Lower Dauphin’s Linda Kreiser has a rare leadership style: coaches

Many covet it, only a few attain it: unsought influence.

Lower Dauphin’s Linda Kreiser is that person.

The 70-year-old announced her retirement from coaching high school field hockey in March. She is widely respected for her long list of accolades, which include seven Pennsylvania high school field hockey state titles and 16 district titles. She is the second most winningest high school field hockey coach in the country.

She reached the 800-win club in 2019. And, it’s easy to see that when you just scratch the surface, she is an anomaly.

Here is what a handful of high school field hockey coaches have to say about her retirement:

Tonya Brown, Mechanicsburg head coach

“Us coaches at Mechanicsburg, we were like, you just can’t imagine Lower Dauphin without Linda Kreiser. That’s just not fathomable. When you think of any sport at Lower Dauphin, you think of Linda Kreiser.

“I have the utmost respect for Linda, who leads a program that is respected across the country because she does it the right way. They are always humble. They always respect every team. No team is better than another team.

“I’ve known her the whole time. She’s there for all the girls, any girl, who wants to play field hockey, no matter their age or their ability or where they are located. They are there for the entire sport. That’s not true for all people. There are times she could have beaten us 20 to nothing. But she will make sure all her players play and that’s how she manages the score.

“One of my favorite memories, Sydney Wilson (who has down syndrome) played for Mechanicsburg. We tried to find a way that Sydney could score in the game at Mechanicsburg, and they figured it out. And Kreis let Sydney score. And, then it became this every year thing and then they had a player with down syndrome, and we allowed them to score. We have this camaraderie because of those instances where we let these athletes score. There wasn’t a dry eye in the stadium.”

Kent Harshman, Palmyra head coach

“When I began working at Palmyra, there were two programs that we wanted to emulate on the field in terms of results. One was Linda Kreiser’s from the standpoint of how well respected they were and how they played the game, and the fact that year after year, Lower Dauphin reloads. They don’t rebuild.

“And, that’s where we wanted to build the Palmyra program to the point where, year after year after year, we were able to reload and not rebuild. Those were the key things for us about Linda.

“I think the thing that stands out in my mind about Linda on game day is her constant encouragement. She just never stops talking, and I mean that in a positive way, encouraging each and every one of her players on the field.

“Those are things that are high on Linda’s quality list on game day. Obviously, there are a million other things that go on behind the scenes, but those are the things on game day that stand out in my mind that gives credit to her. Linda’s respect for people – it doesn’t matter if you are a top contender or your program struggles, Linda treats you the same in any kind of face-to-face dealings with a mutual level of respect. It’s not about the wins and the losses; it’s about the time you’re spending with young people. That’s high on Linda’s qualities list.”

Savanna Lenker, Hershey head coach

“I can’t say I’m entirely surprised. Her career has been incredible. She will always be a legend in the field hockey world. At the end of the day, she cares about growing the game.

“I obviously always knew her name and knew who she was. Before I even got the job at Hershey, she encouraged me. I ran into her at an event, and she said to me, ‘hey are you applying for the job.’ She said it would be great to have another great coach in our league.

“I would never have dreamed as a player (Lenker graduated from Cedar Cliff High School) of ever beating LD, but we did it twice last year. It wasn’t an attainable thing. She and the Lower Dauphin program has raised the expectation of what high school field hockey should be like. She has raised the level of play and is a large part of the reason why the sport has gotten to this level.

“I think watching some of the play we’ve had this past year across teams, teams beating other teams that weren’t normally in the mix before; it was just the level of play in this area really increasing. I think it comes from all these teams challenging each other year in and year out. And, because of Linda Kreiser.

“Some of my players have had the chance to be coached by her. I know that all of my players have a ton of respect for her, too, completely separate from our rivalry. Congratulations.”

Buy tickets / Join the guestlist – FAN Presents: A Celebration of Girls and Women in Sports – Penn Harris, Sun May 7, 2023 6:30 PM – 9:00 PM (tickettailor.com)

Kim Underwood, Wilson head coach

“Linda Kreiser has been the standard for all other coaches. Her commitment to the sport, her desire to impact her student athletes, and her encouragement to everyone involved with field hockey certainly defines her legacy. I will be forever grateful for the impact she has had on my life directly and indirectly and I hope I can have a fraction of the impact she has had on all who know her.”

Sharon Herlocher, State College head coach

“I coach because of her. At any given year, there’s about 30 Lower Dauphin FH alumni playing in college at all levels D 1, 2 or 3. Those college athletes graduate, and coach, officiate, and give back to our sport. We spread the love of field hockey, the love of being part of a team, a sport, a program. We all love it, because of the culture she created; the love of the game she instilled…  

“As a player, a club teammate, and in the last few years as an opposing coach, I’m in awe, how she never yells, never shows frustration, always adjusts and simply finds a way. In my coaching, I think about what Kreis would do, and how I can apply it. 

“A coaching mindset, she shared that has helped me as a coach, is something her dad said to her as a young coach. She came home frustrated with her team, talking about ‘they won’t do this, they can’t do that, their lack of effort…”  

“Her dad looked at her and said, ‘hmm, who’s their coach?’ And she said, ‘Dad, of course you know I am their coach,’ and a silent pause followed. He replied, ‘well maybe the coach has to find another way to teach them.’    

“That simple mindset or adjusting, that Forest Kreiser Sr. instilled in her, is instilled in me, and I hope instilled in my players – and some of whom will coach in their future. That’s the power of Linda Kreiser. Thousands of athletes, thousands of females are stronger, more adaptable, more competitive because of her. We don’t complain. We find a way.”

FAN is excited to host Lower Dauphin’s Linda Kreiser on Sunday, May 7, where she will be speaking about girls and women in sports, and sharing stories about her 45-year journey in field hockey. More information can be found in the link below.

Buy tickets / Join the guestlist – FAN Presents: A Celebration of Girls and Women in Sports – Penn Harris, Sun May 7, 2023 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM (tickettailor.com)

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