After Ithaca College canceled fall sports for the 2020 season due to COVID-19, second-year graduate student Anna Bottino, a graduate assistant for the women’s field hockey team, missed the game she loves. Since Bottino could not be on the field working with the Bombers, she took her coaching skills online in the forms of one-on-one Zoom training sessions and a new Instagram account called Field Hockey Training Collective (FHTC).
Bottino played field hockey at the University at Albany during her undergraduate years, and she reconnected with her former teammate Kelsey Briddell to create the FHTC account. The pair posts content three to four times weekly, aimed at teaching young field hockey players both the physical and mental skills of the sport.
“Amongst the array of things that have happened in the past year, it really caused myself and a lot of my old teammates to reflect,” Bottino said. “I sat down with [Briddell], and I was like, ‘Wouldn’t it be awesome if we had an Instagram page where we could just post everything about field hockey but from the perspective of bringing in multiple dimensions of the game?’”
The Instagram account launched Jan. 15 and currently has 179 followers. Briddell said FHTC will hopefully continue growing, as it is still in the beginning stages.
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“It’s not where we want it right now because it’s really new,” Briddell said. “We’re hoping that with consistency of the things that we’re posting and the quality of them, that will end up gaining more attention and more followers. I think it can be so much bigger than it is right now.”
Bottino kicks off the week with Mindfulness Mondays, when she shares tips for improving mental wellness and performance. Bottino is a graduate student in the sports psychology program at the college, so she said she pulls from her academic and personal experiences to come up with different mindfulness strategies. So far, these have included topics like journaling, breathing exercises and positive affirmations.
Kaitlyn Wahila, head coach of the Bombers field hockey team, said that Bottino’s knowledge of mental health and mindfulness techniques have been a huge contribution to the program during her time as a graduate assistant.
“She is just so mature beyond her years and has been so grounding for our team,” Wahila said. “She has brought an awareness to mental health that, to be honest, I really didn’t have before she arrived. She has really helped the players recognize the importance of it.”
On Wednesdays, Briddell creates and posts a TikTok video showcasing a unique skill or trick using her field hockey stick. Through the Instagram account, she encourages young field hockey players to post themselves trying out the trick as well. All of the skills are easy for athletes to try in a small indoor space since many do not currently have regular access to field and training spaces.
Fridays are fun days, when Bottino and Briddell post anything that they want related to field hockey. So far, their fun Friday content has included throwback photos from their days playing at the University at Albany, a tutorial on building a goal cage out of PVC pipes and fabric and a video of field hockey tricks using a roll of toilet paper.
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Bottino said her favorite part of the account is the Sunday Coffee Talks on Instagram Live. Their first guest was Michelle Simpson, associate head field hockey coach at the University of Maine, who previously coached Briddell and Bottino when they played at the University at Albany.
“Every other Sunday, we’re talking to someone in the field hockey world about field hockey, life, sports,” Bottino said. “I’m really passionate about it because I love a good conversation.”
On top of co-managing the Field Hockey Training Collective account and helping to coach the Ithaca College field hockey team, Bottino is holding individual virtual training sessions for young field hockey players all over the country. She works with athletes ages 6–17 on improving technique through exercises that can be done in an athlete’s basement or living room.
Bottino conducts these training sessions on Zoom and has athletes set up cones in one formation that she adapts to different drills throughout the 30 minutes. Bottino said the training helps players work on their skills amid pandemic restrictions, and it keeps her engaged in the game.
“I love working with young kids,” Bottino said. “It’s such a blast, and for them I think it’s a much needed break from sitting down in Zoom class and trying so hard to pay attention. I definitely want to be able to incorporate more athletes and find more creative ways to train remotely as we work through everything and in our current circumstances.”
Wahila said Bottino’s involvement in field hockey beyond the college’s team has been helpful for the Bombers to see and engage with as well.
“She’s working to provide an environment where any student–athlete — high school, college, anybody — can see,” Wahila said. “Whether you’re working on your mental health, your individual skill, recruiting advice, she’s to bring it all together and offer this platform where student–athletes can show up and learn something.”