While Philafieldhockey.com promotes only girls and women in Phila-area field hockey, that rule had to be broken for this groundbreaker!
Bucks County’s Christian DeAngelis is breaking ground in NCAA field hockey, having made a verbal commitment to Old Dominion University’s field hockey program, an NCAA Division I program. DeAngelis will serve as a practice player for the Monarchs, working out with the team as would any other player. And although he will not be participating in any NCAA-sanctioned matches or traveling with the team, DeAngelis’ role will be integral in the day-to-day training with ODU, a historically strong program in the Big East that topped reigning National Champion, University of Delaware, early in the 2016 season.
Practice players are typically more common for some NCAA sports, such as women’s basketball, and DeAngelis says that he’s “not sure there are others out there who have been or are current practice players for field hockey.”
“Historically a male student-athlete field hockey player would need to choose between relocating to the west coast or to move overseas. As a practice player, I am being provided a tremendous opportunity and path forward as a student-athlete at ODU. This may be helpful to others in the future as a viable third option.”
In February 2017, DeAngelis committed to ODU after a year of connecting with several college coaches on their thoughts regarding the role of practice players. “They openly shared valuable insights based on their experiences. Coach Griffiths (ODU Head Coach) was one of the coaches. He has a unique understanding based on his coaching accomplishments and years of playing with the Canadian Men’s National Team.” Ultimately, the opportunity to train at a high-caliber program such as ODU was part of DeAngelis’ college decision and a monumental step in reaching his ultimate goal of playing for the US Men’s Senior National Team. “I want to wear the USMNT team jersey while being an impactful and contributing player for the team.”
Since 2013, DeAngelis has earned a spot on the US Junior National Team and currently plays on the U-19 Men’s Junior National Team as a forward/midfielder. His international playing experience exceeds many of his soon-to-be teammates at ODU, including representing the Team USA in 2016 in home and away test matches versus the Canadian National Team and suiting up for ten test matches against several of the elite Dutch men’s clubs while touring with Team USA in the Netherlands. DeAngelis also competed in Toronto last summer during the 2016 Pan Am Junior Men’s Championships.
DeAngelis’ says his favorite USA Field Hockey moment was against Mexico in the quarterfinals at the Junior Pan American Championships in Toronto. “We were down late in the second half of the match 1-2, flying around the pitch applying intense ball pressure. We earned and converted on 2-penalty corners in the closing minutes for the come from behind 3-2 victory. That was an awesome feeling.”
Training with Team USA, DeAngelis says there is an emphasis on conditioning, technical and tactical training, as well as practicing proper nutrition and hydration — all of which he can continue with the Monarchs next year. Until then, DeAngelis will continue his strength and conditioning training in Doylestown and his technical and training through WC Eagles FHC, which he’s done the last two years and says “has been instrumental to my development with Richard, Jun and JaJa, Guy Cathro and Mark Foster.”
DeAngelis’ path to field hockey was, as it turns out, rooted in USA Field Hockey. “When I was in 8th grade (13), my entire family traveled to West Palm Beach, Florida in November 2012. My older sister Brianna was competing in Festival. You can imagine how exciting it was for me being in Florida at the Polo Grounds for field hockey matches throughout the Thanksgiving weekend. To my surprise, there was a segment during Festival called “Grow the Game” where boys were proactively encouraged to grab a field hockey stick, come out onto the field for an introduction to the sport. I was thinking ‘finally, I have something to do here and it really was fun.'”
Upon returning home, DeAngelis learned that his travel soccer club would not be competing during the winter; he had time on time on his hands, and “according to my parents, sitting around home was not a viable option. So, we went and spoke with Brianna’s field hockey club director at FSC, Michelle Finegan, who embraced the idea of me joining the club and allowed me to train with an entry level U14 indoor team. Even though we were an entry level team, it was a fun indoor season. My teammates and their families were all open and accepting of me training and then competing with them at indoor tournaments (with their opponents’ permission). Then, a spot opened up on a higher level U14 team and I jumped at the opportunity. The tournament was being played at The Training Center and was very competitive. When our final match ended, we were approached by Rutger Wiese, current U.S. Men’s National Team Head Coach, who had watched our matches and was wondering if I had any interest to train and play against boys.” Just a few weeks later, DeAngelis was back at The Training Center for his first outdoor weekend experience of training with the East Coast High Performance (ECHP) boys team and Coach Wiese, whom DeAngelis says he looks up to. “When you look over his body of work as a player and coach, Rutger practices what he preaches! For me this means taking care of my health, fitness and nutritional needs as well as concentrating on improving aspects of my game.”
DeAngelis attributes his love and development of the game to many who have opened the door for him to play. “I have been very fortunate to have such great clubs, coaches, teammates and families in the local area who are truly committed to growing the sport beginning with Michelle Finegan who provided my introduction to field hockey; Kelly Driscoll Broadway (Villanova) who helped me to advance over my first 3 years; X-Calibur coaches Brian Hope and Clarence Jennelle, who permitted me to participate in several open-play days and/or training clinics; Rennie Milne with Philly Hockey Club who allowed me to participate in training clinics and adult training, and again, the coaches at WC Eagles. ”
In addition to his club experience, DeAngelis was also a groundbreaker in high school as one of just a very few male players in the country. At Central Bucks West, DeAngelis was a member of the team for three years — as an official rostered player his freshman year and practice player his sophomore and senior years, after the league banned boys from playing in PIAA field hockey contests. His experience at CB West also allowed him to advocate participation in the sport for other boys/young men. “I strongly believe in promoting the game for everyone. For example, last year CB West and CB East hosted a joint field hockey clinic that was available for the community.”
At CB West, DeAngelis said his role was to work hard with and against the team to help them improve and grow as players. At times, he says, the coaches permitted him be a player/coach, helping to teach a few technical skills he’s learned over the years, such as the reverse chip, or to provide guidance in certain game situations. DeAngelis also enjoyed the rare opportunity to be on the team with his sister Brianna for two years. His younger sister, Anya, is following is his and Brianna’s footsteps as a CB West player; his mom played at neighboring rival, CB East. “I’m sure that there are not too many brothers and sisters that can say that they competed together on the same team at the high school level. It was fun to play with a family member; we both trusted each other on and off the field and knew that we would compete hard throughout practices and games. It was a great season together (18-4 overall; 12-2 league) and we advanced to a District Playoffs match against a very strong and talented Downingtown East team. Downingtown East had dominated and controlled the first half of the game while going into halftime with a 0-1 advantage. We were a 2nd half team; we came back strong and ended up winning the match 3-1. It was pretty exciting as I was fortunate to score 2 goals, which also turned out to be my only goals for the season and high school career.”
Come fall, DeAngelis’ parents will have two college programs to cheer for as Brianna is a goalkeeper at another Division I program, Lock Haven University. DeAngelis says he’s been blessed to have his family’s love and unconditional support with field hockey as well as for the opportunity to train with ODU. “First and foremost, my primary focus will be on what the ODU coaching staff and teammates need me to do. My secondary goals would be to work on specific aspects of my game that my USA and High Performance Coaches want to see developed. In college, I’m looking forward to participating with and against the different styles and skills of the team at Old Dominion. It’s really an honor. ”
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