By the time Tracey Fuchs’ playing career ended, she was often referred to as the “Michael Jordan of field hockey.”
Widely considered one of the greatest players of all time, the 1984 Centereach graduate will become the first field hockey athlete to be enshrined in the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) National High School Hall of Fame on June 30 in Indianapolis.
Her coach at Centereach, Nancy Cole, was elected as a coach in 2006.
“This is such an honor,” Fuchs, 52, said. “You think about how many athletes played high school sports and there’s a hell of a lot of them. To be the first field hockey player to ever be inducted is a real honor.”
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more decorated field hockey athlete than Fuchs. The current Northwestern coach since 2009 was selected to the U.S. national team at 20 years old and spent 17 years with the team, 14 as a captain.
She participated in four World Cups (1990, 1994, 1998, 2002), winning a bronze medal in 1994. She was also an Olympian in 1988 and 1996 and a competitor in five Pan American games, winning four silvers medals and one bronze.
She played in 268 international matches, more than any player in U.S. field hockey history.
“I knew I wanted to be an Olympian when I was like 7; I just didn’t know what sport,” said Fuchs, who grew up a New York Rangers fan but couldn’t play ice hockey because of the sparse opportunities for women in the sport at the time. “I had a little T-shirt that said, ‘Future Olympic Star.’ ”
Because ice hockey wasn’t an option, Fuchs turned to field hockey, where she took Centereach by storm. The forward won three consecutive New York championships from 1981-83 and holds the state record with a goal in 51 consecutive games. She scored 82 goals in 1983, which is second in state history. Her 171 career goals are also second in state history.
“For me, it was, ‘Respect all, fear nobody,’ ” said Fuchs, who became battle-tested while playing street hockey with her neighbors. “I just love to compete, and I was really competitive growing up. My sisters were competitive. The boys next door were competitive.”
Fuchs said she doesn’t always use her wealth of knowledge to regale her Northwestern players with stories from her playing days, but she’ll occasionally share a worthwhile anecdote.
“I’m a little bit introverted,” she said.
Instead, she let her play speak for itself.
Other notable inductees in the 12-person class are Derrick Brooks, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2014 who starred at Pensacola Washington High School in Florida; Dusty Baker, who had a 19-year MLB career and found success as a manager with 1,863 wins over 22 seasons with four teams after playing four sports at Sacramento Del Campo High School in California; and Seimone Augustus, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 WNBA draft who starred at Capitol High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.