Nate Franks had just about given up on his dreams of going to the London Olympics as this spring rolled around.
The Princeton University field hockey assistant coach had been seeking a position as a performance analyst with the U.S. women’s Olympic field hockey team since winter but it looked like it wasn’t going to come through.
“I had been talking to the women’s team since last December, asking them to keep me in mind for this,” said Franks, who had filled a video coaching role for the U.S. men’s national team this past fall at the Pan American Games.
“They said no in January, February, March, April, and May. They said they had no credential for me.”
But in late May, Franks’ luck changed while he was on the sidelines at a U.S. field hockey event.
“I was coaching at High Performance and they called and told me I was going,” said Franks.
“I was a little surprised. I wasn’t able to speak coherently for a few minutes. I was pumping my fists and yelling.”
A month earlier, Franks had displayed his abilities on an extended basis for the U.S. program.
“I worked for the women’s team in April in New Zealand for a four nations tournament,” said Franks, a 2007 Princeton graduate who worked as volunteer field hockey coach and women’s lacrosse team manager for the Tigers during his undergraduate days.
“They saw what I could do. The assistant coach of the team was Nick Conway, the guy who brought me into the men’s team.”
His role for the team will draw heavily on his expertise with cutting edge technology.
“I will break down games, sitting in front of a computer, using the Sports Code system,” said Franks, noting that he can code possessions, shots, and other statistics and transfer data utilizing up to 1,200 individual codes.
“With SportsCode, I can spit out info in a matrix and give the coaches salient information on a head set. I radio facts down to them at halftime and at the end of game. I then do a debrief after game.”
Franks’ in-game analysis centers on providing tactical information. “If we are not maintaining possession on the right side of midfield, for example, I can let coaches know and they can adjust things,” said Franks.
The use of the SportsCode system is also valuable in assessing foes. “I will also be scouting; I will be at every single game in the first round since we don’t know who we will be playing from the other pool,” said Franks. “The coaches have a good idea about the other teams. If I notice anything specific, I can pass that on.”
In addition to providing video and computer knowledge, Franks does some hands-on coaching.
“I go with Nick and help with goaltenders,” said Franks, who played professional field hockey in Ireland and coached at American and Bucknell before joining the Princeton staff last year.
“Once we get over there, I will be on field less because I have to be at so many other games.”
Franks is thrilled that current Princeton players Julia Reinprecht, Katie Reinprecht, and Michelle Cesan made the U.S. team and will be at the London Games with him.
“It is tremendous for the players and the program,” said Franks of the Reinprechts, who made the 16-player squad and Cesan, who was named as an alternate.
“I have known Julia since she was 14. I went to school with Sarah [older sister Sarah Reinprecht] and know their parents. It means a great deal that they will be there as well.”
It means everything to Franks to see his Olympic dream come true. “It is an unbelievable opportunity; it is the highlight of my hockey career,” said Franks.
“It gave me an opportunity to reflect on how I have made it to this point. I have been fortunate to find the right people at the right time to motivate me and gave me a lift, like finding Kristen [Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn] in 2003 and finding Nick Conway in 2010. I realize how fortunate to have male and female role models who have been equally inspiring.”