Before leading the defending PIAA State Class 2A champions this season, Lehighton field hockey head coach Shawn Hindy decided to step back onto the field himself.

A simple request soon turned into a golden opportunity for the Indians' fifth-year mentor.

Over the summer, Hindy was asked by United States National Indoor Team head coach Peter Jones to give the game another shot as a player. Jones asked Hindy to come to tryouts for the Pan American Games, which took place in Venezuela in August, and told him he had a good chance to make the team.

"I knew I could still do good things," Hindy said. "I also have the experience playing the game and I knew what I was doing."

The California native, who currently also serves as Lehighton's athletic director, already had one National team indoors experience under his belt, having played in the Indoor World Cup in 2003 in Germany.

Hindy also played outdoors for 12 years with the United States National Team.

"Getting back in there was awesome," Hindy said. "Living here in Pennsylvania, I can coach a lot of field hockey, but, I don't get to play a lot. If I was back in California, I would still be playing in the league and having fun out there.

"Finding tournaments out on the East Coast, is a little bit difficult, but getting the chance to play once again was awesome."

Hindy made his journey down to the training facilities in Spring City, Berks County, to take part in the first training session on the last Sunday in July. By the next Friday, he was part of the U.S. National Indoor Team was heading to Venezuela.

But the hardest part of the whole week wasn't about playing his best field hockey, it was the idea of working things out with his job at Lehighton High School.

"The Tuesday before we left, I kind of asked the coach if he thought I was going to make the team because I needed to know for work," Hindy said. "I asked if he could give me a hint, 'Do you think I have a chance to go?' He was like, 'If nothing outrageous happens, I can see that you're going to go.'

"I got things straightened out (with my Athletic Director position) because I wasn't going to get back until Aug. 16, which was the first day of pre-season. I was going to be missing a little. Being Athletic Director, I have all the sports doing things, but then also coaching the field hockey team, I would miss our first day of pre-season practice."

When he returned to Lehighton, Hindy brought along a silver medal from the Men's Indoor Pan American Championships just missing out on a direct qualification into the next World Cup by dropping a 6-3 decision to Canada in the championship game.

A few weeks later, Hindy and his fellow American teammates received word that a spot became available for them to play in the Indoor World Cup, which will take place in Poland from Feb. 28 to March 13, 2011.

"We thought we had to win the tournament to make the World Cup and we ended up getting second," Hindy said. "But we found out in September that Spain dropped out. So we were invited and we're going to the World Cup, which is going to be pretty cool.

"It was really cool to do that after not playing for a couple of years, but also representing your country is awesome. Any time you can do that at a national level playing for the national team is something I will always remember."

Before he gets the chance to play in his second World Cup though, Hindy had to put aside his hockey stick and pick up his clipboard to lead his Indians toward what turned out to be a second straight Mountain Valley Conference championship and now possibly towards another potential District 11 Class AA championship this evening.

The experience of both playing and coaching the game is something that goes hand-in-hand for Hindy.

"I think it's true that coaching makes you a better player," Hindy said. "Just because you realize some more things. If you listen to something, you're going to retain 30 percent of it. If you see something, you're going to retain let's say 50 percent of it.

"But, if you actually teach something, or coach something, you're going to retain 90 percent of something. So, I learned a lot from that."

Hindy is putting the experience he has gained as both a player and coach to good use with the Indians.

"I have our girls actually teach the younger girls things," Hindy said. "We'll meet for practice with the middle school girls and our girls will teach them pushing and trapping. First, I will master teach it and then they'll individually go with their partner and practice.

"Being able to say, 'You want to put your hand lower or follow through this way,' that helps them become better players because then they can realize what they're doing wrong sometimes too."