After a 0-0 tie with Oak Park-River Forest left Lake Forest High School's field hockey team with an 8-2-2 record on Sept. 26, coaches Melanie Walsh and Julie Chantler decided the Scouts needed some positive reinforcement.
Walsh and Chantler started awarding stickers to be placed on the players’ sticks for specific achievements in each game as well as a Spirit Stick to the most valuable player in each game.
The Scouts responded by going on a nine-game winning streak, including Tuesday’s 6-0 State Tournament quarterfinal victory over Glenbard West on the Front Lawn to land in the Final Four for the 12th straight year.
Lake Forest (17-2-2) plays Oak Park-River Forest at 1 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28, in the semifinals of the Illinois High School Field Hockey Association State Tournament in Glenview. Friday's winner will meet for the state title at 1 p.m. Saturday at the same site. The losers meet in the consolation game at 11 a.m.
“Kids like positive reinforcement and winning wasn’t enough,” Walsh said. “We were yelling and being negative so the four of us (Walsh and Chantler along with senior captains Katie Skinner and Abby Sirus) came up with this.”
Recognition Boosts Team Spirit
Skinner was quick to ratify the plan and display the numerous red stars on her stick. As a captain, she knew the team was not playing to its potential in the first half of the season.
“We needed a boost. The stickers and (Spirit) Stick turned it around,” Skinner said. “These (the red stars) are for defensive stops. I don’t score that much and the stars show I make a difference.”
Sophomore Mackenzie Mick, who had two assists against Glenbard West, was proudly holding the Spirit Stick after Tuesday’s game. It was the first time she earned the award. She is proudest of the numerous letter Y’s on her stick that embody spirit.
“It’s for yelling the loudest encouragement,” Mick said. “My team cheers me on and I want to give back to them.”
Fourteen of the stickers on Kelsey Adams’ stick continually remind her of a personal goal she has been trying to achieve. She has been on an individual scoring binge with 11 of her 14 goals coming during the winning streak, trailing teammate Halle Frain by one goal for most goals this season.
One is most important.
“This one,” Adams said pointing to a wild frog. “It reminds me of the winning goal against New Trier,” a 1-0 victory on Oct. 4.
Team Chemistry Translates to Field
Adams, Skinner and Mick all point to team chemistry as one of the elements propelling the Scouts on their winning streak and into the Final Four. The stickers and Spirit Stick have helped build team unity.
“We’re always hanging out together. We are at each other’s houses and go to the football games together,” Mick said. “The seniors drive us.”
Walsh and Chantler have helped the chemistry along. During an early season tournament in St. Louis, the players all gathered in a circle in one of their hotel rooms.
“We pulled someone’s name out of a hat,” Skinner said. “We had to tell everyone something positive about that player. We got to know each other better. It helped us bond.”
The chemistry built in hotel rooms and on social occasions has translated into better team play on the field. The Scouts have come to know each other’s moves so they know what to do when one of them is advancing the ball.
“No one can break the way Skinner can,” Adams said. “I know exactly what she is going to do.”
The defensive effort was evident Tuesday as the Scouts kept Glenbard West on its half of the field for 48 minutes of the 60-minute game.
“We pushed up so much more,” Walsh said of the effort. “We began at the 50 instead of the 25 to give our defense a very aggressive approach.”