Eileen Grumbine didn’t want to work on the family farm after her day at Conestoga Valley High School ended, so she took up sports. 

“I did everything and anything possible to stay after school so I wouldn’t have to do farm work,” she said. “I did field hockey, basketball, tennis, plays, drama, theater, anything so I wouldn’t have to go home and get that pitchfork.

“I loved school. I didn’t want to do chores. I wanted to be with people. It was social time.”

Grumbine, who graduated in 1969, found herself taking to field hockey above the others, thanks to some early success. She remembers it well 

“You could get your frustration out hitting that ball around,” she said. “Field hockey didn’t start, for me, until 10th grade. I remember my very first game; we played Manheim Central, and I was on the forward line, had the ball, went down and slammed the ball, got the goal. The next day, I was moved up to varsity. I said, “I like this sport!’ ” 

Although it was a while before her tenure at Conestoga Valley, longtime Buckskins field hockey coach Lee Gerdes knew of Grumbine’s high school accolades. 

“She was quite an athlete and there were less opportunities for girls then,” Gerdes said. “(Eileen) is very proud of being a CV grad.”  

Now a West Earl Township resident, Grumbine -- who has earned the moniker “Grandma Hockey” -- could not have known at the time that her athletics would begin a family tradition that is going strong more than 50 years later.

Her daughter, Lindsay (McElhenny) Gerner, had a great career at Conestoga Valley, graduating in 1995, and went on to play at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. 

Gerner’s daughter -- Grumbine’s granddaughter -- Grace Gerner is a sophomore standout for Penn Manor.

Although she played prior to the forming of the Lancaster-Lebanon League, which is marking its 50th season this year, Grumbine and family are great examples of field hockey’s legacy in the area. 

Early introduction to field hockey

In true family fashion, not only did Grumbine and Lindsay Gerner continue playing the sport as adults, they also both became officials [Grumbine who refereed multiple sports over 37 years].

 It was natural for Lindsay to gravitate to the sport, she said. After all, her mother took her to officiating assignments, as well as rules and officials’ meetings, since she was 3 years old.

“I loved it,” Lindsay said. “I can remember going to Lucy Snavely’s house, who was the head official at the time, sitting in her house and going over the rules. 

“I was most definitely playing hockey,” said Lindsey, who also played basketball and ran track.

“Lindsay had her mom as her mentor,” said Gerdes. “She showed Lindsay this is how you give back.” 

With multiple collegiate sports options, Lindsay, who now calls Millersville Borough home, chose field hockey, in part because of advice from Gerdes, her high school coach. 

“I loved both sports, but Lee played a big part in me loving field hockey more than basketball,” said Lindsey, who was able to play competitively in junior high, unlike her mother. “When I went to college, I didn’t know if I wanted to play field hockey or basketball, and there was more [scholarship] money for field hockey available.”

[Turf, rule changes have made L-L field hockey faster over the past 50 years, alum say]

Grace’s playing opportunities began in elementary school, although she -- like her mother -- was introduced to the sport long before that.

In fact, with a mom and grandma both officiating, Grace went to her first field hockey game long before she could walk or talk. 

“Grace was only a few months old when she started coming to games. She was around hockey from the beginning,” Lindsay said. “After college, I started officiating, just like my mom did. Mom would officiate the varsity game, then I would officiate the JV game.  I would bring Grace with me, and ‘Grandma Hockey’ would hold her while I officiated.”

Grace went on to be a ball girl for the Comets at a young age, including during their PIAA championship runs. Now, she wears the blue and white.

She admits the family ties, and successful Penn Manor program, may have added some pressure to play the sport. Like mom and grandma, she enjoys multiple sports, although she knows that field hockey may pave her way for college.

“I definitely felt [the pressure at] first, then I fell in love with it, so I didn’t feel pressure anymore,” Grace said. 

“I also play lacrosse, but field hockey is my main sport. Like my mom, I really like basketball, but as field hockey has evolved, everyone is doing more all-seasons, so I had to quit basketball.”

How field hockey has changed

Field hockey, of all the sports their family has played, was also the one that changed the most over the three generations. 

Grumbine grew up playing on grass with constant whistles slowing the game down. Lindsay got to play on turf in college, and the rules were different than today.

Grace plays a more open style of hockey than her predecessors did, with fewer whistles, quicker restarts and balls played in the air, with most games being on turf. 

 “It’s changed so much over the years. You couldn’t lift your sticks up that high. We had no protection equipment, mouth guards or anything like that,” Grumbine said. “I see how much they do compared to what we did. They have so much more skill.

“Now they run with the wind. They have no idea how much they evolved. I enjoy it. It’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, I wish we could have played like that!’ We just ran around the field, hit-run, hit-run.”

“I got to play on turf in college; that was so much fun,” Lindsay said. “The game was incredibly faster [than on grass]. The individual skills and stick skills really improved on turf. It was a challenge when we played a school that was on grass.”

What’s next

Both Grumbine and Lindsay not only love watching Grace roam the field but admire her skill set and smarts.

“I am just proud. I get so excited, I cheer and holler,” said Grumbine.

“She cheers during warm-ups,” Lindsay teased her mother.

Lindsay, a junior high coach at Penn Manor, doesn’t get to all the varsity games, although she sees as many as she can.

“To sit there and watch her play, there are times when tears come because I am so incredibly proud of her,” Lindsay said. “I am amazed at her skills she has developed, her intensity and love for the game. It’s really cool to watch.”

Grace feels the four watchful eyes during the game.

“Sometimes it is a little much, but it’s nice to hear different points of view,” she said. “I have three high school coaches, but they have a different perspective so it’s nice to hear different encouragement or critiques. 

Grace, though only 15, is looking ahead to what’s next while keeping in mind what came before her. 

“There is lots of pride in hearing about mom and grandma,” she said. “And I have six more years of field hockey for memories, moments, goals, defensive plays and how much more fun I can have in these next six years. 

“Knowing how far it has come and seeing how far the sport has evolved I am thankful for how it is now and I can’t help but think about my (future) kids. Is my daughter going to play field hockey?”

It would only be natural to see a fourth generation on the hockey turf someday. Like Gerdes said, “What goes around comes around. That is this family.”

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