Please join us for the next installment of AstroTurf’s “5 Minutes With” series. In this edition, we talk with AstroTurf’s National Director of Field Hockey Melissa Vassalotti Twist.
5 Minutes with Melissa Vassalotti Twist
Tell us about your start as a field hockey player
I started playing field hockey my freshman year of high school. Which is a little later than a lot of people start playing. But I quickly jumped right into it my freshman year of high school and absolutely fell in love with the sport. Then I worked my butt off to have the opportunity to be recruited by the University of Maryland. I ended up playing and winning three national championships as a Terrapin. It was one of the best experiences of my entire life. I call it my glory days.
And then you go into coaching, how was that?
After the University of Maryland, I went on to coach Division I hockey at Georgetown University and then American University where I learned a ton while there. It’s at Georgetown that I ended up getting my Master’s in sports industry management. Keeping involved in sports, not only through my playing experiences, but then also taking sports into my career.
I think a lot of athletes, they dream of being able to play in college and then to kind of take it one step further and win a national championship or win three national championships, it was something I had dreamed of. But to actually make it a reality is surreal, and a total dream come true.
I ended up coaching at Georgetown University and American University. So, I coached for five years at the college level before kind of getting into the business side of sports.
And it had to be great to stay connected to the sport after playing and coaching
Going from being an athlete and getting to be the one out the field to, learning every day, then to being on the other side of it as a coach was really neat.
I knew that once I had field hockey in my life, I knew that I always wanted to have field hockey and sports as a part of my life.
It was not a hard transition going from playing to coaching and then to this side of sports. It was something I always wanted to do. This is really the opportunity of a lifetime. I think everyone likes the idea of being involved in their sport after college. For me, being able to stay involved in the field hockey community which is near and dear to my heart is a total dream come true.
But then also to play a big role in the growth and development of the surface that all hockey players are playing on day in and day out, that aspect of it is surreal. It’s something that I absolutely love.
AstroTurf will be well represented at the Olympics…
AstroTurf is the surface when it comes to field hockey. When you think of AstroTurf at the highest level which would be out of the gates. The surface played at the Olympic games is an AstroTurf surface. We have our AstroTurf 12 and our Poligras surfaces that have been played on at the highest level, which is something we are really proud of.
AstroTurf, under the SportGroup, along with Polytan, we have been responsible for 10 out of 12 of the field hockey surfaces at the Olympic games which is something we hang our hats on and are extremely proud of and something no one else can say.
Tell us about learning from “Mr. AstroTurf”
Andy Belles is pivotal to the AstroTurf field hockey name. We would not be here today if it weren’t for Andy Belles. He played a big role in getting so many AstroTurf fields that are on the ground today. Making the product what it is today. Developing relationships with, it’s hard to say customers, because they are really friends and colleagues and family at this point. He played a big part in that. Andy took me under his wing a few years ago and really threw everything at me and taught me everything he knew turf, about field hockey turf, about the synthetic turf industry, about history of current fields and previous fields. He brought me in and allowed me to make connections and build relationships with people. He played a role in everything I know today about field hockey turf and for that I am indebted and forever grateful.
It’s really hard to go through a day talking about a hockey field or talking with a colleague or coach and not bringing up Andy’s name. I’ll be out to dinner with a coach and we’ll be talking about a field and when they installed their last field and sure enough there’s always a story and memory about Andy. He still brings us laughs. He is near and dear to my heart and AstroTurf’s heart. He was commonly referred to as “Mr. AstroTurf” and I think that name stands true. He truly was Mr. AstroTurf. He knew this brand and it was his passion and we’re so thankful to that.
The AstroTurf Difference
AstroTurf is you get what you came for. When you’re looking to build a turf field, everyone looks at wanting the best. And with AstroTurf you get the best from all levels. You get it from a safety standard and testing standpoint. You also get it from performance playability. Bringing all that together is really important. Because, again, you do have kids playing on this field of all ages. It’s so important to us that we can lay down a field that we feel comfortable walking away from it knowing that when kids come on the field, they are safe and getting the best surface and they are going to enjoy the surface. That they will get the playability they expect and want from a world-class surface and that’s what you’re getting with AstroTurf.