By Kathleen Harte Simone
June 26, 2015
Take a look at the college field hockey rosters throughout the US, the names on the back of USA Field Hockey jerseys, the line-ups of many of the top field hockey clubs in the nation, and the high school players earning national and regional recognition. You’ll see the names of many, many Phila-area athletes – field hockey players who have had the opportunity to develop their skills and passion, thanks to the many outstanding programs, clubs, and playing opportunities in the suburbs. It’s fair to say that the Philadelphia area is the hot bed of the women’s game. In fact, more than a third of the USA Field Hockey’s outdoor and indoor teams are comprised of athletes who hail from the Philadelphia area. Quite impressive. But…not so inspiring if you live within the city limits of Philadelphia where field hockey is limited to a handful of public and independent high schools, most without JV programs; no clubs; and few league opportunities.
If it’s up to Jazmine Smith, Founder of Eyekonz Sports, that’s all going to change. Smith launched her program last August with the focus on shaping kids’ lives through nontraditional sports – field hockey in particular — in the city. Her goal: develop each child to his or her full potential as an athlete and a person and systematically empower student-athletes to become leaders through sports.
“What these kids witness in their everyday lives in an urban community is different,” shared Smith. “(Eyekonz) builds on the concept of creating opportunity for them – on teaching them not only about field hockey but also about their history and their culture, and about self-esteem and self-discipline. I aim to give them the skills they will need to succeed in life.”
Smith’s passion for the program and more so, the girls, is contagious and has quite a rooting section. Not only do the 160 players, grades K-5, who play in the Saturday afternoon league embrace Smith and her values, but City Hall officials, Drexel University’s field hockey team whose players volunteer at clinics, and USA Field Hockey who supports the program under its Fundamental Field Hockey program, support Smith in her mission.
More so, in conjuntion with the Olympic Association, Eyekonz will host Olympic Day – one of 700 events nation-wide celebrating the origin of the Olympic Games. This event will be held this Sunday, June 28 from 1:00 – 5:00pm at the Shepard Recreation Center Field, 57th and Vine Philadelphia. Honored guests include Tracey Arndt, a five-year member of the U.S. National Field Hockey team, and Anthuan Maybank who anchored the U.S. men’s gold-medal winning 4 x 400 meter relay at the 1996 Olympics. Olympic Day will also include games, music, food and the highlight: Eyekonz field hockey players in action.
In addition to skills and drills at the leagues and clinics, Smith has already expanded to seven charter schools (with more on the horizon) with its curriculum-based program which includes: African/Kemtic /African-American History, Etiquette, Mediation/Yoga, Conversation of Self Love, Daily Affirmations, Financial Literacy, Creating Dream boards, Healthy Eating and Lifestyle choices. Players are also required to give back to their neighborhoods with eight hours of community service. Reports cards are reviewed by Smith and her volunteer staff; 32 percent of participants’ grades have risen in less than a year.
“We offer this unique approach to our league to create a platform for success within our community and providing the necessary tools to foster the next generation to achieve whatever they put their mind to,” added Smith.
Smith was born in North Philadelphia but moved to the Main Line at age four where she quickly developed a passion for the game at a Radnor Township rec league. She was later coached by the great Phyllis Kilgore at Radnor High School and earned a scholarship to Kutztown University, where she played both field hockey and basketball. After college, she worked in marketing in Los Angeles with Kobe Bryant, a friend from the Main Line, but returned home for personal reasons, one of which was to start Eyeknoz Sports. Lucky for the young girls of Philadelphia who have embraced the sport and Smith’s mission.
To find out more, including playing opportunities and how to get involved, visit Eyekonz website here.
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