By Christine Graf
By offering year-round opportunities for athletes in grades 3 through 12 to train and compete, ADK Field Hockey LLC in Round Lake, is growing the sport of field hockey in the Capital Region and beyond.
Owners Phil and Jen Sykes of Round Lake have been involved in the business for more than 10 years. The club started with just 14 players but grew rapidly due to positive word of mouth.
“People started hearing about the club and then it doubled, tripled, and quadrupled. It just kept growing and growing,” said Phil Sykes. “We now have more than 250 players.”
Both Jen and Phil Sykes developed a love for field hockey when they were young. Jen is from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the home of the USA women’s field hockey team and one of the country’s epicenters for the sport.
“In Lancaster, you grow up playing field hockey,” she said.
A college All-American in both field hockey and lacrosse, she earned a degree in health and physical education from East Stroudsburg University and a M.S. in education from Canisius College. She has coached at both the high school and college level and is currently a teacher and head field hockey coach at Guilderland High School.
Phil Sykes was attending middle school in California when the U.S. men’s national team coach at the time, Gavin Featherstone, moved to his town. Featherstone set out to grow field hockey in California and recruited thousands of boys from schools throughout the state. Sykes started as a teenager.
When Sykes was 22, he was invited to join the field hockey residency program at the Olympic Training Center in San Diego.
Sykes made the final cut and was one of just 16 selected to play on the U.S. men’s national team. He and his teammates competed in tournaments and matches in 20 different countries and took home the bronze medal from the 1995 Pan American games in Argentina. In 1996, the team competed in the Olympics in Atlanta.
After competing at the national level, Sykes earned a degree in kinesiology from California State University, Hayward. He relocated to the northeast and coached at Towson University and Cornell before being named head women’s field hockey coach at University of Albany in 2004. During his 16 seasons as head coach, the team has won six America East Conference Championships and received six NCAA bids.
According to Phil Sykes, the duo decided to coach field hockey at the club level because they shared a desire to give back to the sport they both love so much.
“We both had significant coaches in our own lives, so the idea of giving back was important to us,” he said.
Field hockey is the world’s third most popular sport, but when ADK Field Hockey was established in 2010, it was experiencing a marked decline in the area.
“Field hockey was dying out. The numbers were down,” said Jen Sykes. “Before we started the club, not a lot of kids were going on to play in college. Now, every year, we have kids playing at the Division 1, II and III levels. We have had at least 139 collegiate players that have come out of our club. We also have at least 15 or 20 former players who are now coaching at the college level.”
Field hockey has experienced a surge in popularity in the Capital Region in recent years, and the Sykes’ believe ADK Field Hockey has helped make that happen. It is something they are both very proud of.
“When we started, for most kids, field hockey was their second sport, if not their third sport. Now I think it is one of the more popular sports in area because of the success and the enjoyment players have from our club,” said Phil Sykes. “
ADK Field Hockey also formed the Wicked Smart League, a competitive league that takes place during the summer. The league gives ADK players the opportunity to compete against the best players from around the state.
The Sykes admit that managing their club team is a challenging due to their full-time teaching and coaching schedules. They rely on a team of dedicated Division I coaches to assist with coaching responsibilities.
“Finding the time and energy to run the club is a challenge, but it’s fun and rewarding because we get to see these kids grow and evolve. Ultimately, a huge majority—more than 90 percent—play in college, and we get to see them continue on.”
“Our motto is ‘Be One, Teach One, Reach One’. We believe in providing an opportunity for every kid who loves field hockey to be a player, teach a player, reach a player,” he said. “Our ultimate goal with this is to create fun within our sport, and to help players get better, find enjoyment, and play the sport for life if possible.”
For more information, visit adkfieldhockey.net or email firstname.lastname@example.org.