-time National Player of the Year while playing for the Terrapins. “If you do a single dribbling race, they go a long way because you need to learn dribbling. And when you add an element of competition you are pushing the envelope, you are trying to be faster and better than the person next to you while doing the skill properly. So for me anytime you add competition to a drill it immediately becomes fun.”
IMPACT OF COACHES
“I feel like you don’t really think about how a coach touches your life until you are well beyond those years,” Bam points out. “I look back at my first-ever field hockey coach and just thinking about how they organized everything and taught the basics that would carry us through so much. Those guys were the first to put the basics in my game, and thereafter all the people that I have been fortunate to be coached by have taught me tons of life skills off the field: about being a good teammate, about being a good person, showing up on time and all those important life skills.”
Bam was clearly a great student when it came to picking up those life skills, too. She is a past recipient of the Women’s Sports Foundation’s prestigious Sportswoman of the Year award.
WEARING THE RED, WHITE AND BLUE
“It’s pretty cool to be able to put on the jersey,” Bam says. “We don’t make a ton of money so I’m not doing it for the money. I’m simply doing it because I love doing what I do.”
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