At a time when students across the country are scrambling to find replacements for lost jobs and internships, Bella Carrozza and Cate Irving have seen their startup blossom into a rare growth business.
The two Ridgefield seniors will jump right from their impending graduation to the second year of the Summer Field Hockey Stick Skills Clinic. Carrozza will be playing this fall at Providence and Irving at Trinity College.
They helped the Ridgefield field hockey team to its best season and now want to complement the town’s youth program to ensure the Tigers are able to become a consistent contender with the FCIAC’s other top teams.
“We always had this idea that we wanted to do a clinic,” Carrozza said. “We always had that mindset. We were leaders for our grade, just like the more dedicated players.”
Last summer Carrozza and Irving had clinics for incoming freshmen as well as 7th and 8th graders, and gave private lessons that they will continue to offer when their camp begins in two weeks.
While some summer programs are closing or face uncertain status because of COVID-19, the girls have some inherent advantages that should ease the concerns for many parents.
Carrozza has a 55×45 foot turf field in her yard, so the difficulty of finding a suitable location is erased.
“We really knew we’d get so much use out of it, especially being such an active family,” Carrozza said. “We are able to use it for so many different purposes. My dad also loves to workout and do CrossFit so we do family CrossFit out on the turf. That was the real motive there. It was very hard for us to practice field hockey the way we wanted to with the grass that we had.”
The girls have also put in place safety protocols and Carrozza worked with her cousin, who is an attorney, to put together a liability waiver.
There will be no more than six players allowed during any session, social distancing will be practiced at all times, water will no longer be provided and parents will not be permitted to watch. Masks and gloves will not be mandatory and players will have to bring their own equipment.
“I’m so excited to get back into it,” Irving said. “It was the best part of my summer last year. It was so much fun. It is something to do, even during this, and though it’s smaller as we abide by guidelines it is going to be so much fun. Working with the girls is awesome.”
The girls have almost sold out their session for incoming high school freshmen. There are still openings for the 7th and 8th grade sessions, as well as a new one for 3rd and 4th graders that will be run by two other Ridgefield players: Carrozza’s sister, Julia and Aerin Krys, rising juniors.
The girls said their different personalities work well in a business setting.
“I’m a bit of a neat freak,” Irving said. “I’ve been the organizer but Bella has been a big part of that too. We’re so grateful that they have that great turf in their backyard so we don’t have to try and get any fields. Last year was a little bit shaky but now we’ve really got it down. It’s so cool to see how much goes into even something small like this.”
Carrozza and Irving come with strong credentials. Carrozza was one of the state’s top players and Irving was also an All-FCIAC selection. The team was 6-8 during the regular season when they were freshmen. This past season it was 11-1-0-2. The Tigers advanced to both the league and state semifinals. All but one of their losses was to Staples and Darien, which met in both finals.
“The Ridgefield program has grown a lot in the last four years, even since Bella and I have been on the team,” Irving said.
Carrozza said she and Irving help fill a void and are best qualified to do so.
“Before our clinic there wasn’t really a stable stick skill session or clinic or anything that was continuously going on throughout the summer for the betterment of the program, that would provide the girls with drills and stick skills and things they can improve upon for the season,” Carrozza said. “That’s really where the idea formed. We didn’t have this when we were their age.
“We were integrated in the community. A lot of parents knew us because we played field hockey and lacrosse. We knew we’d get people to sign up, we just weren’t anticipating the success that we had.”
Carrozza and Irving are hoping that as the state begins to open up, if all goes well there will be a late rush of signups. They are prepared to create more sessions to meet the demand.
And they are both happy and ready for what awaits before leaving for college.
“We are going to be working triple the time this summer,” Carrozza said. “We just loved it so much and wanted to connect with the girls even more. “It’s going to be a busy summer but we are really excited about it.”