GILBERT, Ariz. — Chrissy (Lewis) Summers, founder and director of Beyond Sticks and Play Beyond the Game, has been selected to receive this year's National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) Junior Hockey Award.
"For the last seven years Chrissy Summers' programs have impacted over 5,000 youth field hockey players," said NFHCA First Vice-President and Chair of the Hall of Fame and Awards Committee, Julie Ryan. "Chrissy's mission to 'empower young people through sport' has been the core of her program."
For the better part of the last decade, Summers has been a high school head coach — she started at The Madeira School, then transitioned to The Potomac School, both in McLean, Virginia. She is now leading the field hockey program at Spakenhill High School in New York where she stepped in when the team found themselves without a coach. Summers most notable work, though, is her youth field hockey program Beyond Sticks and its nonprofit counterpart, Play Beyond the Game.
Summers founded Beyond Sticks in 2011 and it has grown exponentially since it was founded. She started with just 11 players and now, Beyond Sticks hosts approximately 1,500 field hockey athletes each year in a variety of programs which include an after-school program, a development academy, recreation leagues and summer camps.
The nonprofit, Play Beyond the Game, was added to the Beyond Sticks family in 2015 when a group of concerned parents wanted to start a recreational league in Loudoun County, Virginia. Most of the organization runs through the nonprofit now, and the core of all programs emphasize leadership and character training through sport. In 2016, Summers was presented with the Toyota and ESPNW Everyday Hero Award for her comprehensive youth field hockey program. The award came with a $10K grant that Summers put to use immediately, starting field hockey-centric after-school programs in two charter schools, one in Washington D.C. and one in New York.
While the work and time Summers has devoted to growing the game of field hockey makes her a worthy candidate for the Junior Hockey Award, her approach made her an exceptional awardee. "Chrissy's focus is on teaching young players strong values that are applicable throughout their lives," said Ryan. "She has gone above and beyond teaching the X's & O's to truly care about developing strong girls who will turn into even stronger women."
Beyond Sticks was founded with Summers' belief that sport is about more than what happens on the field. She emphasizes character development and, in her program's partnership with the Positive Coaching Alliance and Positivity Project, her core values center around effort, learning and embracing mistakes as learning opportunities. Her nominator noted that Summers is committed to reaching each and every person she can. And since the addition of her own three children, she is more committed than ever to keeping kids in the game and building joy, character and leadership through field hockey.
"In shock! It's funny how quickly imposter syndrome can set in," noted Summers when asked how she felt about receiving the award. "No one goes into this line of work expecting this sort of thing, especially at the national level. You do it because seeing the impact you have on young women makes all the work worth it. To see young athletes gain confidence, to see them make friends, to see them 'find their thing,' that's why I started this organization."
Summers gives credit to those that helped her implement her vision: "The award should truly be shared by all those volunteers, coaches and employees who made the idea of character through sport a reality. It makes me want to break it up and give it to all the amazing coaches who make the vision of playing beyond the game happen every week with our programs."
Summers graduated cum laude from Vassar College. She competed for four years on the field hockey team, served her junior and senior year as the team's captain and, as a senior, served as the Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee National President. She also earned a master's degree in sports business management from Georgetown University. She currently resides outside of West Point, New York with her husband, an active-duty military officer, and their three children, Jane, Edwin and Jackson.
Summers will be presented with the NFHCA Junior Hockey Award at this year's NFHCA Awards Dinner sponsored by AstroTurf which will take place on Thursday, January 17, as part of the NFHCA Annual Convention in Lake Mary, Florida.