By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com Student Feature Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK - Penn State head coach Char Morett-Curtiss has had a love for competition since she was a 2-year-old playing board games or having snowball fights against her siblings. As she got older, she played every sport her older brothers played.
Morett-Curtiss competed in basketball, ice hockey and swimming. She also played against her siblings in backyard games and street hockey. In seventh grade, she wanted to find a sport to play during the fall season since that was her only off season.
"My high school had a junior high tryout for field hockey," Morett-Curtiss said. "I had a tryout that day and I remember coming home and I had my hockey stick. I had never seen a hockey stick before. I remember running through the door saying, 'I want to play field hockey! I want to play field hockey!' My dad asked what field hockey was and I told him I didn't really know, but this is the stick you use to play it."
As Morett-Curtiss balanced all of the sports she played, she began to stand out in field hockey and lacrosse. When Morett-Curtiss graduated high school, she decided to come to Penn State to play for both programs. She became the first of six siblings to attend a four-year college.
At Penn State, Morett-Curtiss quickly became a field hockey standout. She was the program's only three-time first team All-American, scored 50 goals in four years and was the captain of the undefeated 1978 team. Whether she was on or off the field, Morett-Curtiss said it was impossible to have a bad day at Penn State.
"I think what I loved about my experience was that my best friends from Penn State are still my best friends today," Morett-Curtiss said. "They all played different sports. Kids are always amazed how we were always so social without having phones to figure out where everybody was meeting. We had a training table after practice every season with the football players, the soccer players and the lacrosse teams. We always had those conversations planning what was going on that weekend and always found time to have some fun."
Morett-Curtiss also became the first Nittany Lion to record five goals in a single game against Bucknell.
"Being a forward I think what helped my field hockey was street hockey," Morett-Curtiss said. "Because it was a lot of three on three or four on four you had a lot of touches with your stick. Always trying to put the ball in the net was something I grew up playing street hockey. That helped me find the goal in college."
After graduating college in 1979, Morett-Curtiss competed with the U.S.A Field Hockey team in hopes to compete at the 1980 Olympics. With a boycott of the Olympic Games, Morett-Curtiss was forced to wait until 1984 before she could officially compete in the games in Los Angeles, California.
"I was really fortunate that I was young enough to be able to stay in the program," Morett-Curtiss said. "Knowing that the games were going to take place in Los Angeles was something we could really focus on in training. To have the opportunity to have my parents and family come to Los Angeles to show that support was something that really meant a lot to me."
Morett-Curtiss and the U.S.A Field Hockey team earned bronze at the 1984 Olympic Games. After competing in the Olympics, Morett-Curtiss turned to coaching.
In 1984, Morett-Curtiss was named head field hockey and lacrosse coach at Boston College. After her previous coach Gillian Rattray retired from Penn State, Morett-Curtiss did not hesitate to apply for the job at her alma mater.
"It was a dream come true for me," Morett-Curtiss said. "To be able to recruit kids to Penn State University that come with the same values and commitment to academics and athletics that I once did is something that is natural to me being a Penn State coach."
Current Associate Head Coach Lisa Love was a member of the field hockey team in Morett-Curtiss' first two years on the job.
"She came in with this high energy and high intensity passion for the sport," Love said. "We were all intimidated by her at first. She really cared about the sport and had a passion for the game that was contagious. She made us better people, which made us better players. I remember we always left practice feeling like we accomplished more than we ever could."
Since the time Morett-Curtiss began her coaching career, field hockey has become a much quicker game.
"There were rules like turning your back and being offside which really slowed the game down when I played," Morett-Curtiss said. "You couldn't lift your stick above your hip, which was really bad. I was taking a golf class my senior year so I was just used to taking my club back and then I would go to practice and I would take my stick back and that was a foul. But, the biggest change is AstroTurf. It has really sped up the game."
In her 29th season as head coach at Penn State, Morett-Curtiss has a 440-170-8 record and in just the last seven years, she has led the Nittany Lions to three Big Ten regular season titles, two Big Ten Tournament championships and six NCAA Tournament appearances.
With all of her success as both a player and coach, Morett-Curtiss will be inducted into the Pennsylvania Hall of Fame Saturday.
"I take a lot of pride in being a Pennsylvanian and growing up in Delaware County," Morett-Curtiss said. "The program from Delaware County nominated me for this. I am humbled and honored. There are so many people that I know inducted in there. I am just excited that my sister is coming up from Florida and [Love] and Stuart [Smith] will be there to support me along with my husband, Doug. That's what will make it special for me."
Although Morett-Curtiss is not competing against her siblings in backyard games anymore, field hockey has given her that family-feeling for over 30 years."I just love what I do," Morett-Curtiss said. "I am fortunate that I have [Love] and Stuart around me that makes this atmosphere, just like the Olympic team did for me in 1984, like a family atmosphere. You influence each other, trust each other and enjoy each other's company. I think that's what I love most about field hockey. It's really given me that family feel in my life."