AVA Magic is a newly formed field hockey club in Northern Virginia that is based in Alexandria City. In addition to offering specialized clinics each season and outreach for newcomers to the sport, the club is looking for local, talented, and dedicated players to fill the U10, U12, and U14 rosters for the 2022-2023 season and to be part of the AVA Magic Show!
Philomena Fitzgerald grew up frustrated that she had to travel outside of the city to play field hockey, so when her younger sister faced the same problem Fitzgerald took matters into her own hands and launched Alexandria’s first field hockey program.
Fitzgerald launched AVA Magic, Alexandria’s only field hockey club, with her father Alex Purugganan. The program started with training clinics this spring that have tapped into a small but growing local community of field hockey enthusiasts.
“I started field hockey way back when, maybe 10 years ago, we were looking for a club,” Fitzgerald said. “We looked for a nearby team and the closest one was 45 minutes away. Ten years later and now my sister is in the same spot I was ten years ago.”
For her day job, Fitzgerald works for the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, so she said she has some experience in launching a program like this from the business side.
“That stuff was easier because it’s what I’m used to doing,” Fitzgerald said, “but it’s interesting figuring out events and the club side.”
Purugganan said the program has had a very grassroots start with the pair reaching out to other locals they know through years of playing field hockey outside of the city.
“We’re slowly growing through word of mouth as well and we’re reaching out to ACPS just to make them aware,” Purugganan said. “Although soccer has become really popular, we want people to know there’s another option for girls’ sports here. We’ve had so many outstanding athletes who have played field hockey, but they have to search for a travel team outside of Alexandria. We want to be able to celebrate our own Alexandria athletes and help them represent the city.”
One fo the big selling points for field hockey, Fitzgerald said, is that many of the skills learned in soccer translate well into field hockey.
“It’s very easy to transition from soccer to field hockey, which sounds insane at first because it’s a stick and you can’t use your feet, but it’s 11 v 11 and the positions are similar,” Fitzgerald said. “If you know soccer and you know the tactics, it’s easy to transition that over to field hockey. I went back and forth between soccer and field hockey in high school, and the big thing for me was the environment field hockey brought. It wasn’t just competitive, it was extremely fun. All the girls I met were extremely welcoming and fun.”
Fitzgerald said the program is starting small, with classes for children under 12 and under 14 aiming to “get the basics down and spread awareness.”
The sessions are $65 each for 6th-8th graders or $250 for all four sessions in a season, and $58 per session for 4th-5th graders or $225 for all four sessions.
“I’m extremely optimistic,” Fitzgerald said. “One of our clinics this past Sunday went extremely well. It was new for almost everyone who was there. It was only five girls, but everyone had a great time, everyone was chatting, and a bunch of them signed up for the clinic this Sunday. I’m excited not just for the club itself, but the girls I played with in high school are reaching out to see how they can help.”
An upcoming clinic on Sunday, May 1, from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at George Washington Middle School (1005 Mount Vernon Avenue) is the last clinic for the club’s spring lineup. The plan is to start a new series of clinics in June with visiting coaches from D.C. schools, Bishop-Ireton and a former midfielder from the U.S. National Team.
“We’re building this community,” said Fitzgerald. “It’s a great environment, great girls, but there’s nothing close by. We live in an athletic city, but we want to have more options.”
Former Midfielder for the U.S. National Team, Boston University Athletic Hall of Fame Inductee, and Director of Mind Body Athletics on Coach Phil and AVA's clinics:
"Coach Phil is the best coach for your aspiring field hockey player! Loved the positive clinic atmosphere!!"
Former St. Stephen & St. Agnes High School Varsity Field Hockey Head Coach (1979 - 2014)
"I am so delighted and excited that Alexandria is going to have a club field hockey program. AVA Magic provides such a great opportunity for tournament play and the development of skills in players of all ages. Philomena Fitzgerald, who will be directing the program, is not only an extremely good player but also understands what it takes to become a successful player."
WILLIAM HERESNIAK ("Coach H")
Former T.C. Williams High School Varsity Field Hockey Head Coach
"I have worked with thousands of female high school athletes throughout my career. Philomena Fitzgerald stands out above all of them. Phil is an incredible coach and will not only teach these young athletes how to play field hockey, but also be outstanding young ladies on and off the field."