As a field hockey goalie, Emily Snowden always had to move fast, covering all the angles, stopping the shots from unexpected directions.
She recently experienced how those traits come in handy as a businesswoman. In March, just as the coronavirus pandemic was taking hold on the United States, Snowden completed her work toward a master’s degree in public health at Drexel University and was set to begin full-time work as a goalkeeping instructor.
Using the same quick reflexes needed to play goal, she switched on the fly — reimagining how field hockey clinics could live online and figuring out how to bring young players and renowned coaches together virtually.
A 2013 graduate of Radnor High who played at Division I school University of Vermont, Snowden spent about a week changing the curriculum of a planned in-person goalie clinic in April to one that worked on a computer screen. She wound up offering virtual goalie training and video analysis for more than 40 young athletes, many from the Philadelphia region, but some from faraway states.
She also partnered with Sport EuroTour, a small business based in New England for whom Snowden is the director of goalkeeping, to create a one-of-kind webinar series that featured international coaches and Olympic goalies. The program provided live instruction and inspiration to more than 200 U.S. goalkeepers over several weekends. In addition, Snowden helped organize a free series of goalie webinars that drew hundreds of participants.
And she did it all from the third floor of her mom’s Bryn Mawr home.
“People were working so hard, and I didn’t want them to lose the progress,” she said. “So my mom let me use her rec room.”
With her laptop open, Snowden did the instructing. There was a lot of skill work and fine-tuning of technique. Snowden also forced her student athletes to think fast, pretending to take a shot on goal to see how quickly they got into the right position to make a block.
“I think Emily handled it really well,” said Gianna Cilluffo, a rising junior goalie at Episcopal Academy who trains with Snowden and took part in the virtual classes. “Some sports aren’t able to translate [virtually], but she was able to design a great program, having us do drills, practicing technique, and helping us stay up to speed.”
Cilluffo was in her basement with a little piece of carpet, standing against the wall and practicing the techniques she was learning from Snowden online.
“The other great thing about the virtual training and webinar series was she has a lot of connections with world-class goalie trainers, and they came on and we learned the international approach,” Cilluffo said. “What I like is that Emily has such positive energy with everything she does.”
There are few more positive videos than the one Snowden produced called “Just Keep Training.”
In it, several goalies of all levels provide the message that despite the pandemic, training could and should be done — and in a fun way. The goalies end their message by saying, “Just keep training.”
And plenty kept training and receiving guidance from Snowden.
One of those goalies is Paige Kieft, a rising high school senior at Academy of Notre Dame de Namur in Villanova. She will be continuing her education and field hockey career at the University of Maryland, among the top programs in the country.
“I think [Snowden] is awesome as a coach and really understands all aspects of the game,” Kieft said. “She understands how to teach and how the best way to receive information and deliver that to us.”
Snowden was always interested in learning about her craft from as many sources as possible. In the summer before her junior year of college, that interest took her to the Netherlands.
A friend told her about Martijn Drijver, a renowned coach there, known as the guru of goalkeeping. Snowden cold-emailed him, and he responded back.
“I discovered my love of coaching by working with Martijn in the summer of 2015,” she said.
She would spend a large part of that summer and the next four in the Netherlands, just outside Amsterdam, developing as a coach.
In the summer of 2017 she became affiliated with Sport EuroTour, which specializes in creating international hockey experiences for American field hockey players. The next year she was named EuroTour’s director of goalkeeping, a job she still holds today.
After graduating in 2017 from Vermont with a degree in business administration and a minor in coaching, Snowden spent a year serving as a full-time director of goalkeeping for the WC Eagles, based in Pottstown (the WC stands for World Class).
She then enrolled at Drexel, where she also served as a volunteer coach. While in graduate school, she continued her side business of teaching goalies, a way to stay connected to the game and help pay for her education.
In addition to working for EuroTour, she is still training goalies. Some of those virtual lessons have returned to in-person, although Snowden maintains online sessions with out-of-state clients, including those in New Hampshire, Missouri, and California.