Vianney Campos accomplished a lot in her field hockey playing career and is quickly making a name for herself at the coaching level in 2009.
A recent graduate and all-American field hockey player at the University of the Pacific, Campos was hired in the fall of 2008 as the head coach of UC Davis’ 27th intercollegiate sport.
After a tough 3-11 beginning to the season, Campos sat down with Aggie Sports Editor Max Rosenblum to discuss the team’s early 3-0 start, the goals for the remainder of the year and the future state of the sport of field hockey.
For those out there who know nothing about the sport of field hockey, explain the sport and tell them why they should come out to watch your team play this Sunday versus the California Bears.
I think field hockey is unique. It is a combination of soccer formations and systems. It is also similar to ice hockey in the sense that you have a stick and not a ball. I would contribute it more than anything to soccer. A lot of people mistake it for being a girly sport because we wear skirts but really it is a pretty brutal sport. You need to have good wrist skills and strong forearms. I think the thing that makes it stand out the most is that it is so unique it makes it interesting.
Before the season began, not one player on your team had Division-I game experience. Is the way you coach this team different from how you might coach a team of similar talent but with more experience?
There are certain ways that you coach a little differently. You do a little bit more of explaining rules and situations and things like that but the expectations don’t change for me. Within the first two to three weeks they knew the level of play that they were expected to play at in order to be successful at this level. I expect that of them. I don’t care if they are freshmen. They are working out with us and on their own and really trying to make things happen. Expectations don’t change.
When you have a program starting from the ground up it is tough to see results right away. Explain how your team got off to a 3-0 start.
The kids knew they had nothing to lose and that a lot of teams were going to underestimate them. I think within the team we set really high expectations and we knew we could win. They went out and played every single game 100 percent knowing that they had the ability to win and it paid off. Also, the fact that they are freshmen made them anxious to play and to get on the field. Being a freshman and having the playing time that they do at any D-I school for them is an honor. They took it as a privilege and went with it. That’s where our wins are coming from and even our staying close in games.
What are the goals for the rest of the season?
Just to continue to play our game. As we see different teams we are starting to see different styles of play. We are having [the players] adjust here and there a little bit. We need to keep our composure and play [UC] Davis Field Hockey whether we win or lose. I think that’s going to be the biggest goal for us. Don’t get down because we get scored on. Just focus on us developing as a program.
You are the first coach at the helm of the UC Davis field hockey team in 27 years. Does that mean anything to you?
It is definitely an honor. The fact that the athletic department trusts me being so young and it being my first coaching job to start a program is certainly an honor. I have all the enthusiasm and motivation to get it done and to build a program with a solid foundation. I played at Pacific so it is hard coaching against them but at the same time I see them as obstacles and challenges. That’s how I was as a player and how I am as a coach. I love meeting those challenges and overcoming them. It is exciting.
Speaking of your playing career at Pacific, you were an all-American field hockey star. Talk about the differences and similarities between the coaching and playing experience considering you are only a few years removed from being a player yourself.
During my first couple of games coaching it was definitely hard to stay off the field. What set me apart as a player was the fact that I kind of had the coaching mentality. I wanted to set the expectations high for myself and for my team. I was never content with playing how we played. I always wanted more. That is what made the transition into coaching so easy. I knew that I had to always set the expectations higher than they already were. It also plays to an advantage. They trust me because I just came out of the college experience. They know it is not like I coached 30 years ago when the style was different. But it makes it difficult to stay off the field. I practice with them sometimes and just jump in there.
Like lacrosse, the impact of field hockey is felt more on the East Coast. Do you see this sport becoming similar in popularity on the West Coast in the near future?
It is getting there. This year we just added a program here in California and we added three club programs. I think California schools are starting to see that field hockey can benefit their athletic departments and it is growing quite a bit. Because the economy is so down, we are being held back but at the high school level we are seeing new schools at it every year. So, it will get there.
MAX ROSENBLUM can be reached at email@example.com.