Ashley Mara, now the athletic director at Northwest Catholic High School in West Hartford, was an eighth-grader when she first attended the field hockey camp she now runs.
By David Heuschkel, West Hartford Press Sports Editor
Ashley Mara’s best sport in high school was lacrosse. She was an all-state selection her sophomore, junior, and senior years at Northwest Catholic and went on to play at Central Connecticut State University.
But it was another sport that opened the door to her outstanding athletic career at the West Hartford school 15 years ago.
In the summer of 2004 before her freshman year, Mara attended the Northwest Catholic field hockey camp that was run by then-coaches Bill Mullady and his daughter Jill.
Earlier this month, Mara ran the field hockey camp with help from several players on the team who will be juniors and seniors this fall. About 20 girls signed up, she said.
“That used to be me,” Mara said, motioning to a group of girls sitting in a circle on the grass outside the high school.
Mara, who begins her first year as Northwest Catholic athletic director in the fall, was in the process of hiring a new field hockey coach for the upcoming season. She coached the girls lacrosse team last spring and was a field hockey assistant coach under Jeff Cahill.
Mara said overseeing the athletic department has forced her to step away from coaching and teaching. She taught wellness last year.
“I can have a bigger impact on 400 kids instead of just 40 kids,” said Mara, who graduated from Northwest Catholic in 2008.
Mara was appointed as the Northwest Catholic AD in June. She succeeds Matthew Martorelli, another Northwest Catholic alum (class of 2003) who took the job as AD at Xavier High in Middletown.
“This camp brought me to Northwest and it’s kept me at Northwest. That’s why I’m the athletic director at Northwest,” Mara said. “I love it so much. It all started when I walked onto this field as an eighth grader because of the coaching I got and the welcoming feel I had at the school. I went home and told my parents I’m going to be playing field hockey in the fall and that led me to lacrosse and ultimately brought me back here for my job.”
Mara said she has run the field hockey camp at Northwest for four years. The cost was $150 for a four-day camp (July 8-11) with three-hour sessions each day that teach basic skills and include game situations.
“I want them to have fun. I want them to learn the game and love the game,” Mara said. “I want them to walk away feeling excited about the sport, to say, ‘I wasn’t sure what sport I was going to play in the fall and field hockey has really great instructors and I really loved it. I felt good about myself playing the game.’ … I want the kids that are in in this camp to leave and say they want to play field hockey.”
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