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2021 Pat Summitt Award: Nancy Stevens

Longtime UConn field hockey coach to be honored during 2021 NCAA Convention

Nancy Stevens, former head coach of the UConn field hockey program, has been selected as the recipient of the 2021 NCAA President’s Pat Summitt Award. Stevens retired in September as the winningest coach in NCAA field hockey history.

Established in 2017, the Summitt Award recognizes an individual in the Association’s membership who has demonstrated devotion to the development of student-athletes and has made a positive impact on their lives.

Stevens described her selection as the 2021 Summit Award recipient as a “humbling experience and an incredible honor.” Stevens will be celebrated during the 2021 NCAA Convention

“Nancy Stevens’ holistic understanding of the power that sport plays in the lives of student-athletes is testament  not only to her success as a coach on the field, but also as a mentor off the field,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said. “Her commitment to empowering young women to excel in sport, academics and professional careers has left an immediate and lasting impact in collegiate athletics.”

Stevens began her 43-year, 700-win coaching career with Penn State as an assistant coach for its field hockey and lacrosse programs. After two years with Penn State, Stevens spent the next decade of her career leading the field hockey programs at Franklin & Marshall and Northwestern.

Stevens took the head coaching position at UConn in 1990. Throughout 30 seasons, she led the Huskies to three national championships (2013, 2014 and 2017) and more than 20 NCAA tournament appearances. In addition to winning 19 Big East tournament titles and 19 Big East regular-season titles, the Huskies also produced 50 first-team All-Americans under Stevens’ tutelage.

“My whole career, my focus has been encouraging young women to develop leadership skills and understand the value and benefit of teamwork,” Stevens said. “It is a great privilege to work with this age group, with 18- to 21-year-old women.”

Stevens attributes her program’s success in using sport as a transformational experience for student-athletes, empowering players to go forward after their college careers to do great things. Her former players have had successful careers as educators, businesswomen, attorneys, orthopedic surgeons, Olympians, World Cup field hockey players and more.

“Championships are great to win, especially national championships,” Stevens said. “However, I think that when you win championships together, you will walk through life together as champions. That is empowering. It fills you with the confidence to accomplish almost anything.

“As a coach, what you’re doing is empowering young women to succeed. That’s our program’s strength and purpose, and field hockey is just a piece of that. If you can do your best to make sport a transformational experience for the players and coaches and still win national championships, I think that’s where the magic lies.”

Stevens previously served as chair of the NCAA Division I Field Hockey Committee and was involved in the planning and operation of the first NCAA field hockey championship, which, along with cross country, kicked off the Association’s championships for women.

Selected annually by the NCAA president, Summitt Award winners receive a $10,000 honorarium to donate to an organization of the honoree’s choice that combats or researches neurological diseases of the brain. Having endured family loss to neurological disease, Stevens is directing her honorarium to a research fellowship at UConn Health’s Department of Neurology.