COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – December 16, 2019 – Following a tremendous career, U.S. Women’s National Team defender and Rio 2016 Olympian Caitlin “Poppy” Van Sickle (Wilmington, Del.) has officially announced her retirement from the senior squad after competing in 148 international matches.
“I would describe Poppy as the consummate professional,” said Larry Amar, USWNT Assistant Coach. “Whether she was making individual improvements, holding the team standards, encouraging or motivating her teammates, learning team tactics or just letting her competitive thoughts be known – she did it with an air of dignity, integrity and the right mixture of fun. On and off the pitch, Poppy gave her all to our team, not only for herself, but for the greater good of the team.”
“Caitlin, you are a valued member of this team,” continued Amar. “You selflessly gave your time, energy and effort every day. You took the time every day to make sure you were the best you could be for the team and then extended that effort to your teammates who needed it. On and off the field you earned respect because of the action you took – and not just by your words or expectations. We will certainly miss you and in the same breath, we say congratulations and wish you all the best in whatever you choose to do next.”
A Delaware native, Van Sickle was originally a basketball player and desired to excel but fell in love with field hockey when she first started playing in 4th grade. She began playing competitively in 7th grade and played at Tower Hill High School, where she helped the team to three state championships. She was named all-state her sophomore, junior and senior years and was also dubbed player of the year her junior and senior seasons.
Van Sickle went on to play collegiately at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As a Tar Heel she was a three-time team Most Valuable Player (2010, 2011, 2012), three-time first-team All-America (2010, 2011, 2012), three-time Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Defensive Player of the Year (2010, 2011, 2012), three-time All-ACC and All-ACC tournament and 2012 ACC Tournament MVP. In her time wearing Carolina blue she helped win two ACC Championships (2011, 2012) and played in the NCAA title game all four years, winning a championship in 2009.
“I chose to play in college mainly because I was given the opportunity to go to my dream school, UNC,” said Van Sickle. “Since my parents could remember, I was always obsessed with UNC and when I started getting serious about field hockey I reached out to Karen Shelton. She gave me the opportunity to attend the university and from there I could not have asked for a more fulfilling experience.”
Van Sickle’s journey to Team USA started when she wove her way through the Olympic Development Pathway. After joining Futures in 2004, she participated in the National Futures Championship, multiple Junior National Camps and was a member of High Performance for six years. In 2010, she was named to the U.S. U-21 Women’s National Team and a year later went on a tour with the squad. Following her performance at the Women’s National Championship in 2013, she was named to the USWNT.
She earned her first international cap wearing the red, white and blue at the Four Nations event in Auckland, New Zealand. That same year she helped USA to a second place finish at the Pan American Cup in Mendoza, Argentina, falling to the host nation in the final. In the years following, she participated in multiple test series and international tournaments along with world championship experiences. In 2015, she aided the squad to a fifth-place finish at the FIH Hockey World League Semifinals and was named an alternate athlete to the Pan American Games. A year later she was part of an incredible performance at the 2016 Hockey Champions Trophy in London, England. As the lowest world ranked team, USA clinched the bronze after a shootout win over Australia. Continuing with that momentum, USA impressed the world that August at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games earning a historical fifth place finish.
In 2017, Van Sickle was part of the team that stunned the world hockey scene at the FIH Hockey World League Semifinals when they upended the only two teams to upset them at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in two shootouts to earn gold. Also in that year she played in the last edition of the FIH Hockey World League Final. The next year she competed in the Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup and in 2019 was part of the first season of the worldwide league, the FIH Pro League. In August, she helped USA to a third-place finish at the Pan American Games in Peru and was part of the squad that performed an impressive comeback at the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifier against India, but the effort ultimately fell short.
Van Sickle retires from Team USA having competed in 148 international matches. During her six and half years, she recorded nine goals and was a key element on the defensive line and as a penalty corner inserter.
While reflecting on her career, Van Sickle said her experience with Team USA was one she would not trade for the world.
“Craig Parnham gave me the opportunity to be a part of a culture that truly changed my life,” commented Van Sickle. “Representing my country was always a dream of mine, but I could never have imagined how much it has shaped my life and made me into the woman I am today. The teammates and coaches I have met through playing field hockey will be my friends/mentors for life.”
“Some of my fondest memories are not even the biggest competition moments, but rather the day in and day out hard work we put in, the hundreds of meals, training sessions and time spent traveling with my teammates and all of the laughs we shared along the way,” continued Van Sickle. “I will cherish those small moments we shared more than anything else.”
Van Sickle is a Rio 2016 Olympian and said participating in that athletic milestone is something she will never forget.
“I look back now and am so thankful I was a part of something so special,” remarked Van Sickle. “Representing your country on a world stage is a dream of any athlete but being with such a talented and hard working group who truly cared about one another like family really was the ultimate for me. Being surrounded by world class athletes every minute of my day was inspiring.”
Van Sickle’s career would not have been possible without the support of countless individuals. First and foremost, she would like to thank her family. Her mother, father, sister Taylor, Mom Mom and Pop Pop and the rest of her family who followed her journey throughout the years.
“Thank you so much for being my number one fans and always supporting me wherever I was in the world,” said Van Sickle. “You have always encouraged me to follow my dreams and for that I am forever grateful. Your work ethic and dedication to be the best you can be inspired me every single day. I look up to you all and appreciate all you have sacrificed for me to be where I am today.”
“I would also like to thank all of my coaches along the way who have influenced my career by giving me the chance to be myself, but for also pushing me to be my best,” continued Van Sickle. “Robin Adair, Karen Shelton, Craig Parnham and Janneke Schopman. You all have had a positive influence on my career and made me into the player and athlete I have become throughout the years. Thank you for giving me that chance.”
Van Sickle’s future plans are still being worked out but hopes to be a college coach one day where she can help the youth of the United States develop and have the opportunities to experience some of the same things she did as an athlete.
USA Field Hockey would like to wish Van Sickle the best of luck in her future endeavors.