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Vonnie Gros

Sports: Field Hockey & Lacrosse

Born: June 9, 1935

Town: Palmyra

Yvonne Gros was born June 9, 1935 in Palmyra. Vonnie grew up in a sports-minded community across the river from Philadelphia, often playing baseball ad basketball with the neighborhood boys. At Palmyra High, Vonnie was a standout in basketball, softball and field hockey, where she manned the backfield for the Panthers. As a senior she led the field hockey squad to an unbeaten season.

Vonnie continued her athletic career at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania, playing for the school basketball, lacrosse, badminton, tennis and softball. Her best sport was field hockey and, after graduating she took a job as coach of the Upper Darby High School team. Meanwhile, she played for the US national team as a right fullback from 1956 to 1971 and served as captain five different times in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Vonnie also made the US national lacrosse team nine times in the 195s and 1960s.

In 1963, Vonnie became head field hockey coach at West Chester College and created the nation’s most heralded program. In 1975 and again in 1976, Vonnie’s team won the AIAW national championship. In 13 years at West Chester, her team suffered only 6 losses. The women’s lacrosse and field hockey field at West Chester was named in her honor.

In 1977, she was appointed coach of the national field hockey team, and also took over Princeton field hockey squad.

In 1980 and 1984 Vonnie was selected as the US Olympic coach. The boycott of the Moscow Olympics denied her a chance of winning an Olympic medal, but Team USA finished third in Los Angeles in 1984 to take the bronze medal. Vonnie was an intense taskmaster, demanding perfection from her players. This rubbed many the wrong way, but the results speak for themselves—the team went from a so-so world ranking to powerhouse status in just a few years.

Vonnie incorporated training and strategy from lacrosse, and also adopted the playing styles of the top European clubs into her coaching. During the 1980s, her book Inside Field Hockey for Women revolutionized coaching in her sport.

Vonnie finished her coaching career at her alma mater, Ursinus. She retired in 1998. To date, no one toured with the US team internationally as a player (8 times) and coach (5 times), and is the only coach to lead Team USA


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