HOUSTON – USA Field Hockey is pleased to announce the coach educators and coaches that will be working together to lead six teams at the 2021 AAU Junior Olympic Games to be held in Houston, Texas from Monday, August 2 through Thursday, August 5.
The AAU Junior Olympic Games are known as the largest national multi-sport event for youth in the United States. It has become the showcase event of the AAU Sports Program. Since it’s beginning in Washington, D.C., the AAU Junior Olympic Games have been conducted in 19 states and 30 cities across the United States. “There’s nothing junior about it” has become the theme of the AAU Junior Olympic Games while growing to more than 16,000 participants in over 20 sports. The Games popularity has exploded to now represent all 50 states and several United States territories.
USA Field Hockey is honored to work with AAU to run the field hockey competition. More than 100 top female players the U-14 and U-16 Girls age divisions have been selected to compete in this exciting event, based on their strong performance at the 2021 Nexus Championship, presented by Harrow Sports.
USA Field Hockey invited Coach Members to apply to serve as volunteer coaches for this year’s AAU Junior Olympic Games. For the past five years, USA Field Hockey has added a professional development element to enhance the experience for the coaches and athletes, and this year is expected to be outstanding. Every coach will have the support of a “The USA Way” Trained Coach Educator and collaboration and teamwork will be the center of the week’s training.
Congratulations and a big thank you to the following volunteer coach educators and coaches who were selected for this year’s AAU Junior Olympic Games:
NICKY HITCHENS | COACH EDUCATOR
Hitchens will take on the role of lead coach educator at the 2021 AAU Junior Olympic Games. Hitchens will enter her 18th season at Drexel University this fall and her 14th year as the head coach. She brings extensive experience both as a coach and lifelong player. In the summer of 2016, Hitchens played in the FIH Masters World Cup in Canberra, Australia on the O-45 women’s team, who finished in third place. She also competed in 2018 FIH Masters World Cup in Terrassa, Spain in the O-50 women’s division.
In March 2013, Hitchens served as the team manager for the U.S. Women’s National Indoor Team, who went on to win the program’s first-ever victory over Argentina, 4-3, on the final day of the South American Tour. The squad went 3-3-1 against Argentina, Argentina U-19 and Uruguay.
A 1989 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Hitchens was a four-year starter for the Quaker field hockey team. During her career at Penn, she was a three-time First Team All-Ivy League selection and was named the 1985 Ivy League Rookie of the Year. She was also the Gail Lipstein Award winner as Penn’s top freshman.
“I’m grateful to USA Field Hockey for providing me with this opportunity to serve as coach educator at the AAU Junior Olympic [Games] in Houston, Texas. This is a rare chance to support and mentor ‘up and coming’ coaches from across the country, as they lead the top athletes in their age groups at this premier event. It is also a ‘full circle’ moment for me since I competed in the Junior Olympics as an athlete in 1984, in Jacksonville, Fla! I still treasure the silver medal (we lost first place by goal differential). For many of these athletes, this may be their first opportunity to play field hockey in a multi-sport festival! We are going to learn, compete and have fun!”
VALERIE LOHR | PLAYER WELL-BEING
Lohr joins the AAU Junior Olympic Games Coaching Staff from St. Mary’s Hall in San Antonio, Texas, where she is the Coordinator of Student Well-Being and head coach of the varsity field hockey team. Lohr arrived at St. Mary’s Hall after her time at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa., where she served as the head coach of the field hockey program, adjunct faculty member, Independent Study Supervisor and Title IX Deputy Coordinator. Her role during the tournament will be in the area of Player Well-Being.
For USA Field Hockey, she has been a Regional Head Coach and Selector and the National Futures/Nexus Championship head coach. Before Allegheny, she coached and served in administrative roles in several college and independent school programs, including launching the field hockey program at Pace University.
Lohr received her Bachelor of Arts with a double major in Political Science and History from Lehigh University. She earned a Juris Doctorate from Penn State’s Dickinson School of Law and was later admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Southern New Hampshire University with anticipated graduation in 2022.
Lohr played both field hockey and lacrosse at Lehigh University and began her coaching career after graduation. She spent four years at Dickinson College, serving as an assistant for both the Red Devils’ field hockey and women’s lacrosse programs, and was named to the Dickinson College Hall of Fame as a coach.
“The Junior Olympic [Games] is an incredible opportunity for our field hockey athletes. Being selected to showcase their skills in high-caliber competition while growing their game physically and mentally is their path to achieving greatness. This year with the in-depth focus on mental training for adjustment and adaptation in high stress situations combined with recognizing strengths will bring the next level of competitiveness to their game.”
ALI CAMPBELL | COACH
Campbell is a current member of the U.S. Women’s National Indoor Team that captured gold at the 2021 Indoor Pan American Cup, an FIH Hockey Indoor World Cup Qualifier, recently held at the end of June. She first entered the USWNT’s Olympic Development Pathway in 2006, when she was named to the U.S. U-16 Women’s National Team. This was followed up by time on both the U-19 and U-21 USWNT, where she participated and won bronze at the women’s 2012 Junior Pan American Championship, clinching a bid to the women’s 2013 FIH Hockey Junior World Cup.
Campbell played collegiately at the University of Maryland in College Park, Md. and was an integral part of the Terrapins defensive unit. She accumulated various personal accolades while assisting with two program national championships and an Atlantic Coast Conference title throughout her career.
“I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to compete in two AAU Junior Olympic [Games]. In 2005 I was a part of the New Orleans, La. competition, and in 2006, competed in Virginia Beach, Va.! This event is unmatched. The first time around, I was thrilled to get to travel to a state I had never been and be around the celebration and awesomeness of the sport! The second time I knew what to expect and looked forward to hopeful selection. I got to meet players from all over the place! It was one of the highlight tournaments I participated in, in my young field hockey career and solidified my love for the sport, and my dream of wanting to be a U.S. Women’s National Team Olympian. The AAU Junior Olympics was an experience you will never forget!”
KATRINA CARTER | COACH
Carter attended the University of California, Berkeley from 2015 to 2019, graduating with a degree in Marine Science. She was named to the America East All-Rookie Team in 2016 and concluded her collegiate career finishing second on the team in points and goals.
Carter is also well known on the national level and is a current member of the U.S. Women’s National Development Team. She represented Team USA as a member of the U-21 USWNT from 2017-18.
In 2020, Carter served as the head varsity coach of the field hockey program at Presentation High School in San Jose, Calif. She also coached in USA Field Hockey’s Olympic Development Pathway program, Nexus, which identifies and develops the nation’s top athletes. The Gilroy, Calif. native also served as a head coach at Bay Area field hockey clinics, a local and inclusive program for prospective field hockey athletes.
In 2021, Carter will return to her alma mater as assistant coach to head coach, Shellie Onstead, at the University of California.
“I am incredibly excited to be a part of this year’s AAU Junior Olympic Games. It’s an honor to remain involved in the development of the next generation of USA athletes. I’d also like to take advantage of this opportunity to gain experience and better myself as a coach.”
EMILY DINSMORE | COACH
Dinsmore came to Appalachian after two seasons as a graduate assistant coach at Stevenson University, helping lead them to a second-place finish in the Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) in 2015. That same season, the team advanced to the MAC Field Hockey Championship and Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Field Hockey Final.
Dinsmore graduated from Liberty University in 2013 with a Bachelor of Science in elementary education. During her time at Liberty, she lettered in both field hockey and lacrosse.
“I am so thankful and honored to coach at Junior Olympic [Games] this year! What a gift it will be to coach such an incredible group of talented young ladies. My hope is to inspire, encourage,and promote an environment where young athletes are able to grow as [field] hockey players and as people.”
JENNY EVERETT | COACH
Following her playing career, Everett worked in private equity with The Carlyle Group in their technology practice and as a CEO and CFO of several high-growth consumer companies. She graduated from Wake Forest with a Bachelor of Science in Business, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. She also earned a Master of Science in Accounting from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with high honors and a Masters of Business Administration from Harvard Business School with high distinction and as a George F. Baker Scholar.
“Junior Olympic [Games] is a one-of-a-kind experience that I will never forget as an athlete. It made the crucial difference for me to make the Junior U.S. National Teams and served as the catalyst to significantly increasing my Division I recruiting process. It transformed my dreams from a bullet on a paper sheet to reality given its exposure, name recognition, big stage and prestige. There is no other field hockey event like it and I was so thankful and grateful to my family for their sacrifice and support to recognize the things you must do to make your dream possible.”
BRONWEN GAINSFORD | COACH
Prior to her stint at Belmont Abbey, Gainsford worked for USA Field Hockey where she was the Region 8 Development and FUNdamental Field Hockey Manager. In the role, she represented USA Field Hockey’s programs in the region, provided overall support for all field hockey constituencies, provided advice, support and opportunities to athletes, coaches, umpires,and volunteers, maintained database of all field hockey contacts in region and organized, marketed, and led all aspects of the USA Field Hockey Olympic Development Pathway program.
Gainsford also has previous coaching experience at both the Division I and III levels, serving as an affiliate coach at James Madison University for the 2014 season and the graduate assistant at Smith College (Mass.) for the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
As an athlete, Gainsford was a goalkeeper at Wake Forest University in 2010 and 2011 and earned a Bachelor of Arts in communication from Wake Forest in 2012 and her Master of Science in exercise and sports studies from Smith College in 2014.
“I’m very excited for the opportunity to coach at the Junior Olympic [Games]. The opportunity provides me with a chance to continue to develop my coaching skills and work with some of the best field hockey athletes and coaches in the country.”
MICHELLE SMULDERS VAN DE BRAAK | COACH
After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Business, Smulders Van De Braak moved to The Netherlands to continue to play field hockey. She played for five years for the Pinoke Club in Amsterdam. During this time, she had the honor to represent the USA as a member of the U-21 and U-23 squads. In 1998, she attended the U.S. Olympic Trials with hopes of making the USWNT for the Sydney 2020 Olympic Games.
In 2017, Smulders Van de Braak founded the San Francisco Youth Field Hockey Club to give back to the sport that has given her so much. The club continues to grow, helping young Californians discover field hockey and develop.
“I’m so excited about coaching at the AAU Junior Olympic [Games] in Houston, Texas. I pulled out my old photo albums and found gems from the 26th Junior Olympics when I competed on Team West and carried the Texas flag at the opening ceremonies. Thanks USA Field Hockey for the opportunity.”