By Stephanie Maychack
Last summer I had the opportunity to sit down with Eastern Regional High School's Head Field Hockey Coach Danyle Heilig. I wanted to know more about the number one team in the nation and a program that has absolutely dominated High School Field Hockey over the years. What is it that puts this program on an entirely different level from other programs across the country year after year? Read our story on the Vikings 2015 National Championship season from earlier this week to get an idea of the type of dominance we are talking about. It didn't take long into my interview to figure out that Eastern's leader, Heilig, is what sets this program apart.
I chatted with Heilig for about an hour at Eastern's McAteer Stadium, a turf complex that would normally be referred to as the football field, but in Voorhees Township, New Jersey, it is undoubtedly the field hockey field. I recorded audio of our interview so I could go back over it later when writing this story. As I began relistening, I quickly knew that a write-up wouldn't do it justice. I had to let you listen to the head coach talk and hear for yourself her passion, competitiveness and drive to be the best because that is what sets her apart and what has turned Eastern into the national powerhouse they are today.
Heilig is a champion through and through. She won four state championships as a player at Morrestown High School. She won a NCAA Division I National Championship at James Madison University under current head coach Christy Morgan. She has won a State Championship at Eastern Regional High School every year since she got there in 1999 (this past Fall was her 17th straight). She has developed countless high level college and international players, including the top field hockey family in the United States, the Dawson sisters. She knows winning and success, and strives for nothing less.
While all the wins and success are certainly impressive, what impressed me most about Heilig was her awareness and acknowledgement of the bigger picture- the importance of building relationships, teaching life lessons, making the sport fun, growing the game, playing other sports and taking a break from field hockey now and then.
My favorite part of the interview unfortunately took place after the recorder was turned off. I said something along the lines of, "I have to admit, I thought you'd be a bit crazy." And to that she responded, "Oh, I am." And we both got a good laugh out of that.
One thing is clear- as long as Heilig is at the helm, Eastern Field Hockey will continue their national domination of High School Field Hockey. Heilig would settle for nothing less.
Head Field Hockey Coach, Eastern Regional High School (NJ) - 17x State Champion
Heilig (left) was a member of James Madison University's 1994 NCAA Division I National Championship Field Hockey Team