Oct. 18, 2010
In the world of USA field hockey, Tracey Fuchs is the one to meet -- and beat. The 44-year-old Northwestern coach has been the face of USA field hockey since the '80s. After a standout college career, 17 years on the USA National Field Hockey team and 13 years of coaching, Fuchs remains devoted to the sport and is in the midst of leading the Wildcats through their most successful season in over a decade.
Below, Fuchs goes ON THE RECORD with former Northwestern field hockey player Alison Bullock, giving her thoughts on topics ranging from her current squad to her certified knowledge of ornamental grasses.
Q: How did you get into field hockey?
A: I grew up as a die-hard [New York] Rangers fan, in ice hockey, but they didn't have very many rinks where I was. So field hockey was the closest thing to ice hockey, and both of my older sisters played, so I was following in their footsteps. Aside from the skirts, I fell in love with the sport.
Q: That skirt thing seems to have translated over to the Northwestern team; I noticed a change in uniform.
A: There are traditions that are great; I just don't think that putting women in skirts because they're dainty and they need to look more ladylike is the right reason to wear that as part of your uniform. We're out there, we're diving around and we're athletes first, we're nice young ladies after the game.
Q: What is one thing that your players at Northwestern would be surprised to know about you?
A: That I grew up playing the flute for about six years. They probably wouldn't know that.
Q: So they know everything? It must be a pretty transparent system you've got here.
Q: In hindsight, how do you feel almost two years after saying "yes" to accepting your first head coaching job?
A: (laughs) Well again, the Internet, all they have to do is Google, and they know my stats better than I do.
A: I think it was a great decision because Jim [Phillips] took a small risk on me. I didn't have any head coaching experience at the collegiate level, but I had it at the U.S. Under-21 level.
I fell into a great situation here, with the city of Chicago and Northwestern being a top-12 school in the country.
It was really a great job to take.
Q: How did you decide on your coaching staff?
A: That was done in about 10 minutes. When they hired the new coach at Michigan, Carla [Tagliente] and I both knew that she wanted a completely new staff. April [Bertin] had already been a volunteer coach here and I coached her for four years and played with her for two years on the national team, so in such a short time to have such a great staff with the credentials that we all have was really awesome.
Q: What challenges have you faced so far as head coach?
A: Honestly there haven't been that many challenges. Coming from Michigan, the academic standards may be slightly higher here, but so far I've almost been challenge-free which is really nice.
Q: I've heard that you and Megan Jamieson order the same meal about 90 percent of the time when the team goes out to eat. What's the deal with that?
A: Megan just wants to be like me in any way possible. She waits. Sometimes she'll ask April or Carla what I'm eating but when it comes down to it, we're both meat-and-potatoes girls.
Q: What is your favorite pump-up song?
Billy Joel's "Pressure." I don't know why. If it wasn't that, it would be one of the Barry Manilow songs, but I can't have that in print.
Q: Home Depot recently ended their sponsorship program with Olympic athletes. What was it like working there while you were training for the Olympic games?
I was one of the only players to get a forklift license. I was also "nursery certified" after my two or three years there, so I've learned a lot about grass seed, perennials, and annuals.
Q: What has been your favorite country to play in and why?
A: I would say Australia and South Africa. I was able to play in Australia in their national league, so I was really able to fit in with the culture and live there for two months straight and get to know their people. It's really just fun to get to know another culture that loves hockey.
Honestly people would recognize us as U.S. players more in those countries than our own, so it was really fun to play in a culture that's more like baseball or football here.
Q: How would you describe the personality of the team this year?
A: They really believe this year that they can win. I think they started to believe last year, but when the games were on the line sometimes we reverted to, "Oh, we're not supposed to win this," and now you can see in the tight games that we aren't backing down from anybody.
Q: How does it feel to be called "arguably the greatest player in USA field hockey history"?
A: Obviously that is up for debate, I'm sure. When you play for 17 years you learn so much from your teammates in different areas.
For me, you're only as good as the people around you. It's the people around me that helped me, kind of like what the team is doing for Chelsea [Armstrong]. She might be getting all the accolades but it's because other people are working hard, feeding her the ball, getting corners and for me it's just a total team effort. Fortunately I got most of the recognition back then, but I'd like to share it.
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