It is safe to say there is no one at Wesleyan University who knows more about and has invested more time into the game of field hockey than Head Coach Patti Klecha-Porter. You may never understand all the rules of the game, and trust me, there are a lot, some of which are changed annually, but if you attend a game at Smith Field and want to know if the referee made the right call or missed something, all you need to do is watch Coach Klecha-Porter’s reaction. She’s been around the game of field hockey all of her life and has experienced it at all levels.
She came to Wes in 1985 and is currently in her 31st season as the field hockey coach. But that’s not all. Coach Klecha-Porter also served as the women’s squash head coach for 15 years from 1986-2001 and the assistant coach for another 14 years (2001-15). In addition, she teaches physical education classes at the University.
On Saturday, Oct. 10, Coach Klecha-Porter coached Wes to a 1–0 triumph over the visiting Mules of Colby in her 443rd game as the head coach. With the win, she reached a career milestone, recording her 200th victory at the helm of the Cardinals’ squad. The Argus sat down with the face of Wesleyan field hockey to learn a little bit more about her career and her life in and outside of field hockey.
The Argus:Tell us a little bit about your history with field hockey and the game’s role in your family. When was the first time you picked up a field hockey stick?
Patti Klecha-Porter: I took up field hockey in seventh grade, and was pushed by my older sister to play the sport. Field hockey is the sport my entire family has played and coached. I currently have two nieces on the Olympic team, Katie and Julia, who both played at Princeton. They won a National Championship at Princeton, and played in their first Olympic Games in London. They will also play in Rio next summer. I have two sisters who coach, a brother with two daughters that play, and another sister whose daughters play [at the] DI [level]. When we have family gatherings the conversation always turns to field hockey. My mother, who is 93, tells us her opinion as well.
A: What was your reaction when you recorded your 200th career win at Wesleyan on Saturday, and what did it mean for you to have it happen at home?
PKP: It has been an honor to be the Wesleyan field hockey coach. I certainly do not claim the 200 wins, but credit the many incredible student athletes I have been fortunate to coach over the years. The win at home on Saturday was more important for our 2015 season.
A: Your 199th win was a pretty special one too. The team upset formerly 12th-ranked Tufts. What was going through your mind on the last penalty corner that the team had to defend at the end of regulation?
PKP: I was very confident that our defensive corner unit was going to hold strong, especially when the opposing team took the corner on the non-traditional side.
A: What do you love most about coaching field hockey?
PKP: To fully know each one of my players and push them to be the best they can at their role and job on the field. I believe in growing and developing each individual’s skills and finding a way for them to collectively work together in the best way.
A: How do you prepare on game days, and what pumps you up?
PKP: There is no better day than game day. We review film, look at our opponent’s weaknesses and strengths, and match up their system with ours. As soon as I see our Cardinal team round the corner to take Smith Field in uniform, I get psyched for the game to begin.
A: You came to Wesleyan in 1985. How has the University changed?
PKP: Well, to start, our surface is now a turf field. Students are hard workers as always. Field hockey players, in general, have improved their skills due to increased playing opportunities. The sport has gotten faster, quicker, and stronger. The spirit of the University maintains a life of its own. It is strong.
A: What is your most memorable moment in your 31 years at Wes?
PKP: Winning the ECAC’s two years in a row [1999 and 2000 seasons] and the Little Three in 2003.
A: You hold an international umpire rating for women’s lacrosse. What is the highest level of competition you have refereed?
PKP: I have umpired several DI NCAA Championships and several World Cups.
A: What is your favorite sport other than field hockey?
PKP: This is a tough question. I would have to say it is between squash and lacrosse. I have been so amazed with our squash players, both women and men, when they have a match. The one-on-one competitive atmosphere is electric. Lacrosse has changed so much; the players’ speed, quickness, strength, and stick work is incredible.
A: Describe a Tabata class with Patti? What’s your favorite part about teaching?
PKP: Tabata is probably the best all-around work out one can do. It pushes you to that limit where you think you cannot go on but do. I love to see students enjoy my class and see them make a change in their fitness habits. I want to encourage and motivate students to set a high standard and work toward achieving it.
A: In the last year, tell me something you have done that you found exciting and memorable.
PKP: This summer, my husband Scott and I did the Coast-to-Coast Walk in England: 192 miles in 12 days. We averaged 19-20 miles a day. I now feel that this is the only way to take a vacation. Got to be active.
A: I am sure you have heard about different classes offered at Wes from your players. If you could take one class at Wes what would it be and why?
PKP: I am a science person. I would like to review my Chemistry and Biology.
A: How has the team grown this season?
PKP: Our captains have done an amazing job at creating a field hockey family. They have been positive no matter what the situation is. They put the needs of others before themselves. It is contagious.
A: As a coach, you have won the Little Three outright only once in 2003. What would winning a Little Three Championship mean to you?
PKP: It is a goal every year. We have a great shot at repeating that this season.