Sports Person of the Week
O’Brien Built a Family Bond Among the Warriors
Recent graduate Kate O’Brien played a huge role as one of the Valley Regional field hockey team’s senior captains last year, setting a great example for the future leaders of the program. (Photo courtesy of Kate O’Brien )
Kate O’Brien finished her career as a student-athlete at Valley Regional this year after serving as a senior captain for the Warriors’ field hockey team. Kate played a variety of positions for Valley on the field, but ultimately settled in as an attacking center defender in her senior season.
Kate relished her role as a senior captain. What she enjoyed the most was helping her younger teammates become better field hockey players.
“I had to interview to be a captain and create a résumé for myself. I put a lot of work into the team and it showed. I cared a lot about the field hockey team, which really helped me get the position,” Kate says. “I thought being a captain meant being a responsible team member. It was being a role model for the younger players and letting them know that everybody could get better and always to try your hardest.”
Kate’s favorite part about playing for the Warriors was spending time with her teammates. That family atmosphere is something Kate will always remember. Kate feels glad that she was able to lead that group.
“I have a lot of good memories of the field hockey team all together,” says Kate. “We were like a family.”
Kate had a lot of responsibility as an attacking center defender. One of Kate’s biggest responsibilities was keeping the lines of communication open between the rest of the defense and Valley’s midfielders.
“Playing attacking center defense, I was in the center. So, it’s a lot of talking. I was near the goal toward the back, and anything can happen there. It’s also a lot of running,” Kate says. “It’s a lot of defense, but as soon as you have the ball, it’s immediately offense—just like that. You have to pass it up to the offensive players, and talking is extremely important in getting the ball up the field.”
Kate had aspirations to play defense after having previously played several different positions during her field hockey career. Kate knows there aren’t a ton of eye-popping stats to be had as a defender, but she wasn’t in it for the numbers.
“It’s definitely somewhere I wanted to play. I don’t really think about stats, because I don’t think stats are that important,” says Kate, an Essex resident. “I just think it’s fun playing the game and being back there with my friends.”
All of that experience playing multiple positions gave Kate some insight as to what her opponents would try to do when they were charging up the field. Kate believes that having that knowledge was invaluable.
“I started playing field hockey in middle school, and that’s how I learned how the sport worked. In high school, I really started to get really into it. Over the years, I have definitely moved around the field a lot. I started as a mid and, even in my senior year, I moved around a little, too,” Kate says. “Getting to play a lot of positions taught me how they worked, so when I went back to defense, I knew what to do and where to pass and stuff like that.”
Kate feels the most important part of being good defender is the need to keep everyone else on the field informed. However, she knows that there are plenty of other aspects that go into effective play in the backfield.
“Probably the most important skills to have on defense are being able to stay low and being able to communicate to your peers,” says Kate. “It’s also important to have a positive attitude on the field to keep everybody’s hopes high.”
Head Coach Beth McCabe-Powers is preparing for the upcoming field hockey season. She knows that Valley has some sizable shoes to fill with Kate heading off to college.
“Kate is an excellent backfield player who was a generous passer and very unselfish. She was really agile and always willing to fill in anywhere to benefit the team and the situation of the day,” McCabe-Powers says. “Kate’s kindness and leadership made her a hugely important player in our 2019 campaign. She will be missed this season.”
Just like many students across the country, Kate’s final semester of high school was anything but conventional. However, even though COVID-19 disrupted everything from athletics to academics, Kate still feels that she got a lot out of those last few months of school.
“I’ve been trying to work out more and learn more at home. I’ve just been making the most out of it,” says Kate. “Our teachers did a really good job with the distanced learning, and our graduation was actually really nice. We got a parade, and that’s not something we ever really would have had.”
This fall, Kate will be attending James Madison University in Virginia to pursue a career in the nutrition field. While Kate is moving on from Valley Regional, she will always remember the family, friends, and coaches who have supported her throughout her journey.
“My whole family was really supportive of me. They went to every game. Of course, my coach had a big impact, as well. My friends were really supportive, too. Most of my best friends were on the field hockey team with me, so that was really nice,” Kate says. “I had those friends before field hockey, but we definitely got closer on the field. It was nice to have that relationship on the field, because we knew how each other played. I’m definitely going to miss it when I’m in college. We were like a family. I’ll always bring that with me.”