Third-year head coach revitalizes field hockey program
Two years ago, Rutgers handed the keys to the field hockey team to Meredith Long.
Since then, she has a 20-19 record, helping dig the program out of the grave. Last season, going 9-9, she led the Scarlet Knights to their first season of a .500 record since 2008.
Long started her coaching career at Vermont as an assistant before moving on to Towson as an assistant coach.
“I became a coach because I love the game and being able to compete on the field or off the field,” Long said. “My favorite thing [about coaching] is absolutely the competitiveness. I love winning. I also love seeing my players grow and seeing them recognize and achieve their potential.”
Long knows the gist of field hockey because she was a player in college at Maryland helping the team advance to the Final Four for three straight seasons after spending her freshman season playing at Boston.
While with the Terrapins, she had to medical redshirt her senior season due to a thyroid disease. It was then while along the sidelines and being very active with the team she knew she would want to coach.
“I was on the sidelines and on the bench,” Long said. “The coaching staff at Maryland gave me a chance to have an impact on the team. Being able to see the game from that perspective is when I started thinking about being a coach because of how much I enjoyed it.”
Long has created a competitive program at Rutgers, beating ranked opponents in past seasons. Even her losses to ranked teams were usually only by a goal or two.
But there are many other challenges for her as a coach.
“The hardest thing is that it’s a long season and being able to keep my players motivated every week about coming to training and understanding the game plans in preparation for each game,” Long said.
Thanks to her past as a player, Long has helped the players improve each of their games. She has remained a constant in each of their lives, helping them both on and off the field.
“For me to be able to positively impact my student athletes on and off the field, I find that to be really rewarding,” Long said. “I’m a strong believer in creating a positive and motivating environment for my players.”
Senior captain forward Sophie Wright agrees that Long has improved her game.
“She’s extremely motivating and positive, which is a necessity when times are hard during the games,” Wright said. “She really uplifts the spirits.”
Senior captain midfielder Jenn Staab thinks head coach Long’s passion has helped her game and the team as a whole.
“She’s very passionate, which is awesome to have in a coach,” Staab said. “So everyday at practice and different activities she really pushes us. She never let’s us settle.”
As Rutgers expands and makes its transition into its first season as a member of the Big Ten, Long has made it abundantly clear that the team has to execute well on the field as well as add some of the best players in the sport.
“I love recruiting,” she said. “I think it’s the foundation of our program. We want the best players. We feel that’s what’s going to take this program to the next level.”
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