Walker’s Head Varsity Field Hockey coach Mimi Duran, a New Agenda: Northeast Women’s Hall of Fame inductee, recognized the gaps between opportunity and access to sports in underserved communities and she worked to incorporate field hockey into Walker’s Horizons program, a national program which aims to combat summer learning loss for underserved girls. Horizons at The Ethel Walker School, the nation’s first all-girls program, serves girls from Hartford public schools by offering year-round enrichment offerings including a six-week summer program at the Walker’s Simsbury campus with the aim to prepare students to thrive both in and out of the classroom. The girls spent time each week during the summer learning the field hockey sport, and also about the importance of physical activity and the benefits it can have on mental health and wellness.
“Sports has become a rite of passage for many children, but there is a lack of access for under-represented children, particularly in Hartford. This program has been developed to address these disparities and offer access and opportunity to young girls so that we can fill the college pipeline with diverse players,” says Duran. “The Horizons program supports the academic progress of students in its program in addition to the physical component that includes swimming and dance lessons. This partnership which introduces organized sports coupled with academics prepares Horizons students with the skills they will need to be successful in high school and beyond.”
This new initiative has been developed in partnership with Growing the Greatest Game (GGG), a national initiative to measurably advance field hockey through diversity and inclusion. This year GGG supports more than 20 grassroots sites that target underrepresented athletes with the aim to generate sustainable support from collegiate institutions and local clubs so that athletes have the opportunity to continue to play once they complete the grassroots sessions. Sistas with Sticks, another partner in the program, led diversity training for Horizons coaching staff and will continue to lead diversity training for the program on a yearly basis. Penn Monto, a field hockey equipment company, donated and deeply discounted more than 130 sticks, shin guards, goggles, and mouthguards that were made available at no charge to students in the program.
“I am beyond excited that Coach Mimi and our partners approached our Horizons program with the chance to collaborate on this initiative,” said Horizons Executive Director Princess Hyatt. “It is a transformative experience for our students to learn to play a sport that they may not have access to at their home schools. I am especially impressed with Sistas with Stix holistic approach to training coaches and volunteers during our diversity equity, inclusion, and justice webinar run by Sistas with Stix which helped all of us understand the impact of creating this program to introduce our students as young as third grade to the benefits of playing field hockey.”
Students will continue to participate in developmental sessions throughout the fall with special events also part of the agenda including a trip in November to Trinity College in Hartford for the NCAA Division 3 Field Hockey Finals.
In addition to the partnerships created with Growing the Greatest Game, Sistas with Sticks, and Penn Monto, the Walker’s/Horizons coaching staff will collaborate with head field hockey coach Karen Nell of University of St. Joseph (West Hartford, CT) and Trinity College’s (Hartford, CT) head field hockey coach Anne Parmenter, to offer opportunity and access to underserved girls of color to the sport by providing equipment and transportation to participate in clinics and other activities throughout the summer and fall. The Walker’s/Horizons coaching staff includes Head Coach Amanda Naimie, a former JV coach in Walker’s field hockey program, current Walker’s field hockey players, and members of University of Saint Joseph’s field hockey program.
Horizons at The Ethel Walker School, the first all-girls Horizons program in the nation, serves 130 underserved girls in Greater Hartford public schools in grades Pre-K – 7th grade. Horizons creates the conditions, connections, and community that enable every girl who attends to gain the skills, confidence, and motivation to overcome the opportunity gap and realize her potential. Horizons at The Ethel Walker School builds brighter futures for girls by creating year-round academic, artistic, and athletic opportunities, nurturing potential, and inspiring individual dreams in a safe and supportive community.
Growing the Greatest Game is a national initiative to measurably advance field hockey through diversity and inclusion. GGG supports more than 20 grassroots sites that target underrepresented athletes. The hope is that there is sustainable support from collegiate institutions and local clubs so that the athletes have the opportunity to continue to play once they complete the grassroots sessions. GGG is a passion project that is led by four organizations, So Sports Foundation (Megan Stocks), Sistas With Sticks (Imani Ruffin) Stepping into Field Hockey (Shari Jones, Janessa Pope, Idrienne Walker), and Beyond Sticks (Chrissy Summers).