Field Hockey: Tracey Fuchs discusses Northwestern’s first field hockey national championship


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Northwestern field hockey head coach Tracey Fuchs celebrates upon returning to Evanston after winning the program’s first national championship.

Andres Buenahora, Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor

Field Hockey

Tracey Fuchs, one of the most iconic field hockey players in the sport’s history and head coach of Northwestern’s field hockey team, grew up playing against boys.

“There was no ice hockey for girls, so I played a lot of street hockey with the guys next door,” Fuchs said. “I grew up playing field hockey, and then we would switch to football and then we would go over to a baseball field so I was just always playing (sports) from the age of five.”

Fuchs has been the University’s field hockey coach for 13 seasons. She led the Wildcats to an 18-5 record and the first national championship in program history on November 21, 2021, following successful title runs as a player at the University of Connecticut and coach at the University of Michigan.

Junior midfielder Sophie Thomas said many people call Fuchs “the Michael Jordan” of field hockey, given her legendary career and championship pedigree.

Thomas said Fuchs is especially caring toward her players and consistently encourages them to speak up.

“I’m an introvert so (Fuchs) is always like ‘what do you think about this, Sophie?’ which is helpful if I’m like ‘oh, I don’t know if I should say something,’” Thomas said.

She credited Fuchs with inspiring many of her players and giving them leadership opportunities.

Fuchs emphasized the importance of mental health amid the recent tragedies surrounding athletes such as Stanford University’s soccer captain Katie Meyer.

She said many athletes don’t want to admit they’re struggling, which makes checking in on her players that much more important.

“I think the best part about this generation is that they see their mental health and we see their mental health as as important as their physical health,” Fuchs said. “We need to continue to find ways to keep our athletes mentally healthy.”

Junior midfielder Ana Medina Garcia said as an international student, it was intimidating coming to the U.S. barely speaking English freshman year, but Fuchs made her transition easier.

She said Fuchs displays a certain willingness to listen and her coaching style constantly encourages people to step up.

“She genuinely cares about how we do personally,” Garcia said. “She’s always providing those spaces to talk … so she’s been really helpful for building (the) culture that we have within the team.”

As this summer marks the 50th anniversary of Title IX, Fuchs also called out the discrepancies in the treatment of male and female athletes and said the United States still faces significant issues surrounding gender equity in sports.

One such example was the recent controversy surrounding men’s and women’s basketball in the NCAA tournament, she said. The women’s weight room featured far less equipment, resources and space than the men’s weight room, which reflected budget inequities across men’s and women’s basketball.

“If I had been born a male, I would’ve been a 5-time Olympian,” Fuchs said. “It’s these things that lead me to fight.”

Fuchs said she knew this year’s team was going to be special even before the preseason began. She attributed NU’s draw in the NCAA tournament as a pivotal turning point.

She said she thought having to play the University of North Carolina would be the toughest matchup in the tournament. Seeing how excited her team was to play the NCAA’s reigning champion proved players had the right mindset heading into the tournament.

“You’re just so proud to see the smiles on their faces and all the work that they put (into winning an NCAA title),” Fuchs said. “This pandemic has really hit everybody hard. So to see all the work pay off … I was just so proud of them and so excited to bring a championship home to Northwestern.”

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