By Trevor Wenners
Athletic Communications Assistant
MIDDLETOWN, Conn. – Some people develop an enormous passion for their careers, and as a result nothing can hinder their motivation to go to work every day.
A perfect example of this statement in action is Patti Klecha-Porter, who is entering her 33rd year as head coach of the field hockey program at Wesleyan this fall. The Greene, N.Y., native never gets content, as once August rolls around, she starts getting the itch about returning to her post on the sidelines.
|Patti Klecha-Porter's passion for the sport of field hockey has never wavered.|
"I love the fact that every year is a fresh start," Klecha-Porter said. "We have built up players, and now cannot wait to see what they are going to do the next year. I like to see what they retained from last year and what they did in the offseason to prepare for the new season. We are always excited about the freshman class being introduced to the team."
Klecha-Porter's imprints are all over the Wesleyan record book, guiding the squad to 13-win campaigns in 1999 and 2000, which is the most single-season wins in program history. The Cardinals also hosted the ECAC New England Division III Championships those seasons, while capturing the Little Three title in 2003.
Klecha-Porter, a highly-motivated teacher, has compiled 202 career wins. The Cardinals have qualified for the NESCAC Tournament 13 times and posted five winning seasons in conference action during her tenure. In 2002 and 2005, the unit advanced to the semifinals of the conference tournament.
Klecha-Porter, who is currently the longest-tenured head coach at Wesleyan, compiled an equally impressive playing career. The love for the game started in ninth grade at Greene Central High School, and then she developed into a team captain and MVP in field hockey and lacrosse at Ithaca (1977-80). Klecha-Porter, who competed in field hockey at the Olympic Sports Festival, ranks second in the all-time Ithaca record book in points (161), and third in goals (61) and assists (39).
She was named Senior Athlete of the Year and earned a bachelor's in physical education from Ithaca in 1981, and then was inducted into her alma mater's Sports Hall of Fame in 1986.
Klecha-Porter took some time to speak about her field hockey career, while also touching on the evolution of the game and favorite pastimes.
Q: What is your favorite part of being the head coach of the Wesleyan field hockey team?
A: I am a believer in the NCAA Division III philosophy, which includes educating, teaching and instructing. We tell the freshman class that we want to see improvements within freshman year, and then from their freshman year we want to make them better until their senior year. If someone masters a skill, then we raise the bar and do it quicker, faster and sooner. The most fulfilling thing as a coach is when we practice, rehearse and instill in them something, and then the team achieves exactly what we wanted them to do.
Q: What is the most difficult aspect to teach new college players?
A: The most difficult part is to be ready for the next play. Also, off-ball movement, and running efficiently and effectively is difficult to teach. On the sidelines, I am preparing the third defender of what is going to happen because I can see the play and break it down. I think they are narrow with their focus and need to expand the situation. We are really going to emphasize that this season.
Q: Could you reflect on winning the 1999 and 2000 ECAC New England Division III Championships?
A: The 1999 group was successful because they played as a team. If someone was not playing well, they let them know and that person picked it up. They were extremely competitive and showed that on a daily basis. It almost looked like the other team was in slow motion compared to us. The second year was interesting because we graduated quite a bit and that 2000 team heard someone say, 'Oh, you have big shoes to fill. This is going to be very difficult.' That group took it to heart and said, 'We are going to show you. We are going to be successful.'
Q: What is the most memorable moment from your playing career?
A: There was a game at Ithaca where we were losing 3-1 with five minutes left and that is when my determination came out of nowhere. It was like, give me the ball, and I scored three goals in less than five minutes. We walked away winning 4-3. Our coach was like, how did that happen? It is funny because the opposing goalkeeper and I coached together at a camp the next summer, and she remembers that entire game to the last five minutes. I said, 'It is not over until that final horn.'
Q: How has the game evolved since the start of your career?
A: The equipment has changed, as the touch on the sticks now is beautiful. The surface is strictly turf now. There has been a huge advancement on the movement of this game, being quicker, faster and stronger. We are allowing players to launch the ball 45 to 50 yards down field. It is difficult to get by a defender today because the surface is allowing an entire tackle, so we need to be smarter with our dodging and creativity. Goalkeepers are coming out on one-on-one situations so it makes the game very exciting to watch.
Q: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
A: I like to work out and enjoy being competitive with myself. I time myself on everything and it is a stress-relief activity for me. I want to see how good I can be and maintain my fitness level, but also it literally allows me to think and to relieve any anxiety or stress.
Q: Do you have a specific summer routine and how do you re-energize yourself each year?
A: My husband and I are into hiking. We did the Coast-to-Coast Walk in England one summer. I fish and that is another relaxing thing. What I like to do to get pumped up for the season is looking at immediately what we could have done better last season and those areas we start to target. Another thing that gets me excited is watching film. I observe some Divison I practices at Yale, so those are fun for me to see how we can use those drills at our level. I love creating the same concept but throwing it at the team in a different manner.