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Sports Person of the Week
Breitenbach Proves a Positive Leader at Valley Regional
Sophomore Callie Breitenbach earned a spot on the Valley Regional field hockey team’s varsity squad after proving herself as a JV captain last year. Callie also plays ice hockey and lacrosse. (Photo courtesy of Callie Breitenbach)
Callie Breitenbach has already made a name for herself in the early stages of her athletic career at Valley Regional High School. A sophomore, Callie was named the JV captain of the Valley field hockey team last fall and earned her way onto the varsity squad by the end of the season. Callie also plays lacrosse for the Warriors, in addition to competing for the Hand-Coginchaug-Valley Regional- Old Lyme (H-C-VR-OL) girls’ ice hockey team.
Callie made it a point to take on a bigger role as a mentor in the Valley field hockey program as a sophomore. The COVID-19 pandemic caused many challenges for the Warriors, including the need to keep athletes separated unless absolutely necessary. Consequently, many of Valley’s more experienced varsity athletes were unable to take an active role in helping JV players, so Callie stepped up in a big way to fill that leadership void. That eventually led to Callie’s promotion to the varsity team.
“I tried to take a big leadership role this year. I always look up to the older girls on those teams. I did my best to help my best to make the freshmen feel welcome,” says Callie. “We’ve never really had JV captains in the past, but varsity captains weren’t allowed to come to the games because of COVID. So, the coaches thought it made sense to name JV captains to fulfill the roles that the varsity captains would have. I worked hard on the JV team, and I was really excited when I got to move up to the varsity team.”
Callie’s high school career has been rife with unfortunate public health crises that have affected her ability to compete on the field. During her freshman year, the emergence of mosquitoes capable of transmitting eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) abruptly ended the JV field hockey season as all teams had to be off the field by dusk.
The H-C-VR-OL girls’ ice hockey team was able to finish out its season just before COVID-19 forced the shutdown of all sports in the state last winter, although Callie missed out on playing lacrosse with Valley due to the canceled spring season. Even though her sophomore field hockey season was also significantly truncated, Callie still feels that the campaign was still a great experience overall.
“My freshman year was difficult with EEE. Our season was cut in half. This year, we had a lot of restrictions. We worked through it and bonded more because of it. We were affected by COVID, but I thought it brought us closer together,” Callie says. “After I moved up to varsity, some of our games got canceled. It would have been fun in Shorelines as a varsity player, but I still got a lot of opportunities.”
Winter sports were also on hold the past few weeks, but the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference recently released its plan for a modified winter season that will allow for ice hockey, provided that school districts and local health officials deem the community’s COVID-19 metrics tenable. For now, Callie just hopes to see some time on the ice with her teammates, even if it means competing while wearing a mask as she did with her travel hockey squad.
“I’m just kind of hoping to play some games. We heard that we have to wear a mask on the ice. If I’m able to play, I’ll wear a mask. I did that with the Shoreline Sharks,” says Callie, who lives in Ivoryton. “I’m just hoping to be able to skate with the team. We have a lot of new freshmen coming up. We’ll do a lot of bonding through that, despite the COVID restrictions.”
Callie made sure to keep active and work on her skills during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a three-sport athlete, Callie occupies much of her time with athletic endeavors. So, when sports were on hold, Callie worked hard to ensure that her overall improvement continued.
“In the past, sports have always been my thing to keep me going. It was difficult when COVID happened. I did a lot of daily workouts at home to stay in shape,” Callie says. “I have a net in my backyard to work on shooting. I also have a rebounder to work on lacrosse and field hockey skills. You shoot at it, and it bounces the ball back to you. It helps you with shooting and receiving. It helps work on different muscles.”
Callie plays either attacking center defense or drop center forward for the Valley field hockey team. Callie plays defense in ice hockey and typically occupies the midfield in lacrosse. Callie has picked up different skills as a result of playing different positions.
“In field hockey, you have to square up and put your stick flat down, so attackers can’t get by you. You have to get low to try to get the ball away. Once you do that, you really have to hit the ball hard to get it out of there,” says Callie, also who dances jazz and tap in her spare time. “In ice hockey, you just try to poke the puck away. You have to worry more about their momentum. They’re going forward, and you’re going backward, so you have to worry about them getting by you more. In lacrosse, you have to keep your stick up and body up. It’s similar to hockey in a way, because you’re running backward, while they’re running forward. You’re trying to stop them from getting by you there, too.”
Valley field hockey Head Coach Beth McCabe Powers has seen Callie’s talent on the turf. However, McCabe Powers has been most impressed with Callie’s dedication to her teammates as a leader.
“We selected Callie as a JV captain, and I was very proud of her for that. That speaks not just to her ability, but her ability to lead on the field,” McCabe Powers says. “She showed talent from the first time I saw her as a freshman. She’s quick and patient. She has an explosive defensive first step. I look forward to her being an integral part of next year’s varsity unit.”
Callie has maintained an optimistic disposition throughout all of the ups and downs. She believes that type of attitude makes all the difference.
“I think just being positive is important. It’s been difficult having my freshman and sophomore years cut short,” says Callie. “There’s still a possibility of not getting a hockey season, but you just have to stay positive and stay active. Don’t take anything for granted. Be positive and be a good leader.”