Diane Madl says she doesn’t talk about her Olympic experience with the field hockey players she coaches at Providence College.
She doesn’t tell them she was one of 16 players to make the U.S. women’s team for the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta.
Madl’s players are well aware their coach has reached the pinnacle of their sport, so she doesn’t need to bring it up.
Still, even if Madl doesn’t talk about the Olympics, she utilizes the experience.
“I do draw on it without talking about it,” she said. “Inside me I’m able to use what I went through and motivate my players and let them know it’s possible.”
Madl, 48, is a Mountain Top native who was a standout field hockey player at Crestwood High School in the early 1980s. She went on to become a two-time All-American at the University of Connecticut, where she helped the Huskies win the NCAA Division I national championship in 1985. Madl also played on the U.S. National Team in 1989 and 1995.
This year, Madl is in her 15th season as head coach at Providence.
Through all of her accomplishments, she said competing in the 1996 Summer Olympics easily tops the list.
“It was the most incredible experience of my life. Every four years when it comes up it brings back the feelings, memories and how much work it was to achieve that,” she said.
While Madl was representing the United States in 1996, she also was bringing the Wyoming Valley to the world stage. Representing both her country and hometown held special importance for her.
“I’ll never forget the support I got from the Wyoming Valley. They rallied around me, and I definitely felt the need to represent them as much as possible out of appreciation for what they did,” she said.
During Madl’s time with the U.S. National Team, she traveled the world, playing in South Africa, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Holland, Hong Kong, Russia, Cuba, England, Ireland and India. But nothing could prepare her moving into the Olympic Village and facing the top teams in the world.
The U.S. field hockey team finished fifth overall in the 1996 Olympics, and while Madl didn’t earn a medal, she did cherish playing on the sport’s biggest stage.
“I just remember the enormity of the moment. Playing in front of the largest crowds I ever played in front of, knowing who you were representing — it was pressure, but in a positive way,” she said. “This is what we all worked for. We deserve to be here now; let’s get it done.”
Since Madl’s Olympic dream was realized in 1996, she has watched other local players follow the trail she blazed in her sport. Wyoming Seminary’s Lauren Powley played for the United States in the 2008 Summer Games, Dallas High School grad Paige Selenski followed in 2012, and this year former Wyoming Seminary teammates Kat Sharkey and Kelsey Kolojejchick will keep the tradition going, with Selenski returning as an alternate.
“It makes me proud,” Madl said. “The Olympics is the pinnacle of our sport for American girls. Having others from the area make it is a tribute to the coaches and fans in the area that helped create an environment where young girls can aspire to reach the Olympics.”
While Madl said she hasn’t spoken to Sharkey and Kolojejchick as they pursue their Olympic dream, she has followed the U.S. team and won’t stray far from her television and computer once the Games begin.
And Madl said she’s optimistic this year’s U.S. field hockey team can become the first to earn a medal.
“I have high hopes for what they can do. They are elite athletes,” she said. “I hope more girls in the area are inspired by them.”