Kim Joler, the new Edward Little field hockey coach starts a team building exercise called Two Truths and a Fib with her team Tuesday morning on their field at Sherwood Heights Elementary School in Auburn. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)
AUBURN — The first practices of a new fall sports season are often plagued by uncomfortable heat and humidity, but not this year. Overcast skies and rain have welcomed the opening of the 2018-19 sports year, and that’s OK, according to the Edward Little field hockey team.
It’s also fitting for the Red Eddies, who are now under the reign of first-year head coach Kim Joler, who replaced longtime coach Greg Perkins.
Joler called the weather the first two days “perfect.”
“I think it’s fun kind of fun in the rain,” said Joler, who played for Perkins at EL. “You just got to watch your step every so often, and make sure you’re not going to create some injuries, but other than that it’s good in the rain. Yeah. Better than 95 degree heat.”
“I like it when it rains because it’s cooler … and I don’t have to worry about getting sunburnt,” senior Mikaela Scott said.
Just as the lower temperatures will help the players transition out of summer vacation mode and into regular-season mode — both mentally and physically — having Joler coach the team during summer scrimmages and conditioning sessions has helped the Red Eddies get acclimated to their new leader, and vice-versa.
“We’ve only had her for a little bit, but we have a lot of veterans on the team, and a lot of other coaches that are making the transition really smooth, so I think we’ll be good,” senior Megan Steele said. “We had a lot of scrimmages this year, more than we did last year, and I feel like as it went along we got a lot better as a team, and we incorporated the freshmen a lot better. I just thought it went well.”
“It was a really easy transition, and I got to know their personalities, I got to watch them play, and I definitely got to see their commitment, especially conditioning time,” Joler said. “Most of the field hockey girls, they really came out and definitely showed what they’re willing to do for their team.”
Joler has previous coaching experience at Dirigo, where she was an assistant under Gretchen Curtis a decade ago. She then moved to Auburn, where her daughter has been going through the developmental leagues. She teaches at Sherwood Heights Elementary School, where the Red Eddies practice and play, and said she would watch EL’s home games “every opportunity I had.”
This is Joler’s first head-coaching job, but she’ll take what she learned from Curtis, as well as input and advice from returning JV coach Elaine Derosby.
“I think that, first and foremost, (Gretchen) cares about her players, and that’s where I definitely want to take on, and just build them up,” Joler said. “And same thing with Elaine. I think that she knows them really well, and by knowing them and their skills, and what they’re capable of, you can kind of push them even further.”
The Red Eddies’ seniors, especially this year’s captains, have helped Joler in her new endeavor as well.
“Personally, I put a lot of pressure on myself to try to do my best because last year we really tried to have a lot of team bonding, so now it’s like a whole new thing with a new coach,” Steele said. “But I think it’s going really well so far.”
Scott, who admitted to not being the most vocal leader, said she realizes the need for the captains to help bridge any gap between new coach and both new and returning players.
“I mean, I still keep to myself, but I think I’m opening up a little bit more and starting to actually talk to players,” Scott said. “I’m working at it.”
Joler said having the summer off from teaching allowed her to plan heavily for her first season as head coach, but lamented “you can write fantastic practice plans, and once you hit the field it’s a little different. You got to adjust according to the skills, according to the conditioning, according to the weather, and kind of move on from there.”
The regular season is just two weeks away, and the home opener three weeks from Tuesday’s practice at Sherwood Heights. First, however, is a preseason scrimmage against Curtis and the Cougars next Monday.
“I love the fact that our first scrimmage is against Dirigo, so I get to see Gretchen again. And I get to see (my team) in action, and I think it’s going to be exciting,” Joler said.