This Connecticut HS field hockey player has an Ivy League future and a breakdancing past

NEW CANAAN — After a distinguished athletic career in New Canaan, Cari Hills was both an all-American field hockey and lacrosse star at Cornell. It’s no surprise that she finds herself a quarter century later cheering on her two daughters Polly and Lucy in field hockey.

“But I have to admit,” Hills said, “I didn’t expect, as a parent, to stand aside to encourage a girl to breakdance.”

There’s no funnier and more compelling juxtaposition in Connecticut high school sports than Polly Parsons-Hills.

She is from Tony New Canaan and has a hyphenated surname. She was selected to the All-State First Team as a junior and helped her team win the 2021 CIAC Field Hockey Class L title. She is an honors student. She verbally committed to Cornell’s admissions process. She is composed in speech, mature and sunny in disposition… and boom! Toupee. Meet B-Girl Sweet P.

Polly has been breaking dancing for seven years, even competing out of state. For that, she can thank her uncle for introducing her to street dancing.

A three-sport athlete at Williams, Steve Graham started break dancing in college in the 80s. He would take a break for a lunch break, as an analyst at Goldman Sachs, then return to the work. He would go to the South Bronx to train. More accomplished, Graham would challenge Manhattan street-hitters to dance battles. They loved the preppy and incorporated him into their act, pulling him out of the crowd by his tie. Graham wore glasses, carried a calculator in his pocket, played the nerd. And boom! He would burst an air blast.

“He was telling stories,” Polly said, “and I remember being, ‘Wow! That’s awesome!’ I saw him dancing every time we visited our cousins. There were always a few guys, a few girls dancing, breaking, having fun. I jumped with them several times.

Graham was Vanilla Shake at first. As the years passed and he returned to break-dancing, the private equity executive became known as B-boy Silverback. He had connections, including Sweet-Lu Espinosa in Connecticut.

“I’m so lucky he was so close (to Bridgeport) and ready to train me,” Parsons-Hills said. “It’s been really special.”

Espinosa was part of a larger wrecking crew called United OutKast. He also began coaching at the New Canaan Dance Academy, which had focused on lyrical dance, tap, ballet, and jazz.

“We brought in break-dancing, which was super cool,” Parsons-Hills said. “Lu was there, Sophie Duplock, my very good friend. It’s still ongoing. The younger ones, it’s amazing to see how much they’ve progressed.

Polly participated in the Silverback Open 2019. Graham brought in the best dancers from all over the world. She didn’t rank among single b-girls, but she had a blast.

During a team dance at a field hockey rally last year, Polly did a breakdance. A few years ago, she played halftime at a basketball game. We didn’t have to ask him twice to do a few moves on the court in New Canaan. Let’s see legendary football manager Lou Marinelli replicate that.

“I wouldn’t say I’m retired,” Parsons-Hills said. “I definitely yearn to get a little more active again. Mom will tell stories of me breaking down in the kitchen when there’s a super good song. Maybe kicking the fridge, kicking to a wardrobe or two. Maybe a bruise. I always find time to dance whenever I’m in the mood. Every time Sophie comes home from college.

Hey, breakdancing is an Olympic sport in 2024.

The first time Polly remembers having a field hockey stick in her hand was at a Cornell alumni game. She was 6 years old. She was playing peewee soccer. Carl didn’t want to start her on anything too soon until she was sure Polly loved her. She started at New Canaan Youth Field Hockey in fifth grade. She played lacrosse. She picks up for a while.

Early on, mom saw how much Polly loved playing on a team, but she also saw her walking around the house or down the aisle with the ball. Self-development. Perfection.

“In sixth grade, I was torn between field hockey and lacrosse,” Polly said. “I loved both. Chasing a ball, there’s really nothing I prefer to do. In lacrosse, you have your right hand, left hand, ground balls, and the toss. In field hockey there are three dimensions, field hockey on the ground, in the air and also 3D skills. There is so much more to master. I really wanted to learn as much as possible.

“Field hockey took my heart.

Cari pointed to Wayne Gretzky, who loved baseball as much as hockey as a kid. Whenever a season was over, they were ready for their next favorite sport. It is different in today’s world.

“Polly fell in love with field hockey,” Cari said. “It was her decision on which way to go. I’m glad she did it.

Parsons-Hills called last year’s New Canaan team “electric.” Undefeated until meeting Darien in the FCIAC Finals, the Rams didn’t go unplugged with the lone loss.

“We obviously had a sad moment that night, but the next day we were back in training and totally determined to win,” she said. “We were going to come together as a team and seal the deal.”

The day after the Rams’ 3-1 victory over Wilton for the state title, she tried out for the AGH in indoor field hockey. Two weeks off in March and it’s back on the road with AGH, an elite club team, all summer long.

“I live, breathe, eat, sleep field hockey,” Polly said.

Yet the one-year specialization contradicts his varied interests. She calls herself “super nature”. Hiking, climbing, water skiing, surfing, Frisbee – Polly has her activities. She was also president of the New Canaan Green League club. A member of the Building Bridges Club, she helped lead STEM experiments for Kindergarten to Grade 4 students at Stamford.

Over the years with field hockey, Parsons-Hills said she could feel more and more girls looking up to her. It’s a good feeling. Already given so much, she says, her mission in her senior year is to give back to the sport and the community.

“In New Canaan, she plays more on the defensive side,” Cari said. “At club, she is on the attacking side. Polly is a really fun player to watch. She sees the pitch and disperses the ball very well. She is able to adapt and fill in the gaps if necessary. I had a more advanced mindset. My defensive skills weren’t as strong. Polly can play both sides very well and this versatility makes her a unique type of player.

Polly has only seen a video clip or two of her mother performing. She knows Cari was a prolific goalscorer. She knows she’s in the Cornell Hall of Fame.

“I haven’t heard bad things from anyone about my mother.” Polly said: “She made some really big shoes to fill. I can only follow her as a role model.

“My mother has always been there, against all odds. Super encouraging all my life.

There are no gimmicks in the Ivy League. Although she gave Cornell a verbal commitment to field hockey in the spring of her sophomore year, advance ruling requests are not accepted until November 1, and admissions of acceptance are not made until December.

“I’m so excited to be playing in college,” Polly said. “I love meeting new girls and playing with new teammates. I believe I can make a difference at Cornell. This is Coach Andy Smith’s third year. He’s building an empire that I’m very happy to be part of. part.

“When I was little, I saw a big and beautiful school. And that’s what I still see today. There’s no other place I’d rather spend my four years. I knew I didn’t really want to be in a big city. Cornell is pretty much the opposite of a big city.

Cari majored in economics at Cornell. After working for much of her career at Accenture in technology consulting, she joined a private equity firm in Pennsylvania. Polly is applying to the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. It will focus on entrepreneurship. She already has a small business, giving personal field hockey lessons.

“Sometimes kids get exposed and overwhelmed by things and take a different path (from their parents),” Cari said. “She did her homework. I couldn’t be prouder that she is forging her own path.

Polly said having Lucy on the team for the past two years has been incredibly fun and has brought their bond to a new level. Mom allowed herself to look around the pitch where she once played and where her daughters play now. She became emotional.

“It’s something special that both of my daughters play on the varsity team at the Rams, where I have so many great memories,” Cari said. “It’s so amazing to see them having the same tradition and support in the community. It’s such a great place to grow up.

And for a break-dancing girl.; @jeffjacobs123

Catherine J. Martinez