Virginia Wesleyan University welcomes new Head Field Hockey Coach Ryley Van der Velde, a former Division III field hockey player at Connecticut College who majored in Human Development. She is in the process of getting her master’s in Mental Health Counseling. Van der Velde will have the advantage of being a support system for her players.
Van der Velde values the tight-knit community of the athletics department and “the relationships between coaches and programs stood out the most, everyone is competitive and pushing each other to be better,” Van der Velde said.
Van der Velde started her coaching career off on the collegiate DIII level as an assistant coach at Salve Regina University. Then, she fell in love with coaching and continued her coaching experience at the high school level at Rocky Hill Country Day School in Rhode Island.
Van der Velde is aware that the program is small, however, she is optimistic and ready to push the program to reach new heights. “My mentality coming in is a fresh start, we’re starting new and working towards putting Virginia Wesleyan on the map for Field Hockey” Van der Velde said.
Van der Velde aspires to create a program based on a strong sense of player-coach dynamics on and off the field. Van der Velde said, “A culture where relationships are at the forefront; the coach cares about us and the players care about the coach, that’s the culture I am trying to build.”
Van der Velde holds personal connections within the team as highly important to strengthen player bonds on the field. “When small things happen within games, those relationships within the team build resiliency,” Van der Velde said.
Van der Velde talks attainable short term goals in hopes of developing the Field Hockey program into a competitive threat on the ODAC level which involves bringing in the right athletes that have strong work ethic and passion for the sport. Van der Velde said, “The goal right now is to keep recruiting talented athletes that are going to buy into the culture that I am starting to build here and push the program forward.”
A junior on the Field Hockey team, Catherine Dozier said, “Within her first week of being here Coach Van der Velde took the time out of her day to get to know each of us personally and wanted to know everything there was to know about us.” She also added,“I am excited to go into my senior year with Coach V, she really is going to be the change that we needed.”
Dozier thinks that the dynamic that she brings is really going to make the team feel like a family.
A sophomore on the Field hockey team, Maddy Gonsalves said, “it is already evident during our first few meetings that she is a big fan of our already established components of accountability, maturity and teamwork.”
The communication between Van der Velde and the players show mutual respect for each other and the passion for the sport.
Gonsalves values Van der Velde’s ideal culture for the program because it shows that she cares about her players as more than just athletes. “Since she was a college athlete herself, she understands how hard it can be some days and the pressure we are under. Within just a few weeks of her arrival, she’s already given us so many resources to take care of ourselves mentally as well as physically,” Gonsalves said.
Coach Van der Velde’s arrival has the whole team excited. Gonsalves said, “I know that the rest of my teammates and I are ready to tackle our 2022 season with Coach V and bring home some wins to our Marlins!”
The Field Hockey program is seeing the start of a flourishing remodel as Coach Van der Velde strives for success with her newfound Marlin family.
By Mikayla Szudera