20 years ago, Jenna Ries, a former University of Maryland field hockey player, had an idea for a pre-high school club for the sport she played. Today, that organization is known as Jackals Field Hockey Club.
“When it started 20 years ago, our county did not have a lot of opportunities for traveling high school sports teams,” Ries said. “Now it goes as young as seven or eight years old.”
The Jackals Club, founded by Ries in 2000, is the preeminent field hockey program in Montgomery County. There are girls that will come from different recreation-level teams and try out for Jackals to make the top level training for college. Jackals also train kids at the college level, during their high school training, and when they’re getting set to be college-ready.
“It’s true development to get athletes prepared for college,” Ries said.
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The club also includes coaches who have field hockey experience. Leah Hunsinger is the director of divisions U10, U12, U14, as well as a coach for the JV field hockey team at Quince Orchard High School.
“During the year we have our main travel team which is more year round,” Hunsinger said. “We have U10, U12, U14, U16, and U19 teams.”
The club also has clinics for working on specific skills. “We do private lessons and camps like these,” Hunsinger said.
The Jackals also do a lot of local events in Montgomery and Howard County, tournaments in Pennsylvania and some in Virginia, as well as big showcases which will be in Florida.
“We used to go the Disney tournament,” Hunsinger said. “We usually do two or three showcases a year which go further. It’s a big thing for college recruiting.”
Hunsinger also noted that college field hockey recruiting is similar and just as competitive as other women’s sports, such as soccer and lacrosse.
“It’s very competitive,” Hunsinger said. “That’s why usually the girls who want to play in college are on this year-round travel team because that’s where you’re working all year round, playing in these big tournaments with experienced coaches who have done this before. It’s very good to go to these showcases and talk to coaches who can come watch you throughout the year and see how you’re improving.”
Luckily for athletes also playing lacrosse, they don’t need to miss out on practicing for the Jackals. Hunsinger played fall field hockey, spring lacrosse, and Jackals throughout the year. She played lacrosse to help her stay in shape and work on her athleticism.
“That’s the good thing that, especially during lacrosse season, practices were at times when the people who play lacrosse would still come,” she said. “It’s usually on Sundays during the lacrosse season.”
The Jackals are currently holding a high school prep camp for students already in high school, as well as incoming freshmen.
“Fingers crossed, they’re all making the team,” Hunsinger chuckled. “So this is a good preparation.”
Chobani, a rising senior at Poolesville High School, is the oldest member of the Jackals and looking to play in college.
“She’s phenomenal.” Ries said. “She’s looking to play DI (Division 1).”