Fun in Field Hockey
September 29, 2005
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa., September 29, 2005 - Before games Penn State field hockey head coach Char Morett gives her team a pre-game speech, goes over strategy and answers last-minute questions.
Then she has the team dance.
Most of the time they groove along to current jams they play on their boom box, but not always.
"Once I made them dance to `Build Me Up Buttercup,'" says Morett. "They forgot their radio and it was the only song I knew all the words to."
Dancing before games is just one way Morett gets her team to smile. A self-described intense disciplinarian, the longtime coach never forgets the importance of enjoying the game.
"I want my program to be about having fun," she says. "With that comes hard work and dedication. But I'm always upbeat at practice. I'm about getting better and doing it together."
Morett's ability to keep the positive energy flowing has led to a tremendous amount of success. The Hall of Famer recently won her 300th game at the University when Penn State defeated Temple, 5-0, on Sept. 14 in Philadelphia. Including her three years at Boston College, she had 330 career wins before the 2005 season even started, putting her in some very select company: Only three other Division I coaches have ever amassed more than 300 wins. Morett, a two-time Big Ten Coach of the Year has led her teams to three Big Ten titles, four Big Ten Tournament Championships, four NCAA Tournament Semifinal appearances and one trip to the national championship game. She has coached an All-American every year she has been at Penn State and seen five of her stickers garner Big Ten Player of the Year honors.
With so much team success it's hard for the Alden, Pa. native to put into words how she feels about her recent milestone.
"I'm just so proud to have done this at Penn State," Morett says in her office, which is stuffed with gifts and flowers from well-wishers, many of them appropriately blue and white. "To be a Penn Stater, to come back here and have the passion for this program and to feel the support of the university and the community is what makes this place so special."
Morett takes her pride in Penn State seriously. She arrived at the University in 1975 to play both field hockey and lacrosse. She is the only three-time All-American in PSU field hockey history and owns the single-game scoring record of five. On the lacrosse side she was a 1978 All-American and helped the Lions win two national championships. Morett went on to play in the Olympics, and earned a bronze medal in the 1984 Games in field hockey.
Morett doesn't like to talk about those individual achievements, which may be why her players sometimes underestimate her.
"I'll play defense on our forwards and they'll say `wow Char, you're really good.' I have to joke with them and say, `Didn't you know I played in the Olympics?'"
Morett actually made the 1980 team as well, but didn't participate due to the United States' boycott of those Games. She played at a time when Title IX was in its infancy, and as both a student-athlete and coach has helped Penn State improve its women's sports into one of the premier programs in the country.
"I had a great role model in [former field hockey and lacrosse coach] Gillian Rattray," says Morett. "I saw her work hard at making sure that we as a women's sport got the same opportunities and access that the men did. The success of the women's programs is so visible now and the community and University support those programs into becoming prominent on a national level."
Morett's program is certainly one of the more visible. Her teams are consistently ranked among the best in the nation, and this year is no different; the team debuted at No. 8 in the country, and has maintained its position near the top of the polls. Morett also makes sure her team is a positive influence in the community. Her Nittany Lions regularly participate in THON, and two years ago Kristen Miller was a dancer, raising the most money of any participating student-athlete.
The visibility has helped the team maintain its community support, and fans regularly come out to games to support the team. Attendance has been up this year at brand-new Astroturf Field, and once again, Morett deserves much of the credit.
"We were out running through campus the other day," says Morett, "and classes had just gotten out. I was leading the run and yelling out `Penn State field hockey tomorrow at 6!' My players were so embarrassed, but we had a lot of fun on that run."
For Morett and her team, that's what it's all about.