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  • Jennifer Karras

Five Questions with Lake Forest Academy Field Hockey Coach Greta Kullby

By Jennifer Karras Greta Kullby was recently named head coach for varsity field hockey at Lake Forest Academy. A 2017 Lake Forest High School alumna, Kullby scored winning goals to help LFHS capture the state title her senior year. She then joined the Lafayette College team, a Division I program. She played three seasons as a midfielder and defender. In addition to coaching, Kullby is a first-grade teacher at the University of Chicago Charter School Donoghue Elementary. What’s one of your most memorable experiences playing field hockey?

Ironically, it's the State Tournament championship that we lost my sophomore year. I vividly remember losing the state tournament and feeling like this is only the beginning. Losing a game that meant everything to my teammates and senior leaders was the biggest motivator for all that I did next. It inspired me to be a better player. I aspired to be a leader like the captains from that year. And finally, it taught me to not take any moment for granted, as there is always something to learn or gain that brings you closer to your goals.

"Coaching just fills me up," says Greta Kullby (right), who is in her first year coaching the Lake Forest Academy varsity field hockey team.

What are some of the benefits of playing a team sport?

Team sports are respected for many reasons. They teach you how to collaborate, work hard, set goals, be accountable and be dependable. I think the one thing I would add to the overall conversation is that team sports have quite explicitly taught me how to respect and celebrate diversity. Not one person on a team is the same or is filling the same role. Learning to see differences in skill, spirit and work ethic as a strength has been a huge lesson to me beyond just sports.

When did you realize you had a desire to coach, and what do you love about leading a team?

I don't know if there was ever an "aha!" moment where I knew I was going to be a coach, but in high school and college I just loved the sport so much I couldn't hold back sharing that enthusiasm. Also, my coach Katie Beach, who owns and is the director of Windy City Field Hockey, encouraged and developed me not only as a player but as a coach as well. That’s definitely where it started. I always enjoyed being involved in showing young athletes how to set goals and then celebrating once they achieved it. From mastering a simple pull to a lift, a lift to a pop. I don't think there is a better moment as a coach than when you see something click in players and, all of a sudden, they look like a completely different team because of the growth they consciously make. And it’s funny because I feel like I should be tired -- I played, I coached, I was yelling, celebrating, jumping up and down, and yet I go home at the end of it with energy, as if I just drank five cups of coffee. Coaching just fills me up. And also, my parents are teachers and coaches, so you could say it runs in the family and just felt natural.

Do you have to start playing a sport at a really young age to play in college?

No. I only started playing field hockey when I was 12, in middle school. I know one of my high school teammates who picked up a stick the fall of her freshman year in high school and played in college for a great team and at international levels too. I coach first and second graders now at the field hockey club I played for (Windy City), and I am just amazed. I think it shows how much the sport has grown, and I love sharing my enthusiasm and passion for the sport in this way, but it does not mean that they all will play in college, or even want to. If you are passionate about your sport, enjoy working hard, are coachable, and mirror these characteristics with your actions, you can play whatever sport you want in college. I don't think everyone would agree with me -- talent, skill, potential, whatever you want to call it, is a factor of course too. Cat Catanzaro, who still coaches at Lake Forest High School, told me, "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard," and in my experience, this has never failed to be true.

A trend seems to be that young athletes dedicate their time to one sport rather than playing multiple sports, at least through high school. Do athletes really need to focus on one sport?

I made this same mistake. I love field hockey but also played soccer for most of my life. In hindsight, I wish I didn't quit soccer in high school and even wish I had been brave enough to try other sports at a high school level. I believe this for many reasons: Burnout is real, and playing only one sport for so long makes us lose sight of why we love it; our bodies can only take so much overuse of the same muscle groups; teamwork and having different strengths, perspectives, understanding can improve the self but also your skill and ability in other sports. I think there are many benefits to doing multiple sports for as long as you can. But a part of this problem is that not all sports are flexible, for many reasons, whether it be the time commitment, availability or even financing. That's the reality created by the college-sport pipeline in America, and I think it would be to the benefit of more groups of people than we think to lean away from a single-sport elitism.


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