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Back in Orange and Black: Christensen Rejoins Newport Field Hockey

  • Coach Steven Christensen explains a sprinting drill to the Newport girls field hockey team during the team's first practice of the year in Newport, N.H., on August 18, 2014. <br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Coach Steven Christensen explains a sprinting drill to the Newport girls field hockey team during the team's first practice of the year in Newport, N.H., on August 18, 2014.
    (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • The Newport girls varsity field hockey team practices dribbling during their first practice in Newport, N.H., on August 18, 2014. <br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    The Newport girls varsity field hockey team practices dribbling during their first practice in Newport, N.H., on August 18, 2014.
    (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Coach Steven Christensen explains a sprinting drill to the Newport girls field hockey team during the team's first practice of the year in Newport, N.H., on August 18, 2014. <br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)
  • The Newport girls varsity field hockey team practices dribbling during their first practice in Newport, N.H., on August 18, 2014. <br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

Newport — Steve Christensen went to a couple of field hockey games in 2003. He’s been hooked ever since.

He’s coached track and field as well as softball. But field hockey is a sports to which he’s become addicted, and it’s brought him back to the Newport High program after several years away.

The 62-year-old has been around. He went to high school in Massachusetts (Chelmsford), then off to the Air Force and eventually graduated from Louisiana State University, in 1980. Now he is back at the site of his first field hockey job.

Christensen doesn’t just show up to coach, although he will admit the character of the players is what drives him. During parts of the last three days, he has been lining Bates Field and has purchased shorts, shirts and a bag to carry them in for all the players.

So why does he do this? “To show the kids that somebody cares,” Christensen said on Monday.

When Christensen’s affection for the sport came into the forefront, he expressed his desire to coach the sport to athletic director Doug Beaupre. Talk about being careful for what you wish for. Next thing Christensen knew, the 2003 coaching staff abdicated and and the job was his by the following autumn.

“I started to go to all types of clinics all over the place,” said Christensen. “All at my own expense. I even went to Yale.”

So what good did all that cramming do?

“We started 0-6,” he said.

But that was the bad part. In game No. 7 at Somersworth, the Tigers broke a 1-1 tie with a goal in the last minute, and the team went on to win its last eight games and make the playoffs.

This will be Christensen’s second go-round as the Newport coach. He has spent the last six years at Newfound as an assistant to Kari Peterson, from whom he learned more than anyone else.

“Newfound has been to the final four for seven straight years,” said Christensen. “She’s the best.”

Christensen is replacing Shannon Martin, who has taken the position as principal at Black River High School in Ludlow, Vt. Martin missed the 2012 season to have a baby, with Becky Merrow filling in as coach. It all means that the 2014 Tigers will be having their third coach in three years.

“I know that’s not good,” said Christensen, who has just 17 players out and has no assistant coach. “I think, for jayvee games, we will have to play just a half because you can play just four quarters a day, and we’ll not have enough players for two full games.”

There is one significant rule change this year, and Christensen and most of the coaching fraternity is in agreement with it: Players will have to move from five to seven yards away on free hits. “Those five-yard drops were just an accident waiting to happen,” he said. “I’m glad its back a couple of more yards. I may even move my girls further back. Some of the girls hit that hard ball awful hard.”

During Monday’s practice, Christensen told the girls about triangles and how important they are to positioning. “Field hockey is a sport of movement, and it takes a lot of strategy,” he explained. “As the season goes on the girls will learn about the importance of triangles.”

Ironically, Christensen’s last game for Newfound was a 7-0 defeat of the Tigers in last year’s NHIAA Division III tournament. The loss capped a 7-8 season for Newport.

Now it’s on to 2014. Newport will be at Keene High School for a jamboree on Saturday. The Tigers’ schedule opens on Sept. 2 at Conant.