Field hockey sensation Alexa Hoover rewrote the record books at Penn. But her work isn't done just yet.
Hoover, a forward who graduated in 2018, finished her career at Penn as the school’s all-time leader in goals with 68, which is also good for fourth all-time in Ivy League history. She started in all of her 67 games and earned first-team all-Ivy honors in each year of her collegiate career, the only Quaker to ever do so.
It’s safe to say the field hockey world was on notice for this star, and the future looked very bright for Hoover, who had also been selected as a member of the U.S. Olympic Development Team just after graduation. This squad was right below the U.S. National Team itself, which Hoover also had her sights set on.
Yet, tragedy can strike at any time, and for Hoover and many other athletes, it comes in the form of injuries. Hoover suffered a torn left ACL in only her second practice with the national team. It wasn’t Hoover’s first injury, as she had previously torn her right ACL in high school and her right meniscus in college.
Consequently, while she went on a tour to Chile with the USNDT, she was forced to take in all the action from the sidelines, as she began her rehabbing and underwent surgery immediately after the trip.
However, things got worse when Hoover contracted a staph infection from the surgery, requiring additional surgeries and the prescription of several pills and medicines.
As a result, Hoover spent most of her summer rehabbing, knowing she wanted to get back to field hockey as quickly as possible. But at the same time, she also had to do what most fresh college graduates do: go on a job hunt.
In the fall, Hoover was hired as Director of Field Hockey Operations right back at Penn, where she could regularly see her old teammates, continue rehabbing, and surround herself with field hockey.
But at her first training session back in the summer of 2019, she tore her ACL again, citing her staph infection as preventing adequate blood flow to her knee.
“That didn’t deter me at all,” Hoover said. “So, at that point, I wanted to move into direct coaching...I knew I always wanted to be a coach anyways.”
So Hoover applied for and got the assistant coaching job at nearby La Salle University, becoming one of only two coaches on the team, the other being head coach MaKayla Hancock. Compared to other teams at La Salle that have five times as many coaches for a similar number of players, it was a big responsibility for Hoover.
As a first-year coach, Hoover helped lead the team to a 7-11 record. She learned the ropes of managing schedules, administrative duties, recruiting, and all the background work of coaching. However, Hoover felt highly prepared for this balancing act, as a graduate of an Ivy League school and a D-1 athlete.
“When you first start coaching, you know how to play the game, but can you teach another person how to play the game?” Hoover said.
She was just beginning to get her feet under her when the normal spring schedule was ripped apart and seasons were getting postponed and cancelled.
In Alexa’s eyes, coaching at its core is the process of giving back to field hockey and younger players, teaching them the little tricks of the game and sharing a wealth of knowledge.
Not only is she making an impact on other players, but Hoover says that coaching has made her a better player, as she sees the game from a more holistic angle.
“I’m starting to see things that I wasn’t seeing 100% as a player,” Hoover said. “Not only is me being a coach helping me become a better player, but practicing with the development team has made me a better coach.”
During quarantine, Hoover’s life has revolved around rehabbing and La Salle. She was able to set up a make-shift field and goal in her basement, allowing her to work out and practice stick skills in lieu of a gym space.
She still remains in contact with many Penn coaches, friends, and alumni as she continues her field hockey journey. She has built a great relationship with head coach Colleen Fink and assistant coach Katelyn O’Brien, both of whom she has known since she was 11 years old.
“The people in that community really helped me get through a lot of things I had to get over, whether it was injuries or the fear of starting a job somewhere that wasn’t Penn,” Hoover said.
Looking forward, Hoover is still on a path to the National Team, as hopeful as ever about her future prospects and eager for the quarantine to end. For the time being, she adores her work as an assistant coach and is very excited to resume coaching officially when sports return.
If things go just right for Hoover, at this time next summer the Penn community may be cheering her on in Tokyo.