By DAVID JONES
FIELD HOCKEY CARDINALS: Christy Utter, left, is enjoying her career as the associate head coach of the women’s field hockey team at the University of Louisville. She is a graduate of Tulsa’s Holland Hall School.
Courtesy University of Louisville
Christy Utter has been getting a lot of questions from her friends and associates: Just who is this Steve Kragthorpe and what kind of guy is he?
She would love to answer the questions but there’s one small problem; she’s never met him. “I’m from Tulsa and he’s from Tulsa but that’s the only connection,” she says. “From everything I hear he’s a terrific guy.”
The confusion is understandable. Kragthorpe, the former head football coach at the University of Tulsa, left that position to take a similar one at the University of Louisville. Utter, a Tulsa native, has been associate head coach of the women’s field hockey team for eight years. She says all her friends are pumping her for information on Kragthorpe but she has none to give.
The 33-year-old Utter wound up at Louisville thanks to her passion for the sport she coaches.
“I got interested in field hockey when I was a student at Holland Hall where my dad was assistant athletic director. There were only two sports for women at the time and field hockey was well established where volleyball was just getting started.”
She and her brother Jeff became something of a local legend. Born twins (Christy is one minute older), Christy became a standout on the field hockey team while Jeff starred in football, basketball and later played for the Golden Hurricane football team.
“After Holland Hall I went to North Carolina where I had a small field hockey scholarship. I was red-shirted a year and then made the squad. In my third year I got a full scholarship.
“I didn’t think of coaching when I got out. I had a major in communications. But when I graduated my Dad told me that the Kinkaid School in Houston was looking for a coach. I was familiar with that program because they were one of Holland Hall’s league opponents so I applied and got the job.”
Kinkaid and Holland Hall continued to compete so when Utter came to Tulsa all her friends came out and cheered for her to lose. “They enjoyed giving me a hard time,” she recalls.
After two years she had the opportunity to coach at Louisville and leaped at it.
Coaching on the college level, she found, is a full-time job.
“The workload eases off a bit in December and late July just before we start the season but other than that we are busy throughout the year.
“The field hockey season parallels the football season so our games are from August through November. In January we begin spring training and that runs through early July. Then there is the recruiting.
“We’ve done pretty well, although we haven’t made it into the NCAA championship series the last couple of years, which is disappointing because last year we were in the top 10 most of
the year and didn’t get an invitation.”
Of the 16-team field hockey national championship field, she says, eight teams were conference champions. Five teams from the field hockey powerhouse Atlantic Coast Conference made it, which left precious little space for at-large teams.
“We’ve gotten into the tournament twice since I’ve been here,” she says, “but we were eliminated in the first round both times.”
What Utter is obviously proud of is the academic record of her team. This year the 22-member team had an academic average of 3.65, the highest of any team in field hockey. Only one girl didn’t achieve at least a 3.0 and she had a 2.9. Looking at other schools where there sometimes seems to be a war between athletics and academics Utter says she feels lucky to be at Louisville.
“We hold the athletes accountable for their academic performances,” she says, “and if some of them are struggling we provide free tutoring. We make every effort to bridge the gap between academics and athletics. Every year we host a banquet in which each student with at least a 3.25 average hosts a faculty member.”
Field hockey, however, remains first and foremost in her mind.
“It’s a rough sport, a contact sport, and the girls only have their sticks, their shin guards and a mouth guard for protection.”
A rough sport.
A contact sport.
Just like the one that guy Kragthorpe is coaching.
She’d like to meet him if she ever gets the chance.