MIDLOTHIAN, Va. (WWBT) - This fall will be unlike any other for high school student-athletes. Under normal circumstances, many would be well into fall camps by now preparing for their first competitions. COVID-19 has postponed most fall sports until the spring in Virginia, but some local organizations, such as Panthers United Field Hockey Club, are helping athletes get onto the field.
Many of the athletes, however, are still getting over the sting of having their fall seasons postponed.
“A lot of shock,” recalls Emerie Loftis, a senior goalkeeper from Trinity Episcopal. “It was something that me and my teammates had been looking forward to for the past three years.”
“I was really sad,” added Madelyn Curtis, who plays midfield and defense at Collegiate. “My favorite season is the fall, to be able to play for Collegiate and with my team.”
But not all is lost for these student-athletes. Clubs like Panthers United, which welcomes members from throughout the area, are giving field hockey players the chance to take aim at the cage. The club has groups for all age ranges.
“Biggest thing for us, providing a new outlet, is just getting the kids out of the house,” Annie Zinkavich, one of Panthers United’s coaches. “Trying to keep it as normal as possible, while staying safe.”
“I’m so grateful,” added Loftis. “Our coaches here are amazing and we get to do so much training, and it’s nice to have training outside of school, too, because we get to meet kids from all other areas.”
Those being recruited to play at the college level and trying to earn scholarship offers are trying to keep their skills sharp. Loftis will attend the University of Delaware to further her academic and field hockey career, beginning in the fall of 2021. Curtis is hoping to pull in some more offers during her junior season.
“What we’re trying to provide is playing opportunities so that they can compete and hopefully maybe get some film to send out to colleges while there’s not a lot going on,” said Zinkavich. “If they’ve already been recruited, now they’re just in preparation mode. If they haven’t been recruited yet, it’s kind of do-or-die mode. How do I get noticed without any play going on?”
“It’s nice to be able to just work on your stick skills with your friends, and have drills. The coaches do great drills,” Curtis noted. “It’s good to have other people telling you what to do, rather than just doing skills on your own.”
Panthers United allows players to get work in against each other, but the club also is hosting a high school league to provide a competitive opportunity for players in the absence of a high school season.
Above all else, the club is providing young student-athletes to get out and play the game they’re passionate about.
“Field hockey has always been my biggest passion,” said Loftis. “It’s something I really love to do and I spend most of my time doing it.”
Her club teammate, Curtis, agrees.
“To be able to have a team of people who feel like your sisters and your friends and have such a special bond, that’s my favorite part.”
For more information on Panthers United Field Hockey, click here.
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