No matter where coach Colleen Fink finds herself, her personal and field hockey family will always be the most important things in her life.
While growing up in the Bala Cynwyd area of West Philadelphia, Fink was no stranger to a life of athletics. Fink and her five siblings were raised by her father, the track and field coach for her alma mater, Saint Joseph’s University, where she matriculated in 1996.
Inspired by her father, Fink began her coaching career at Archbishop Carroll High School in Radnor, Pa., where she led the team for four seasons. She then made the move to work at St. Joe’s, and was hired as an assistant field hockey coach before being hired as the head coach at Haverford College.
Fink’s unforgettable experience at Haverford was the first of many obstacles that she would face as a head coach.
“At the time, [Haverford] was a struggling program and they were kind of in the bottom of their conference," Fink said. "They had some facility issues, so it wasn’t the most desirable job at the time, but my husband said Haverford is one of the best schools in the country. You can coach there and turn it around.”
Taking this advice, Fink stayed at Haverford for five seasons and had a meaningful experience. She is most proud that she was able to turn the facility around and even played a role in helping to get a new facility.
When a position eventually opened up at Penn, Fink jumped at the opportunity. She knew that Penn was the right fit for her because, to her, it had the best field hockey coaching job in the country. The value she placed on her family also played a role in her decision.
Because most of her family was based in the area, coach Fink knew that leaving Philadelphia wasn’t an option. Penn was the best local school both academically and athletically, and it was her dream to combine family and university.
Without her experience at Haverford, Fink may not have been prepared enough for the position at Penn. Luckily for the Quakers, one thing Haverford taught Fink was resilience in bleak situations, something that she has demonstrated during her decade of coaching the Red and Blue.
With resilience came success, as Fink noted the accomplishments she has achieved as a coach.
“We’ve been able to create a culture of support and sisterhood and love within our program at Penn while still being able to be successful," Fink said. "During times of crisis, we’ve seen how important this type of culture can be. Seeing our team and what they’re able to achieve despite all of the obstacles that they’re up against is something as a coach that I’ve found to be really rewarding.”
However, in many cases, with accomplishments also come disappointment. For coach Fink, her field hockey family contains some of the most important people in her life. Her biggest disappointments center around not being her best self for her team.
These disappointments call for a time of self-reflection for Fink in order for her to evaluate her strengths and weaknesses as a coach. Fink noted that she does well with supporting her team and not just being a regular coach but a servant coach, someone who works for her team rather than just her team working for her. However, she’s also very direct and addresses that she could work on varying her communication skills.
Fink hasn’t allowed the pandemic to change her. On her mind is either her own family or her field hockey family. Juggling her two sons’ education and maintaining the team dynamic of her players has been a challenge. For Fink, there will always be good days and bad days, especially with not being able to wake up every morning and do what she loves.
However, Fink refuses to let quarantine rule her life, as she’s begun activities that get her back into the rhythm of things.
“I bought a Peloton bike, which has been a life saver, since I can’t go to gym," Fink said. "Professionally, [I'm] thinking about how can my team get better right now despite the current situation, and just challenging myself to come up with ways to keep them moving and change the narrative a little bit.”
Having coached field hockey at Penn for 10 years, it’ll be hard for Fink to ever leave. Remembering the many memories she has also makes it difficult to see an end to her coaching career.
“My favorite memory was when Alexa Hoover scored the goal for Penn’s scoring record a couple years ago," Fink said. "She was a prolific scorer. She had a monkey on her back and went a couple games without being able to get that last goal to put her over the edge. She finally got the last goal in the game, and she looked at me and I looked at her, and it was such a rewarding moment.”
Fink plans to coach at Penn for as long as she can. Throughout all her years of coaching, the thought of retiring never crossed her mind. Living in the moment is something that she constantly does because she wants to be a strong leader for her team on and off the field and watch her sons grow up and enjoy moments with them.
Since the beginning of her coaching career, coach Fink was never one to abandon her family, and she’s not looking to start now.