As the fall athletic season kicks off at Seton Hill University, one of the biggest changes is the new head coach of the women’s field hockey team: Kyla Dickson.
Dickson grew up in Massachusetts and began playing field hockey when she was five years old. She attended Siena College in Albany, N.Y. where she played defense on the Division I field hockey team and graduated with a degree in psychology.
After four years at Siena, Dickson moved to Ithaca, N.Y. to obtain her masters in sports psychology at Ithaca College. During her year at Ithaca, Dickson also served as an assistant coach on the field hockey team, which is when she realized she wanted to coach for a living.
“While I was there, I started to actually see players asking questions not because they were told I was a coach, but because they trusted my abilities,” Dickson said. “That was a cool moment, to be seen for your value and your knowledge. From there, it was follow your passion.”
After five years away from home, Dickson returned to Massachusetts and volunteered as a middle school field hockey coach. She then became the head field hockey coach at Becker College in Worcester, Mass., where she remained for two years. During her first year at Becker, Dickson led her team to a conference championship and the NCAA Tournament. She also serves as a USA Field Hockey Level 2 coach and coaches in the Futures program, which consists of training middle and high school athletes who want to play field hockey at an elite level.
Although she enjoyed her time at Becker, Dickson was searching for a school where she could be a full-time head coach. She said it was easy to see the connection between her alma mater of Siena College and SHU because the two schools share many of the same values.
“To know that Seton Hill believed in me to be able to come here and do the job full-time and do right by the program was probably one of the most exciting things,” Dickson said. “I moved eight and a half hours away from all friends and family, but it was worth it so far and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time here so far.”
This season, the field hockey team is led on the field by four captains: seniors Kayla Chapman, Mackenzie Nalepa, Molly Childress and Jane Eberhardt. Dickson said she does not normally choose four captains, but they will help fill the gap of not having an assistant coach.
“Kayla has been a captain for three years, and the other three were bringing something else to the table that needed to be recognized,” Dickson said. “I’m excited to see how they flourish in the roles that they were given.”
Last season, the field hockey team went 3-15, and as of Sept. 5, the team is 1-1. They recently returned from South Carolina, where they lost to Newberry College on Friday and defeated Converse College on Sunday. Dickson said it would be ideal to win more games this season, but she hopes her coaching can help change the “team culture” and build confidence in her underclassmen.
“I allow my team to be emotional but have control, to push themselves and kind of break through that mental wall of frustration,” Dickson said. “I’m one of those coaches where I’ll come down hard when I need to, but in the end, this is supposed to be an empowering environment. I think that’s one of those things that the field hockey team in particular has needed, and I’ve already seen a lot more people stepping up who maybe wouldn’t have in the past.”
Dickson said that because of the time she spent studying sports psychology, she values teamwork, leadership and the mental aspect of the game. She recently gave a leadership presentation to her team, where she described some of her philosophies as a coach.
“My biggest [philosophy] is as teammates, you’re meant to empower each other, not bring each other down,” Dickson said. “The other one is if you’re not developing other people around you, then you’re just not doing your job. I think the seniors particularly have embodied that, realizing that it’s their job to prepare the sophomore class for leadership next year.”
With a few games under her belt, Dickson said she has already seen change occurring within the team and is excited to see how her players influence each other throughout the season.
“As I’ve seen how sports can empower others and push people to get outside their comfort zone, I put it pretty simply: I want you to leave as a better person than when I first met you, in whatever way that is,” Dickson said. “We have a big thing on our team where we don’t focus on our weaknesses. We focus on our strengths, and we let those carry us.”