What turns a winning program into a dynasty?
’s field hockey program may be the answer, but is not the person to ask.
Although the Scouts enjoyed state title success last year in and girls , field hockey has more hardware in the trophy case.
Lake Forest teams or athletes have produced 42 state titles since 2000. The field hockey program has won seven of them.
“It’s pretty cool,” Walsh said of the team’s long-term success. “I wouldn’t hang that label (dynasty) on us. It’s not how we think of ourselves. The girls work very hard for their success. If somebody else wants to say it, that’s fine.”
The Scouts have won seven of the last 11 state championships awarded in Illinois and finished second the other four times.
Change in Focus
Some teams set a conference championship as their goal. The Scouts have primed for the state title game from the first day of the season, according to Walsh.
While the focus is changing this year to a more traditional “one-game-at-a-time” approach, Walsh attributes the historic success to solid feeder programs at , and . She also credits the year-round play and dedication of many of the athletes.
“Not every school has feeder programs. They (other schools) have to learn from scratch as freshmen,” Walsh said. “Ninety percent of the players play year round, including indoors. You can really develop your stick skills there” indoors.
Walsh is in her third year as head coach after 13 seasons as an assistant. Her first experience was as a player for the Scouts in her high school days 20 years ago.
Field of Their Own
She may not want to call the program a dynasty, but she likely recognizes intangibles that can help shape a winner, like playing home games on the front lawn.
“The team is really historic in Lake Forest playing on the front lawn,” said last spring. Nedeau co-captained the Scouts’ field hockey and soccer teams last year. She now plays field hockey at Boston College.
This year’s senior co-captains are no exception. and are making sure players understand the importance of the front lawn fields.
“It’s very important to us,” Sirus said. “It’s the best place for field hockey in the entire Midwest. People are out here at lunch with Frisbees and it’s ours. The front lawn is some place we’ll always be able to call home.”
Tradition Starts Early
Both the tradition and talent are bred at an early level both in school and club programs. Skinner was able to call the front lawn home when she played for under coach Mary Westre. The Lake Bluff program has been in existence for more than 20 years, according to Westre.
“It’s our home field too,” Westre said of the front lawn. “We don’t have a field, so we play on the front lawn. It’s so cool for seventh- and eighth-graders to play right next to high school players. It helps you show them what’s possible to be all they can be.”
Some budding stars begin playing field hockey in Lake Forest in junior high school and others start before like Sirus and Skinner. Sirus started in the New Vision Athletics program in third grade and Skinner joined a year later. Local tradition helped Skinner embrace the game.
“I’ve wanted to play here since I was in fifth grade,” Skinner said. “It’s (field hockey) really athletic and cool. I always wanted to be able to do it.”
The Scouts are out of the gates with a 2-0 start after shutout wins over Deerfield and . Walsh is nevertheless tempering the team's focus this year after a pair of runner-up finishes in the state tournament the past two seasons.
“We placed way too much pressure on the state (championship) game,” Walsh said. “A lot of pressure has been placed on that game. It’s a lot for a teenager. Losing the last two years really hurt. If they prepare for each game, they will be successful.”