On a brand new turf field just behind the 1000 Building at Bridgewater-Raritan High School Monday night, Bobby Issar had his class’ full attention.
The topic was field hockey, and the way Issar explained it, close to 60 girls and seven boys never let their eyes stray despite the 90 degree temperatures.
Issar directed the camp, sponsored by the American Field Hockey Foundation (AFHF) and Bridgewater Recreation. American Field Hockey Foundation is a non-profit organization founded by Issar, a former national player and coach. He also founded the Milltown-based Spirit Eagles Field Hockey Club, a team many Bridgewater-Raritan players are members of in the winter and fall.
Some of those youngsters were part of the camp, which ran between 6 p.m. and 7:30. The camp is free and will be held on the same field next Monday (July 23) and the first two Mondays in August – Aug. 6 and 13. Though mostly made up of Bridgewater and Raritan Borough kids, Peter Alvarez, a board member of the American Field Hockey Foundation, said that any town interested in having free clinics could apply to have one.
“Any varsity coach, recreation head, they should reach out to Bobby (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com,” said Alvarez, adding that USA Field Hockey supplies the sticks, balls and other equipment needed — equipment a host clinic can keep for their town and school.
Alvarez checked in all of the players –two of them were his daughters — former Bridgewater-Raritan player Haley Alvarez, now playing at Brown, and daughter Lindsay, who’ll return in the fall to play for the Panthers.
“He just wants to give back to the community and sport,” said Bridgewater-Raritan coach Kathy Debonis of Alvarez.
That was also a reason that many former Panther players came. Haley Alvarez was joined by Carly Dragon (C.W. Post), Kendall Deck (University of New Hampshire), Taylor Luke (Albany), Christine Germanske (Muhlenberg), Katie Fanning (Rider), Samantha Sherman (Hamilton College, N.Y.) and Maria Caro (William and Mary). Kayla Sullivan, who graduated from Bridgewater-Raritan last month, will be play at Bucknell.
A scrimmage between the Panther alumni — with seven former all state players on the field at the same time — and current team was a feature of the clinic. The primary objective was to promote and spread the good word of a sport that Issar has been part of as a player and coach at the national level for more than 23 years.
The alumni complemented Issar’s and assistant Marc Waldron’s tutoring.
“You want to keep the stick and ball in front of your body. That’s it,” Luke suggested to one of the boys taking part.
Issar, who lives in North Brunswick, huddled the youngsters together and pointed out proper stance, ball handling technique and ball possession.
“You want to go at a pace where you can control the ball and keep the stick and ball together,” he said. “Bend your knees, drop your eyes, this is the hockey position. Now look up, you can see the game.”
Later he pointed out the finer points of stick holding: “Do you want a balloon shake, a hand shake, a milk shake?” then later ‘how do you open a door with your left hand? You want to play the ball with the flat side only’ he beamed as one of the boys followed the directions — nearly perfectly.
Bridgewater-Raritan teams have made the NJSIAA Group IV final seven straight years, but in every one, the Panthers have been beaten by Eastern. Everybody agreed that the clinics will serve as a big assist to the B-R program, but the reason for the camp is to educate and introduce any youngster eager to learn and play the sport. Debonis said children at the clinic were between the first and eighth grades besides her current players.