Virginia H.S. Field Hockey Team To Be Featured On MTV’s “Made”
It was all caught on camera for a national audience.
MTV will feature the team’s experience Friday in an hour-long episode of “Made,” a show that documents teens working on their goals with the help of professionals.
The Phoebus field hockey team was selected after two players auditioned in January 2010, saying their team was brand-new and needed help becoming competitive. It had lost every game in 2009-2010, its first season.
MTV brought on Olympian Keli Smith, a member of the USA national field hockey team since 2001, to coach the team from mid-August to late September as camera crews filmed every move.
Smith said she was shocked when she realized the team’s lack of basic field hockey skills.
“I quickly learned that a lot of them had never picked up a (hockey) stick until that year,” she said. “A lot didn’t know some of the basic things about the sport.”
She mandated that the team of about 20 girls attend practice twice a day— 7 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. For about two weeks, they focused on conditioning and basic skills such as how to hit the ball and move it down the field.
Gabriella Valentine, a rising senior who auditioned for the show along with rising junior Melody Wright, said the non-stop practices were overwhelming.
“At first it was very tiring, I’m not going to lie,” she said. “But there wasn’t as much complaining as you think there would have been. The majority of the girls did want (to improve) and were excited for it.”
Smith said the team’s first game under her ended in a 9-0 loss. The score horrified her. She had never lost a game, as a player or a coach, by that margin. But the girls came off the field quite satisfied, she said.
“I couldn’t grasp why they were satisfied with nine-nothing, I was in shock,” she said. “They said ’Coach, this is pretty good. We lost to this team 16-nothing last year.’
The moment was an eye-opener for her on how far the team had come since the season before, she said.
Phoebus Coach Ryan Pringle, the boys’ soccer coach who stepped in to help with field hockey, said he agreed to do the show when MTV called him last spring. He said he was wary of problems the network might try to create between the girls for TV.
For example, he said, crews asked the girls questions in interviews that would naturally lead them to saying negative things about their teammates actions or abilities.
“MTV tried to create some drama,” he said.
“Me and my girls agreed that if you don’t have anything nice to say, keep your mouth shut. Let’s be true and honest, don’t let the cameras trick you into saying something negative about your team.”
Valentine, a rising senior on the team, said it was awkward to be filmed at every step and to talk into the camera while pretending it wasn’t there.
“We weren’t really tricked into saying anything,” she said, adding that the camera crew was nice and respectful. “If we talked about a certain player, we didn’t actually put her name out there. We just talked about how you should act compared to her actions. That’s how we got around it.”
Pringle described the camera crew as “excellent people” who were simply taking orders from producers in MTV’s New York offices who sent questions for them to ask the girls.
One crew member showed Pringle a question before it was asked, saying “Watch this,” Pringle said. Sure enough, when the question was asked, the player being interviewed exploded in temper.
Smith said that while the majority of girls got along, there was an internal team struggle because many players wanted to emerge as the leader and take the team to the next level. There wasn’t really a standout player though, she said.
Conflict also arose at times because some girls were more dedicated to the “Made” challenge then others, she said. When a player slacked or didn’t show up on time to practices or events, it made others upset.
Debra Wyant, mother of player and rising senior Melissa Wyant, said she’s curious to see how the show will turn out once its airs. She was among parents who told the players that if they couldn’t say something to a teammate’s face, not to say it at all.
“I’m just hoping it all goes smoothly and that there are no hurt feelings and that everything airs right,” she said.
According to MTV, the storyline will feature Caitlin Kremp, a senior who graduated Thursday night. Pringle said Kremp took on a leadership role and emerged as captain of the team.
Pringle said MTV made Kecoughtan High out to be the team’s rivals as part of the storyline, because of a 14-0 loss last year.
“They completely beat up on us in our first-ever game,” he said. “They embarrassed us, they made fun of us. Of the 13 girls playing (for Phoebus), it was the first-ever game for 11 of them.
“The girls took that to heart and were offended, so they wanted to get revenge on Kecoughtan.”
In 2010, the girls lost to Kecoughtan 4-0, Pringle said, and that’s with Kecoughtan playing their starters for most of the game. The year before, Kecoughtan stopped trying mid-game, he said.
“It was a huge improvement,” Pringle said. “The girls improved so much. That’s the good that came in to ’Made.’ They learned the game.”
Even with improvement, the girls lost every game in 2010 and scored only one goal all season long.
Smith said that win or lose, she walked away from the gig coaching the team feeling proud of the work ethic and dedication she helped instill in the girls.
Pringle, who is also the boys’ soccer coach at Phoebus, won’t be back leading field hockey next year because of new rules beginning in August that allow the soccer team to practice year-round.
Now the girls are looking for a new coach — one who’s up to the challenge of leading them to their first win.
Want to watch?
What: “Made,” featuring Phoebus High field hockey
When: Friday, 4 p.m.*