Brittany Fuentes does not consider herself a revolutionary labor reformer, but she is planning on teaching her new field hockey players at Old Bridge High School a thoroughly modern approach to work.
“Fun and hard work, they are not enemies,” Fuentes said. “You can work hard and still enjoy it.”
Fuentes, who is 27 years old and a 2010 Old Bridge graduate, landed the high school’s field hockey coaching job back in February. It wasn’t a hard decision for the school’s administration.
Fuentes played field hockey at Old Bridge and served as an assistant in the program from 2014-2017. She also teaches at Alan B. Shepard Elementary School in the district and serves as an assistant coach in the Old Bridge girls’ lacrosse program, which enjoyed a 16-3 campaign in 2019.
Old Bridge Athletic Director Dan DiMino actually called Fuentes to convince her to apply for the open field hockey position.
“When I sat down for an interview, I told them what I wanted to do and we went from there,” Fuentes said. “Later that day I was offered the job.”
Fuentes’ main point of emphasis was that she wanted to merge fun and work. That way, the girls would want to come to practice every day.
This is the same approach that Fuentes’ longtime mentor, Old Bridge girls’ lacrosse coach Steve Gajewski, takes with his program.
Gajewski often gives his players time to scrimmage without interruption, allowing them to create plays and build chemistry on the fly. But he also repeats life lessons like showing up on time and not reacting to things you can’t control, like the whims of referees.
The longtime coach does all of this in a stern but calm manner. So his players do not dread seeing him every day. They just fear disappointing him.
Fuentes played for Gajewski in high school and has been coaching under him for five years. She has watched him merge fun and hard work over and over, and she is confident in her own ability to implement the same dynamic in Old Bridge’s field hockey program.
“We want to make sure the girls want to be there,” Fuentes said. “Having a routine but also bringing things in that they enjoy.”
The new coach is already doing those things. At a practice at Old Bridge on July 24, Fuentes gave her players the last 20 minutes to play an uninterrupted scrimmage. This wasn’t part of the original practice plan. The coach said the Knights earned it.
“You want to give them time to improvise and stuff like that,” she said.
Old Bridge’s field hockey club was pretty good last fall, going 12-8 and reaching the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group 4 sectional tournament quarterfinals. But 12 seniors graduated after the season, so Fuentes is working with a mostly blank slate.
“Filling those shoes will be hard,” Fuentes said. “But our underclassmen have been putting in the work.”
The new coach does at least have four returning players with varsity experience, including a returning starter in Katie Giarraffa. Midfielder Kim Barberio, midfielder Dylan Ghimiray and goalie Hannah Osbahr are the other three varsity players back for 2019.
Old Bridge’s first preseason scrimmage is scheduled for Aug. 12 at Montclair High School.
“Our expectation is to go out and be as competitive as possible,” Fuentes said.