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Lindsey Frank also played field hockey at Northwestern.

But First, Field Hockey: Lindsey Frank a Two-Sport Transfer at Northwestern

October 20, 2023
Beth Ann Mayer
Northwestern Athletics

Lindsey Frank remembers the skeptical looks she got when she was trying to get looks for both field hockey and lacrosse at Saratoga Springs (N.Y.) High School.

“I looked like a little high schooler, and [coaches] looked at me like, ‘This kid is a high schooler who wants to play two sports,’” Frank said.

The implication was clearly, “That’s a cute idea, but no.”

But Frank did play both sports. She starred in field hockey and lacrosse at Richmond. She earned All-Atlantic 10 accolades in the former and all-conference and All-American honors in the latter. Frank is again playing two sports as a graduate student, this time at Northwestern. She’s started 10 of 14 games for the third-ranked, 13-1 Northwestern field hockey team. In the spring, she’ll complete her college athletic career on the women’s lacrosse field, where the defending national champion Wildcats will undoubtedly start the season No. 1.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise if you look at Frank’s high school resume. For one, she was the three-time Union Player of the Year for field hockey, earning the award twice for lacrosse. But Kelly Amonte Hiller, who shined in soccer and lacrosse as a Maryland student-athlete, says the push to choose one sport makes it challenging for young athletes to have a similar experience.

“As a two-sport athlete, I didn’t get this pressure in high school,” Amonte Hiller said. “The hardest thing is getting the pull from people, coaches, who say, ‘You have to do this if you want to be better.’”

Frank thought she would have to choose but didn’t want to. She had loved both sports since grade school. Frank first picked up a lacrosse stick in second grade, inspired by her brother, Bobby, who would go on to play at Saint Michael’s College. The field hockey stick came about a year later with the encouragement of a gym teacher. Then, as a high school freshman, Frank was not only named to the lacrosse and field hockey varsity teams — she started. That’s when the pressure started, even if she largely ignored it.

“In early high school, things started to get serious,” Frank said. “I was playing on both club teams. In ninth grade, I thought I’d have to choose. I saved it for a later problem.”

Frank’s parents, Robert and Dawn, told her it didn’t need to be a problem at all.

“My parents were like, ‘You might just not have to choose,’” Frank said. “I made the decision, ‘I think I could do both. Why not try it out?’”

Frank got looks from all types of schools for one sport or the other. Richmond offered her the chance to play both. Excited as she was for the opportunity, lacrosse isn’t a one-season sport at the college level. Programs use the fall to scrimmage and bond, heading out for team dinners, apple-picking trips and volunteer efforts. On the field, players try out new systems and build chemistry.

“From a lacrosse aspect, missing fall ball and learning the style was hard freshman year,” Frank said.

Frank made it look easy that spring by earning A10 All-Rookie honors in the fall of 2019, racking up 24 points and 26 draw controls as the Spiders raced out to a 7-0 start during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

Ultimately, she got the hang of the dual-sport grind, learning she needed rest after field hockey season. She’s shifted to lacrosse preseason around winter breaks, returning to campus refreshed and ready to play.

In her final year with the Richmond field hockey program, Frank led the team with 21 points, starting all 18 games in the midfield. Last spring in lacrosse, she tallied 90 points on 67 goals and 23 assists, adding in 33 ground balls, 17 caused turnovers and 74 draws for good measure. She left in the top 10 in Spiders women’s lacrosse history in career points (234), goals (164), assists (70), ground balls (79), caused turnovers (32) and draws (182).

Frank wasn’t ready to hang up either jersey, but she was ready to turn the page — in both sports.

“I was super grateful for my four years at Richmond, but I wanted something different [for graduate school],” Frank said. “At Richmond, the best and most exciting games were against those top teams. Being able to do that every weekend at a place like Northwestern was something I was looking for.”

Frank entered the transfer portal before lacrosse season started, determined to play both. This time, she got plenty of looks from big-name coaches and few skeptical ones from anyone.

One of those looks came from Tracey Fuchs, a USA Field Hockey Hall of Famer and arguably the greatest player in national team history. She noticed Frank last year when Northwestern and Richmond played.

“I’m good friends with [Richmond coach Jamie Montgomery]. I was like, ‘Who is that girl?’” Fuchs sad. “I wanted to recruit her for U.S. field hockey. Then, I learned she was a dual-sport athlete, and was like, ‘Darn.’”

So, when Fuchs noticed Frank in the portal, she jumped at the chance to get to coach her after all. She made the short, 30-step trip to Amonte Hiller’s office, where the two former all-time great players turned coaches frequently shared experiences and bounced ideas off one another. The latest idea: Getting Frank to Evanston to play both sports. Amonte Hiller, in particular, was intrigued and could relate to Frank, even though times have changed and specialization is pushed.

“I feel confident in my ability to manage the situation,” Amonte Hiller said. “The field hockey staff and our staff are very close. I felt confident we could work together and that it would be a really nice experience for Lindsey. She has so much potential at both sports, and it’s cool to see how she’s been able to assert herself in both.”

Frank and her father visited campus and noticed the closeness between the two staffs. The rest, as Fuchs said, is history. Frank chose Northwestern over Duke, a little more confident than she was as a teenager but humble as ever.

“It was really cool to know that I had the talent to play at this level,” Frank said. “I was a little surprised but excited that coaches believed in me to compete at that level.”

The coaches also believe in Frank to start, at least in field hockey, bolstered by her lacrosse experience.

“She is so crafty on the ball,” Fuchs said. “Her body fakes and ability to make a defender miss are something you can see in both sports.”

Amonte Hiller has been to almost every home game this season, watching Frank and another player, sophomore Amelia Albers, who will also play lacrosse this spring. She’s excited by what she’s seen and how it’ll likely translate.

“The stick skills, the hands,” Amonte Hiller said. “You saw it in Kenzie Kent with ice hockey — she had those hands. It’s similar to field hockey. It really translates from that perspective. The field is a bit shorter, but the running is similar.”

The old cliché goes that you can’t teach experience. And while Frank may not be getting it in lacrosse this fall, they’re flattening a different learning curve: Learning what it’s like to play a sport in the Big Ten.

“For Lindsey, this is new territory,” Amonte Hiller said. “She’ll get that experience in field hockey. Her teammates have experience in the Big Ten, so they are going to help her confidence. She’ll bring that to us.”

Amonte Hiller is watching, but she’s not pushing. Right now, Frank (and Albers) are all-in for field hockey, and Amonte Hiller is all about that. When Amonte Hiller talks to either, they discuss field hockey and non-lacrosse topics.

“They need to know that they shouldn’t feel guilty … they should be proud of what they are doing in that present moment and feel it’s getting them stronger from a holistic perspective,” Amonte Hiller said.

But when the final whistle sounds — hopefully with a national championship celebration — Amonte Hiller knows Frank will take a quick break. Then?

“When we turn the page in the spring, the focus will be lacrosse, and Tracey will be on board with that,” Amonte Hiller said.

Frank is, too.

“The goal, team-wise, is the same: To win another national championship,” Frank said. “The team is looking strong for the spring. I’d love to be a part of it. I’m going to soak it all in and enjoy this opportunity that they have given me and hopefully be a part of their success.”

Then it’ll be time to turn the page once again. Frank’s eligibility is up in both sports. There will be no sixth year. Once again, she’ll be transferring skills.

“I am not really sure what is in store with jobs,” Frank said. “I’m looking around, but I think being a dual-sport athlete, being able to communicate really well with how your body is feeling and how you are feeling is really useful. Time management, being able to succeed in other realms of the field, academics and social and emotional development have been helpful, too.”