By Rich Fisher
It’s said that a person will always remember exactly where they were when receiving news of a monumental happening. Julie Reisig is no different when it came to such an event in her own little corner of the world.
The veteran Bordentown Regional High School field hockey coach has the moment frozen in time, the moment she learned that two enterprising women were about to provide her with a feeder system in the form of the new Bordentown Field Hockey League.
“Champagne didn’t enter my mind, but my reaction was sheer gratitude,” she said with a laugh. “I know exactly where I was and what I was doing when I found out. It was the third week in July (2015) on the (BRHS) field hockey turf, and I was wrapping up a weeklong field hockey camp we run through Community District Alliance (CDA) for the local youth.”
A parent asked Reisig if she could hand out flyers about the league, explaining that the plan was to spend a year fundraising, gauging interest and exploring facility options.
“I was thrilled to say the least, and have been spreading the word to everyone since,” Reisig said.
The Bordentown Field Hockey League, a recreation league for grades K-8, is the brain child of Fieldsboro resident Jamie Augustyn, a former player at Steinert who had a career at Mary Washington College cut short due to injury. She has two children, Nathan, 8, and Riley, 10. Riley plays field hockey.
Augustyn’s route to founding the new league had many twists and turns.
Augustyn was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes just after her 23rd birthday. She and her first husband had children early in their marriage, as it advised for diabetics to have children at a young age. After divorcing when Nathan was 3, Augustyn, who is now engaged, used her time as a single mom to introduce Riley to the sport she loves.
“In the back of my head, I was always thinking how important those years of playing field hockey were,” she said. “Field hockey gave me that confidence I needed as a young girl going into high school. I made friends, we bonded over grueling practices and weeklong camp stays in the summer. I would spend hours on end in the back yard with my collie, Maggie, practicing skills and shooting on goal.”
Augustyn said she did it because she loved it, not because she had to. She tried dancing, but it didn’t click like field hockey did.
She was good at the sport, which always helps, and her admitted low self-esteem got a huge boost. Knowing what athletics have done for her, she backs Nathan and Riley in all their endeavors.
“I have coached soccer, basketball and been involved with both my kids along the way, as I will support them anyway I can,” she said. “But field hockey, at least to me, is just different. It is special. Kids haven’t been playing since they were three, for the most part. Travel teams haven’t taken over the sport yet like soccer and softball. It is still kind of untouched.”
After Riley went to field hockey camp, she became hooked and Augustyn wanted to get her involved in a league. But there were only travel leagues available, which meant driving all over the state. As an accountant for an international, family-owned construction firm, her time was limited.
She then noticed a good turnout for the field hockey portion of the Bordentown CDA camp last summer, and that inspired her to “make this happen” in Bordentown.
Augustyn put out flyers to see if there would be interest and got encouraging feedback. At that point she met Reisig, who immediately pledged her support and has provided a wealth of information and guidance since last year.
Augustyn took the plunge in September and became founder and president of the BFHL. She attended town meetings, gathered information, set up a Facebook page and started seeking help. Although there was great interest, no one could offer the time it took until Kim Crowell reached out to Augustyn. They knew each other from their daughters playing softball together.
“I contacted Jamie after learning about the potential start from Julie Reisig,” Crowell said. “At one of the softball games we started making our first agenda for what would be our first official Board of Directors meeting.”
Crowell hails from Dover-Foxcroft, Maine and in 1996 moved to Bordentown, were she resides as a stay-at-home mom with husband Matt and daughters Jadyn and Haley. Crowell played field hockey in middle school and high school, and immediately threw herself into the Bordentown endeavor.
“I was so excited to finally have a partner,” Augustyn said. “Kim jumped in feet first as our vice-president and was really the catalyst we needed to get the league in motion. She has definitely been an intricate part in the process, probably more of a co-founder then just a board member.”
While Augustyn focuses on the marketing, the financial aspect and handling the paperwork, Crowell “really handles everything else.”
“She spends a lot of time with answering questions, managing the website, fields, uniforms, insurance, and everything else,” Augustyn said. “We have really been a dynamic duo at getting things done. Where I drop off, she picks up and vice versa. I have definitely found a great friend and trusted partner.”
Actually, it is a terrific trio as Reisig has taken a huge interest in the project. As a head field hockey coach for 16 years—the last seven at Bordentown—she understands just how important a youth league is to the town’s high school. As more kids go to college to play field hockey, more want to follow the same path.
“A rec league is an affordable alternative and gets sticks in the kids’ hands at an earlier age than was possible before in our community,” Reisig said. “We have an advantage at Bordentown where we can develop skill fairly quickly with repetition on the turf, but the confidence, poise and feel for the ball is greatly enhanced when the player is introduced to passing, receiving, dribbling and dodging at a young age.”
The coach was impressed with the preliminary planning done by Augustyn and Crowell. In an effort to save the organization money, she offered access to her entire library of coaching videos, books and drills. As coach of the Central Jersey U14 team for Olympic development, Reisig also provided Crowell with a summary of trends in USA Hockey. She will include both women in any coaching clinics the Scottie coaches attend or host, and is trying to find volunteers from a pool of BRHS graduates, several whom have already expressed interest.
The league is set up in three age groups: Seniors (6th-8th grade), Juniors (3rd-5th grade) and Minis (K-2nd grade). As of early July, there was one team in each group but Augustyn hoped the Minis and Juniors might add a team depending on registration.
While the long-term goal is to develop enough teams to make it an in-house league, the first-year teams will compete in the Burlington County League with Juniors games on Saturday and Seniors on Sunday. Each league will host a game each weekend, although it is still unsure if Bordentown will host in its first year. If enough teams form in Bordentown, interleague games will be played during the week.
Practices begin in late August, with opening day set for Sept. 10 for Juniors and Sept. 11 for Seniors, with the Minis likely playing on one of those two days. Bordentown will compete against other South Jersey teams.
Since the BFHL is independent of the town of Bordentown, girls from other municipalities are allowed to register as long as there is not a team available to them in their hometown that is already in the Burlington League.
“It really isn’t any different then the way Bordentown soccer does it,” Augustyn said. “All the teams come together through the midlands group from surrounding towns and make the schedule. Some towns only have one team and some have several.”
Augustyn said she could write a mini-series on her goals for the league. She wants to take things to the next level by providing an affordable program and bringing in experienced coaches and volunteers while getting strong parental support.
“I want to really teach these girls the sport of field hockey and make them love it,” she said. “I always say the most important thing about kids and sports is to teach them to love it. If they love it, like I did when I was a young girl, the skills and success will follow.
“I want to take each girl and help them to become the best field hockey player they can be. Everyone has different skill levels and abilities, I want to provide them with the tools and the will to get them where they need to go. These are life lessons that I believe are important for children to learn. Lessons that they will be able to transfer to their careers and future endeavors. Most importantly, I want them to look back on their field hockey memories and smile, as I do with mine.”
Crowell also has a goal in mind, thought it is one episode rather than a mini-series.
“My dream is that this league flourishes quickly,” she said. “With the positive feedback we have received thus far I think we are well on our way to achieving my dream. The support is awesome. We are so excited to be fully supported by both the entire high school and middle school. This is only the beginning for our Scotties program, we are here to help build field hockey in Bordentown.”
And no one is happier about that than Reisig.
“I’m just so happy someone had the motivation to start a rec league,” she said. “It’s exactly what the sport needs to thrive in our community as much as soccer, basketball and football thrive. They are doing a great service to the community, and they really have a great handle on how to attack this project.”
For more information on the Bordentown Field Hockey League, visit leagues.bluesombrero.com/bordentownfhl.