There are vocal leaders, those who lead by example and others, like Isabella DeLiso, who light the torch and lead the way.
The Cold Spring Harbor senior spearheaded the creation of a community field hockey youth league, introducing and teaching the sport to fifth and sixth-graders in the district. DeLiso, with the help of her coach and district athletic director, organized and advertised a half-day fall clinic that drew 52 youngsters. It was obviously a good pitch since 46 of those kids signed up and were assigned to three teams – two sixth-grade teams and a fifth-grade squad.
"I know a lot of people my age want to pass on their passion for a sport to younger kids," said DeLiso, a 2008 all-county selection and a member of the Futures program. "When I started looking into colleges, I realized how high the competition level is. I thought if I had started playing field hockey a year or two earlier, my skill level would be higher… There are programs like Garden City that start really young. I want these kids to have that opportunity."
DeLiso didn't become familiar with the sport until seventh grade, when an older cousin introduced it to her, eventually leading to a switch from soccer. In Cold Spring Harbor, lacrosse and soccer were the big youth-league programs.
And so DeLiso, along with the other seniors on her team, held tutorial sessions with the youngsters for an hour or two after each of their own practices and sacrificed chunks of the weekend to coach.
"We coach them because I think we’re [more effective] role models than adults, since they get to interact with people who are varsity players and we can give hands-on instructions."
The three teams had games on Sundays, playing a five-game schedule against other Long Island teams. And for a group that had no experience, they fared pretty well, going a combined 7-4-4.
And for her work and diligence, the International Hockey Federation honored DeLiso, presenting her the 2009 Youth Leadership Award. She had been nominated by the USA Field Hockey Association and was one of about 100 youth leaders from over 20 countries recognized.
"It’s a huge honor," she said. "To be recognized for this, it just makes me really happy."
Added her father, John, "It’s quite a big deal for us. For a national federation to recognize what she’s done, it’s amazing. It all came down to doing what she likes to do: playing field hockey and teaching little kids."
Yes, Isabella does have interest in coaching after college (she’s currently checking out schools including Eastern Connecticut and McDaniel College).
"As of now I’m very undecided on what I want my major to be," she said. "A lot of my interests have changed over the years, but field hockey hasn’t. If it sticks throughout college, I’ll definitely go for it."
Off to a good start.