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New Trier News

The student news site of New Trier High School

New Trier News

The student news site of New Trier High School

New Trier News

Beloved varsity field hockey coach Nykaza to retire after 35 years

Nykaza’s career, including 14 of Trevians’ 16 state championships, comes to an end
Junior Fiona Ryder after big tournament win at Northfield

After 39 years as a Trevian—four as a student and 35 as the varsity field hockey coach—Stephanie Nykaza is retiring, and she feels she’s leaving the team in a good spot. 

Over the course of her career, Nykaza discovered the ins and outs of successfully motivating her athletes through encouragement, while also pushing them to be the best they can possibly be. 

She always says she ‘bleeds blue and green.

— Brittany Romano

 “You can coach, but to actually teach them how you want them to do it is a different story,” Nykaza says. “I learned that from some of the best coaches.”

While Nykaza has certainly faced adversity in her years coaching, she always found a way to lead her teams to the top, winning 14 state championships throughout her 35 years as head coach. 

“I think we’ve been knocked out of the playoffs twice, so we’ve always made it to the final four,” Nykaza says. 

This constant success would not have been achievable without a coach who was willing to give her all for the team.

“She loves New Trier Field Hockey,” Brittany Romano, assistant field hockey coach, says about Nykaza. “She always says she ‘bleeds blue and green.’”

For Nykaza, coaching is more than just blowing a whistle and setting up drills: it is being personally involved in creating a productive environment and working to get preferable outcomes. 

“Her passion for the sport, and for coaching, and for working with athletes just exudes through everything she does,” Romano says.

Nykaza brings this passion of hers to not only coaching the girls, but facilitating team bonds that strengthen the field hockey community. These relationships that she builds help each girl grow on their own basis, ultimately improving the overall skills each teammate possesses.

 “I asked her about my reverse shot the other day, and every other time that I did it, she would give me new feedback on it afterwards,” junior and screen Caitlyn Latimer says. 

This active role Nykaza has is a vital component to the team, as it allows her to provide feedback to the specific needs of each player. When she is not directly coaching them, her good-spirited mood rubs off on the players. 

During a tournament last fall in Pennsylvania, Latimer and two of her teammates accidentally slept through their alarms, making them late to the first game. Nykaza handled it all in a good manner. 

“We get to the field and we are like 15 minutes late, and she just has a big smile on her face,” Latimer says. “She goes: ‘Good Morning ladies!’” 

Nykaza’s influence extends beyond her athletes and into her relationships with colleagues as well. Romano travels to Nykaza’s lake house each summer, and Nykaza even attended Romano’s baby shower.

“I think she’ll probably be one of my closest friends for the rest of both of our lives,” Romano says.

Even off the field, New Trier field hockey is never far from Nykaza’s mind, and she doesn’t know that it ever will be. Her last home game was Oct. 11, and after the season wraps up, that’ll be it for her tenure with New Trier field hockey.

 “I love it, and sometimes I don’t want to let it go, but then I know it’s time,” Nykaza says.

As she ends this season, Nykaza leaves the program grateful for all the relationships and memories it has given her. 

 “The only thing I can say is I’m not done with my season, but it’s been a great run for me,” Nykaza says. “I love working with my NT athletes and students, and yes, there are ups and downs, but in general, and I mean it, I love working with teenagers, and I love working for New Trier. They’ve been great to me, and I tried to be as great as I can to everybody.”

As she leaves such a big part of her life behind, Nykaza has exciting ways to fill her time. Currently, she spends most of her free time outdoors, biking, golfing, and walking her two dogs on various trails. In the future, she plans to do more with her love for animals. 

“I just want more time to relax, and to read, and donate my time,” Nykaza says. “I might work at some animal sanctuaries.” 

Even when exploring new passions, Stephanie Nykaza has made it clear that New Trier field hockey will always stay close to her heart. She’s proud of all that she’s accomplished on the team and excited for all that’s to come.

“It’s been great,” Nykaza says.

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