Halle Besler’s high school athletic career was pretty much mapped out from birth.
Yes, she could play whatever she wanted in the spring and winter. But she would play field hockey in the fall and it would be at Notre Dame High School.
It’s not like she was being forced to do it. It was just, well, a desire to follow the family tradition.
Jessica Besler played high school field hockey in Philadelphia and was good enough to play for Rider University. Her husband, Scott, was a football player at Notre Dame, and several of his siblings also attended ND. Jessica now works in the school’s alumni department. Their daughter and Halle’s older sister, Ryan, just graduated from Notre Dame last year after playing. . . yup, you guessed it.
“I started playing field hockey at five years old in a rec league,” Halle said. “I don’t really remember how it was when I started. It was such a young age. My mom just really encouraged me and she coached the rec league and stuff, so I was going to the practices anyway. And Ryan played varsity here since her sophomore year.”
And although she lives in Bordentown, the Scotties never had a shot at getting Besler on their team.
“It’s like a big family, with Notre Dame,” she said. “Ever since I was little it was like ‘Oh, Notre Dame!’ So it’s really exciting I get to follow in their footsteps and I have a whole family background here.”
She is following those footsteps to a tee, as Halle, like Ryan, has procured a starting job in just her sophomore year. It happened quite by accident. She was late to the first scrimmage due to driving Ryan to college. First-year head coach Cheryl Harris can take it from there.
“She didn’t play the first 15 minutes,” Harris recalled. “We didn’t think anything of it at the time, and we said ‘All right, we’ll put Halle in. And then our whole game changed with her in there.”
It changed for the better of course, as the Irish discovered a quality defensive midfielder. It is a new position for Besler, who had been an offensive player coming up through the ranks.
“Last year she was a freshman on the JV, and she played offensive mid there,” Harris said. “Our offensive mid is great this year, she’s been on varsity for four years, so I wasn’t taking that position away from her. So I said, ‘OK, let’s see where we can put Halle’ and she fit very well and I’m thinking next year she’ll probably be offensive mid again. But right now she’s doing this job and she’s doing it well.”
Living on the Bordentown-Florence border, Besler played in the Florence recreation league and credited that experience with forming good habits.
“They helped me a lot and showed me how important the sport is and how each player contributes to the team aspect of it,” Besler said. “It showed me how much of a team sport it really is.”
Since basketball is her favorite sport, Halle never went on to club hockey since she was playing travel hoops. But even there, she felt it helped her hockey skills.
“Basketball is actually really similar to field hockey with the whole passing and getting open type of thing,” she said.
Besler played forward in field hockey before arriving at Notre Dame, and requested to try center-mid on the JV “because I wanted to touch the ball more.” Little did she realize that midfield would become her home on the opposite side of the field this year. And she has adapted beautifully.
“It’s as if this is where she’s been playing all the time.,” Harris said. “You’d have never known any different. She never showed anyone if she was upset about the move. I think she was just happy to be in the starting lineup at this level. I don’t think she realizes how good she is.”
So, just how good is she?
“First off, that girl has no fear whatsoever,” the coach continued. “She’s got great stick skills, she’s aggressive, she recovers. She runs back and forth the entire game. You will never see her saying ‘Get me out of the game.’ She’s in our defensive corners, our offensive corners. She’s an all-around talented player. I’m so excited we have her for a couple more years.”
As adept as Besler has looked playing in the back, she did admit it took some adjusting.
“It’s an adjustment because offensively you’re running on to the ball and defensively you’re waiting for it; so it’s a little different but I like it a lot,” she said. “I see the field a lot more. Being back on defense I can see how everything develops. It’s like now I know how each player on the field moves and what their job is supposed to be.
Harris feels that while it’s slightly easier to go from offense to defense, that doesn’t mean it’s just plain easy.
“It’s harder to go from defense to offense than it is to go from offense to defense, because on offense you have that ball coming from behind you, and on defense you have the ball in front of you so you can see the whole field,” the coach said. “On offense you’re kind of blinded because you’re in front of the play.
“But still, it’s hard to do both and I feel she absolutely has that ability because she’s just fearless. She’s not afraid to try new things. She’s very coachable. She’s a competitor, she wants to win.”
It’s good that she’s coachable, since she has a couple coaches—one at ND and one at home.
“Yeah, on the ride home my mom is still making sure I’m knowing what to do and things like that,” Besler said. “She’s still coaching me from the sidelines. You can definitely hear her during the game.”
Meanwhile, her dad says very little, which is usually the norm when it comes to field hockey. Dads can’t yell because they can’t figure out what all the whistles mean.
“That’s exactly my dad,” Besler, who has an affable, fun-loving way about her, said with a laugh. “He’s always calming my mom down because he doesn’t understand it.”
But he certainly enjoys it, as the family tradition continues to be upheld.