Assistants maintain unique roles at Rutgers


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Photo by Edwin Gano |

Junior forward Nicole Imbriaco said the assistant coaches are crucial on game day because they help fix mistakes on the pitch.


Assistant coaches in sports are often looked at as those of lesser importance than the head coach, but they often play an integral role and serve as the glue to keep a team together.

Head coach Meredith Long manages the team as a whole, but her assistant coaches Roland Peekel and Lauren Burke are a big help in bringing out the best in the individual players and echoing Long’s points to them.

“Both [Roland and Lauren] are fantastic additions to the coaching staff,” Long said. “I really can’t say enough about how great they are. They make my life easy both on the field and in the office. Both are really smart hockey coaches and are self-motivated. They take initiative with players [and anything] that has to be done with the team.”

Both assistants came to coach at Rutgers with very different backgrounds.

Burke arrived this season with the Scarlet Knights, reuniting her with Long, who was one of her former assistant coaches at the University of Vermont for three years. She comes over from Sacred Heart after serving as an assistant the last two years there.

“My role on this team is to keep the girls balanced and reinforce the individual, personal, one-on-one communication and mentally refocusing, reinforcing, motivating,” Burke said. “We [assistants] help with focusing on [what] our tactical plan is, or fundamental stuff for a training schedule or a game.”

Sometimes making a move to any other job is difficult, as it is hard to assimilate into a new life, but for Burke, is was a “no brainer.”

“It’s a pretty unique and incredible situation,” Burke said. “How hard [the players] work, the coaching environment, the learning environment [all] help us to all learn [from] each other and grow and make one another push the boundary.”

Throughout games, she manages the players on the bench by rotating them in the games and monitoring their recoveries. Both Peekel and Burke are on the bench to help the players as much as possible.

“I think it’s awesome [to have them on the bench], especially when you come off the field because if there are specific things you need to change, they’re right there to help and tell you once you go out there to fix this, communicate this,” said junior forward Nicole Imbriaco. “They’re crucial on game days because without them we wouldn’t know what we need to fix.”

As recruiting coordinator, Burke plays a pivotal role in the recruiting aspect for the team attending high school games and national field hockey events around the country.

Peekel first arrived with the Knights as a volunteer coach, while, at the time, Long was one of the assistants. He stuck with it and last year Long promoted him to a full-time assistant.

Peekel is from the Netherlands, where he started playing hockey when he was six years old and has been coaching field hockey since he was 11 — not uncommon for the way they were raised in the Netherlands. 

Peekel was coaching the younger kids, ages five through six, and from there on out, he continued to play while coaching.

He specializes in the film aspect for the team, taking the time to edit specific film for the team and individual players to help them focus on what needs to be worked on in practice. Long described it as a “big piece” of preparation week to week.

“Whenever we [the players] want to come out here [to the field], Roland will make the time out of his day to do it,” said sophomore defender Elyse Broderick.

In order to be a successful coaching staff, the coaches must be a unit working together and not on different pages. Peekel feels they are all on the same page.

“I think because we are a young coaching team, we all have the same philosophy, and we all know what we want,” Peekel said. “We all grew up with field hockey. Field hockey is your life. It’s very important to have that. There is no difference between what the head coach is thinking and what we [assistants] are thinking. We think exactly the same.”

For updates on the Rutgers field hockey team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.


Ryan Moran

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