This edition of Who Makes Millersville Special features Shelly Behrens, head coach of the Millersville University Field Hockey Team.
Q: Where are you from?
A: I was born in New Jersey, but I grew up just outside Hershey in Elizabethtown, Pa., and graduated from Lower Dauphin High School. I consider myself a Central Pennsylvania girl.
Q: Where did you go to college? What did you major in?
A: I went to Old Dominion University, where I was an education major.
Q: When did you first get your passion for field hockey?
A: We moved to Pennsylvania when I was in third grade, and I was playing softball that summer with a group of folks. When the fall rolled around, they all were showing me this game called field hockey. It was foreign to me, and they were way ahead of me with their skills, but they needed someone to shoot at, so I thought, “I could do that, I can get in the way of the ball.” From there my career started.
Q: Can you tell us about your personal achievements as an athlete?
A: Actually, that’s not something I have ever focused on. To me the team is always more important than any one individual. I have my trophies, NCAA Championship items and all those things in boxes, actually. I was lucky to play four sports at Lower Dauphin and was offered a softball scholarship to Shippensburg University. Then I attended a USA Developmental Field Hockey Camp and didn’t realize I was playing with women trying out for the USA Team and the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. I was invited back for three weeks in a row, and after that camp as a high school senior, I had full scholarship offers to every university. I was very fortunate. I am humbled to be the first athlete male or female to receive a full scholarship from Lower Dauphin. I had set several goal keeper records during my time as the Old Dominion Field Hockey goal keeper and still hold some as the Old Dominion lacrosse goal keeper, as I played two sports in college and carried 21 credit hours. I am proud to have been on an NCAA Championship team for FH 23-0, and my picture is on the wall with that team at Old Dominion’s L.R. Hill Field Hockey Complex. I was a player on the USA U-21 team and a training USA Squad member. I was just never good enough to be an Olympian but gave it my best shot until I broke my leg and fractured my hip. I have been coaching since then! I have some awards from Old Dominion, the most prestigious being the Donna Doyle Award, and I received an academic award from James Madison University during my graduate days.
Q: Has there been someone—a family member, friend or coach—who you attribute to helping with your success?
A: Without question my parents and twin sisters. They have sacrificed so much for me, and I am not sure I can every properly repay them.
Q: What is your past experience as a coach?
A: Too long for this article! I have been involved as a USA field hockey coach and assistant coach with the U.S. women’s team for a number of years and was with the U.S. team at the Olympic qualifying tournament before the Sydney Games in 2000. I have been really blessed to have been able to work with the USA Field Hockey team for a number of years at various levels. I have also been able to work with some of the best coaches in Division I with a background in goalkeeping that has afforded me the opportunity to work with the best! I learned so much from my colleagues to help me as a coach.
Q: When did you first start coaching at Millersville University?
A: I started here in 2008. It was a part-time position, and I told the athletic director Peg Kauffman that I wanted the job and thought we could bring back some great winning ways to Millersville. I am astounded at what we have been able to do in such a short time, and I appreciate Peg for giving me the opportunity.
Q: What do you enjoy most about Millersville?
A: The people! Millersville is about relationships, and I love the student-athletes I get to work with. They are by far the finest young women I know. Their dedication to their academics and each other and field hockey is one to be regarded! I love the people at Millersville across campus, as well as in the athletic department that I get to work with on various committees and such. There are some great people here at Millersville. I love that you can walk across campus and see someone you know.
Q: Millersville’s Field Hockey Team has had some big successes since you became head coach. Can you tell us which achievements you’re most proud of and why you believe you’ve been so successful?
A: I think the next one, our “what’s next,” whatever that may be. I was proud when we were 7-11! I am proud of our young women risking what they do on the field. Pursuing greatness takes courage. It takes the same amount of energy to believe or doubt yourself! I prefer the former than the latter. I want these young women to know they can leave Millersville and achieve anything they set their mind and heart to as that is what we do every day. I want them to know what they have learned for and with each other will be what they take with them as well. The lessons one learns from being a collegiate athlete are ones that will serve these young women well in their lives—long after their playing career is over. To me it is not about winning—the scoreboard will never define them. To me they are, as I have told them already, enough. But to risk, pursue and take chances is where they have found their success.
Q: What was it like making it into the NCAA Division II Tournament?
A: Numbing. I have been there as an athlete and a coach, and it is never easy to earn the opportunity to compete for a national championship. These young women have set out to do that. I couldn’t be more happy and proud of all of them as well as those who have come before.
Q: You have been named the PSAC Coach of the Year for two years in a row. How does it feel to hold that honor?
A: I thought for sure it was a mistake! It is incredibly humbling. To me we have such great student-athletes and my assistant coaches, Casey Horning and Maria Thompson, who all work so hard. They deserve this. It is a reflection of all of our efforts.
Q: How often are you amazed by the amount of talent you see in your players?
A: Daily. I think when you let kids surprise you, they just may.
Q: What qualities would you say make for a great field hockey player?
A: The intangibles. It is what is inside that counts in the long run. Being athletic matters, but there are a lot of great athletes. It is having the heart, the head and the will to compliment that athleticism. Field hockey is a very unique game and not for the faint of heart.
Q: How early do you usually start preseason? A: Mid-August, same as our other fall sports.
Q: What does a field hockey practice usually involve?
A: Being fit, first of all, or you will so want to do anything else. Skills, tactics and technique—our game has a lot of set pieces and plays. We work on our mental game as much as our physical ability to execute what we need to. There are also varying styles of play in Division I & II and we prepare for various opponents as we need too. We play 18 games in about nine weeks and the players on average are running three to four miles per game, minus the goal keeper, who has shots coming at her body 70-90 mph. So it is not a game for just anyone!
Q: Do you or your team have any special pre or post-game rituals? If so, what?
A: Most definitely. We have 24 women, so of course there are rituals. They have various ribbons and headbands. I lost a bet one time and had to wear a camouflage bow on my sunglasses. There are certain things I let them they do as it is important to them. They have “swag hand wash” in our locker room. It’s so interesting when I smell the Old Spice. It makes me laugh. They usually are singing and some dancing—they are just them. Sometimes I do a motivational story or lesson as I see fit. I always ask them a certain question before we take the field and they always commit themselves to each other and the task at hand before stepping over the line to the playing field. It is then when we are “ready for work” as we say. We always leave the field together—meaning after the match regardless of the outcome, we circle up hands on shoulders until we can get to be together again. We also have our 24-hour rule: Don’t feel too good on a win past 24 hours or too bad on a loss, look at ourselves and be better next time.
Q: Is there a motivational quote that you and your team live by?
A: For me it is, “If you are not enough without winning you will never be enough with it.” It is how I know our ladies are already enough. This year their saying is, “Find a way.” One can either find a way or find an excuse. We will make our own path if there is not one, so we prefer to find a way to what we want.
Q: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not coaching?
A: Going to the beach, golfing and reading. I am a homebody, really. I love being outside, but that is an occupational hazard as well. I love to shop and sometimes to recharge I do nothing. I have monthly movie and theater dates with my 10-year-old nephew, and that is what I did after we won the NCAA Regional. I think I am the only one who fell asleep during the movie “Thor.” But I was tired.
Q: Tell us about your involvement with the State Employee Combined Appeal (SECA). What positions, charities and campaigns have you been involved in through SECA?
A: The campaign itself covers a number of charities, and I am fortunate that the committee does such a great job. As it is during the field hockey season, time is tight and the other folks on the committee are so dedicated—it reminds me of being a part of another team.
Q: If there was one famous person, dead or alive, that you could meet, who would it be?
A: John F. Kennedy.
Q: Finish this sentence: “My life would be incomplete without…”
A: The people who let me be me and challenge me to be better daily.