P.E.I. Sports Hall of Famer offers field hockey clinic

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Charles Reid
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Cornell University field hockey coach and Island native Donna Hornibrook speaks to some field hockey players at UPEI Wednesday. University, high school and junior high school players participated in the clinic. Guardian photo by Brian McInnis

Donna Hornibrook laughs when the words intense and passionate are used to describe her on the field hockey pitch and on the sidelines as a coach.

And while that laughter admits those are probably accurate, she’s reserving the right to edit after a field hockey career that stretches back 30 years to P.E.I.

The Charlottetown native said she’s mellowed over the years, even if the goals as player and coach are similar. 

This after she coached, egged on and pushed 22 Island female field hockey players ranging from junior high school to university level at a recent free clinic in the city for almost two hours. 

In the rain.

“I had way more intensity as a player than I have had as a coach. As a player, you would say there are some things that as a coach are the same,’’ said Hornibrook, who’s current gig is head coach of Cornell University’s women’s field hockey team, following the clinic. “Try to give your best everyday. (Realize) some days are good days, some are bad. At the end of the day it’s a game.’’

Her clinic, supported the P.E.I. Field Hockey Association, took advantage of Hornibrook’s yearly vacation trip back to P.E.I. Hornibrook and her husband, Dwight, men’s soccer coach at Cortland State, live in Lansing, N.Y., with their daughters, Kathryn and Emily. Dwight Hornibrook is Fredericton, N.B., native.  

Before Cornell, Hornibrook, a graduate of the University of New Brunswick, was a four-time all-conference and four-time national university tournament all-star selection with the school and was the P.E.I. female athlete of the year in 1980 and 1981. 

Hornibrook was also selected for Canada’s national team 1979-83. 

She was inducted into the P.E.I. Sports Hall of Fame last year. She coached at Houghton College from 1995-2003 before moving onto Cornell and posted a  111-39-4 record at Houghton, including a school record 16-win season in 2003. 

Before Houghton, Hornibrook lead UNB to  a 60-8-6 record from 1990-1995, won five AUAA conference titles and two silver medals at the Canadian university championships.

Cornell went 11-5 last season and is 62-51 since 2004 under Hornibrook.

One her former players, Charla Currie, attended the camp. 

She didn’t suit up, but had good memories of her time   (1992-95) playing for Hornibrook at UNB, where she happened to be a part those national finals squads.

“We had good teams and obviously good coaching. She was good strategy person. I remember she pulled out some wild defensive tactics,’’ said Currie, a physical education teacher at Colonel Gray high School in Charlottetown. “She’s passionate, intense, dedicated. She expected you to work as hard as she did.’’

And she got results from the near two-dozen players on the wet UPEI field. There was no griping, players worked, rarely stopped and most sported smiles in the drizzle.

“I think (young players have a common deficiency). Basic skills. Everyone wants to see the reverse stick shot into the top corner, but fundamentals have to be strong. Passing and receiving. It’s a team game. That’s the ground level,’’ said Hornibrook.

She returns to Cornell next week. Pre-season work begins in mid-August.

Organizations: Houghton College, University of New Brunswick, Cornell University P.E.I. Field Hockey Association School in Charlottetown

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Cortland, Lansing, N.Y. Fredericton Canada

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