Aug. 24, 2010
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By MICHELE DANNO
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Caroline Nichols’ field hockey career has taken her to some interesting places — across North America, Asia, Europe, and now, the state of Iowa, where she hopes to impart her knowledge and experience to the Hawkeyes as an assistant coach.
UI head coach Tracey Griesbaum was fortunate to add Nichols to the coaching staff this season, especially with Nichols’ busy schedule. Aside from coaching the Hawkeyes, she is a member of the U.S. women’s national team, and after she spends the fall travelling with the Hawkeyes, she will spend the spring competing internationally.
In addition to being one of the top defensive players in the nation, Nichols’ field hockey resume includes a number of awards, titles, and previous coaching experiences.
Nichols’ played for Old Dominion University in her native state of Virginia, where she was a letterwinner form 2003-06. As a science major, her academic efforts qualified her as a national all-academic team selection and an all-conference honoree from 2004-06.
Her senior year, Nichols made a groundbreaking achievement in the field hockey world when she became the first woman in Colonial Athletic Association history to be named both CAA Player of the Year and CAA Defender of the Year in the same season.
As one of the top collegiate field hockey players in the country, it was no surprise Nichols received enough national recognition and was given the opportunity to continue her playing career by representing the United States. In 2007, she followed her passion for the sport to the west coast when she relocated to California to play for the U.S. women’s national team.
Donning the red, white, and blue, Nichols participated for the 2008 Beijing Olympic team, the 2008 Olympic Qualifier team and the 2010 World Cup Qualifier team. Also in 2008, she was a member of the Pan American Cup team. In 2006, Nichols was named to the USA World Cup Training Squad and was a member of the Netherlands Tour team in 2007.
So what brings her to Iowa?
Nichols has a history with Hawkeye field hockey, and Griesbaum said she refers to her as a “surrogate Hawk” because of her longstanding relationship to Iowa and former Hawkeye field hockey players.
A former U.S. national athlete herself, Griesbaum noticed Nichols early in her professional career and had been in contact with her prior to the hire.
“I’ve been familiar with the Iowa program for a while, and I was really excited to join this tradition and this really hard-working ethic that Iowa field hockey stands for. I’ve had a great experience here so far and I leave the field every day excited for what we can do the next day. Being with some of the best coaches in the world is exciting because there is so much to learn and give back to the girls through them.”
UI assistant coach
“I had been watching (Nichols) for a while, and I liked her style of play,” Griesbaum said. “She is always consistent and poised on the field. Her style of play mirrors her coaching style. We’re fortunate to have her with us.”
Nichols enjoys being in Iowa City. She has long been impressed by Iowa’s reputation as a top Division I field hockey program, and she is honored to be working under Griesbaum and her staff.
“I’ve been familiar with the Iowa program for a while, and I was really excited to join this tradition and this really hard-working ethic that Iowa field hockey stands for,” Nichols said. “I’ve had a great experience here so far and I leave the field every day excited for what we can do the next day. Being with some of the best coaches in the world is exciting because there is so much to learn and give back to the girls through them.”
UI team captain Sarah Pergine sees benefits of having Nichols at practice every day, especially to help with defensive aspects of the game.
“She’s already made a big difference,” Pergine said. “She has a really good way of explaining things that we’re not used to. Her defensive expertise on the national level brings a different aspect of the game to us.”
Some players and coaches noted that Nichols is on the “cutting edge” of field hockey, bringing a new level of momentum and insight and keeping them up to date on the game.
Time will tell how long Nichols stays with the Hawkeyes. Griesbaum said Nichols is working to qualify for the 2012 Olympics, which may “take her down a different path” in the next year or so. Still, Griesbaum is supportive of Nichols’ professional career and is used to having turnover in the assistant coaching position.
During her stay at Iowa — no matter the duration — Nichols hopes to contribute to the success of the Hawkeye program.
“I’ll have to travel in the spring, but coaching is my main focus for now,” Nichols said. “I think the benefit of being on the U.S. team is that I’m on the forefront of where hockey is right now, so I think that for me to bring that back to Iowa is going to help them be better with newer rules and structures and styles of play. The international game is a bit faster and stronger, so hopefully we’ll bring Iowa up to that level.”