Doylestown's Crandall captains Olympic field hockey team

Doylestown's Lauren Crandall led the U.S. team to a gold medal in the 2011 Pan American Games.
Doylestown's Lauren Crandall led the U.S. team to a gold medal in the 2011 Pan American Games. (OMAR TORRES / AFP, Getty Images)
Posted: July 24, 2012

In this age of youth-sports specialization when even grade-schoolers often focus on one sport, Lauren Crandall said that doing the opposite helped her on the road to being captain of the U.S. Olympic field hockey team.

The Central Bucks East High School graduate, about to be a two-time Olympian at age 27, said it is an advantage starting a sport at a young age. Her issue is the one-sport emphasis.

"It's just sad. You can learn a lot the more sports you play," Crandall said. "I think I picked up a lot about movement on the field from playing soccer. I always refer to other sports. I'm always shocked when a girl says, I just play field hockey. I'm like, Why? Have you played softball? Our swing is like a softball swing."

Her own path, she said, was marked by two early moves in her life, from Doylestown to the Pittsburgh area and then back to Doylestown. She had grown up playing soccer in Doylestown before moving west in fourth grade. When she returned in seventh grade, her soccer friends had begun playing field hockey, Pennsylvania being one of the hotbeds of the sport.

"They put a stick in my hand, and then I learned the rules two years later," Crandall said.

Even starting high school, soccer still was her prime sport.

"It was always soccer. I wanted to go to UNC to play soccer," she said, referring to the University of North Carolina, where Mia Hamm and a host of others had turned the school into the juggernaut of the sport and the top feeder to the U.S. national team.

It wasn't until her junior year of high school, she said, that her C.B. East coach pushed her to join some travel teams, play indoors in the winter, really devote herself to field hockey. She was part of C.B. East's 2002 state championship team and ended up playing college sports in North Carolina, but across the state at Wake Forest, where she was a college all-American.

"She's a fierce competitor and she loves to battle," said Missy Meharg, coach at Atlantic Coast Conference rival Maryland and an Olympic field hockey analyst for NBC. "She's grown up to be an incredible leader. . . . Someone who once was a very, very talented and a fiery competitor has become highly intellectual in her approach."

U.S. national team coach Lee Bodimeade, a silver medalist for Australia's 1992 men's Olympic team, took over the U.S. women's team in 2005, the year Crandall earned her first international cap. He remembers how Crandall in her early years on the national team "was floating" as an outside defender.

"She had certain skills that had appeal. Now she has just developed into being obviously our captain and one of the real keys to our success," Bodimeade said.

Not just because she is a leader, he said.

"Now she epitomizes the ethos of the team," Bodimeade said. "She's the center back. She's the most vulnerable in defense. She's critical to our buildup in attack. If you have a person there who doesn't have the intentional fortitude to handle those situations, you're in a lot of trouble. And Lauren Crandall has developed her distribution, her elimination, her tackling, to the point where she is critical to her team."

Could Crandall have envisioned herself as a future Olympic-team captain?

"Not at all. It wasn't a thought in my mind," Crandall said. "I think the future is a scary place because you're not living in the future. And I've never changed who I am to try and get a position of leadership."

Contact Mike Jensen at 215-854-4489 or or @Jensenoffcampus on Twitter.

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