Passing the Stick 


Photo­graphy by
Jeff Watts

Aidan Rossman and Abbie Rossman hold field hockey sticks over their shoulders

AU field hockey standout Abbie (Stock) Rossman, CAS/BA ’97, was a hard-nosed central defender who earned her spot in the backfield because, as former Coach Anne Wilkinson once told her, she “could knock people over.”

But when it came time to introduce her beloved sport to the oldest of her three children, Aidan, she did something that would have been out of character for the four-year Eagles starter on the AstroTurf pitch—she hesitated. The elder Rossman knew her whip-smart daughter would quickly learn field hockey, and that Aidan would put in the work to improve. But what if taking on too much, too soon bred a dislike for the game?

“I didn’t want her to hate it, and I didn’t want her to be burned out,” says Abbie. “I didn’t want field hockey to be a chore for her, so we kept it a little more low-key than some other families.”

Abbie and her husband, Adam, started Aidan with soccer and softball, then a rec field hockey team through the YMCA not far from their home north of Richmond. Finally, when 14-year-old Aidan was ready, the Rossmans dove into travel field hockey and a grueling practice schedule that required two-hour round-trip car rides.

Their patience paid off. Aidan, SPA/BA ’22, just wrapped her second season as a forward for AU and is realizing her dream of playing college field hockey that she’s fostered since middle school.

The CLEG (communication, legal institutions, economics, and government) major says she always imagined following in her mom’s footsteps—or rather, slipping on her cleats. “I really looked up to her. Since she played, I wanted to be able to play, too.”

Aidan, who also has an aunt and uncle who played field hockey for Ohio State and the German national team, respectively, learned the fundamentals from her mom, improving her field vision, ball distribution, and hitting power. She flourished at Patrick Henry High School in Ashland, Virginia, setting program records with 41 goals and 19 assists—under coach Abbie Rossman, who’s worked there since 2012.

With college looming, Abbie was careful not to pressure her daughter. AU coach Steve Jennings—who recruited Aidan and worked as an assistant coach during Abbie’s playing days—also wanted to ensure that Aidan’s dream of playing at AU was her own. He knew the high school salutatorian would be a strong academic fit. “But as for the hockey part, she was on our radar but she had a lot of work to do,” he says. “I think she had to make some decisions: ‘Do I really want this? And, if so, what would that look like?’”

A big step in Aidan’s development was a semester-long trip to Germany to play for a club team in Hamburg, during which she became more independent and more prepared for college field hockey. She joined the Eagles in January 2018 and finished her freshman season tied for fourth on the team with four goals.

Abbie—who makes the trip to AU for home games—marvels at how Aidan, a nimbler player in a game much different than it was 25 years ago, has blossomed.

Like Mom, Aidan’s a fighter on the field, but “her stick skills are faster, her releases are quicker, her shots are harder, and I think they go where she wants them to go now,” Abbie says. “She just keeps getting better and she’s so determined to excel.”

Aidan Rossman is her own player, but she comes from good Stock.