by Tom Utescher
When Germantown Friends School girls take up their field hockey sticks for their first practice next Monday, it’ll be under the guidance of a new head coach, Dana White.
Originally from Pottstown, Pa. and one of a groundbreaking group of female athletes at the historically all-male Hill School, White went on to play collegiate hockey at Colgate University, where she became team captain and a regional All-American in her senior year.
After graduating from Colgate in 2006, she enjoyed a peripatetic lifestyle in Europe along with her husband, Jeremiah, who was playing professional soccer there at the time. He’s also a Philadelphia area native – a Haverford School product who went on to play for Wake Forrest University before going abroad. Returning stateside towards the end of 2010, the couple settled in Elkins Park.
White had a lot of experience training young hockey players at sports camps, and also worked one-on-one with individuals looking to hone their skills. Eventually, she decided it was time to jump back in with both feet, and while looking about for job openings as a hockey coach, she came across news of the vacancy at GFS.
“With my husband and I both having private school backgrounds, it was an interesting opportunity,” she related. “The more I learned about the school and its athletics program, the more I liked it.”
Growing up in Pottstown, White played a number of team sports and ran track, as well. She first tried field hockey in seventh grade at her local middle school, and quickly took to the sport. Two years later, White became a prep school pioneer when she enrolled at the Hill School, which was beginning to admit female students after spending its first 146 years as an all-male institution.
“I was actually part of the first class of girls to complete high school there,” she noted.
After her successful college career at Colgate, she and her husband went abroad as he pursued his pro soccer options in several countries. She didn’t really have occasion to pick up a hockey stick while the couple were living in Poland and in Saudi Arabia, but she found more of an opportunity to play at the adult club level during the several years they spent in Denmark.
“A lot of it was indoors, and it’s different from our indoor hockey in the U.S., but the basic skills are the same,” White said.
Back in the U.S., she went to work in the financial department of an advertising agency in center city Philadelphia, so in the afternoons it won’t be difficult for her to get to her new job at GFS.
Serving as a valuable liaison between the Tigers’ new skipper and her players is Dana Griffin, the longtime assistant coach for the Germantown Friends stick squad. The two have more in common than their first name; while White was playing hockey at Colgate, Griffin was on the team at another Patriot League school, Lehigh University.
Before getting into tactical details, White will obviously need to become familiar with her team and league in which the Tigers compete. Still, she’s going in with some important general goals for her athletes.
“You want to have them realize the importance of the team concept,” she stated. “You will always have some individuals with very good skills and natural ability, but they can’t achieve success on their own. There are different roles on a team, and everybody’s role is important.”
She continued, “I also want to make sure that the lines of communication are always open, between the coaches themselves, and between the coaches and the players. Everyone needs to understand how we’re going to put all the pieces together to make a perfectly-functioning field hockey playing machine.”
Over the summer, some of the GFS players have been participating in pick-up games hosted by Bryn Mawr’s Shipley School, which has won six of the last eight Friends Schools League Championships. Academy of the New Church currently holds the FSL title, which was last won by GFS in the 2003 season.
White has attended several of those summer sessions and has gotten to know some of her new charges.
“They seem very motivated and excited to get going,” she reported, “and I’m really looking forward to working with them.”