Shake And Bake: Field Hockey Player And Coach Tandem Found Success On And Off The Field
You may have heard a broadcaster here or there announce a “shake and bake” move a player makes during a basketball game. Well, Newtown High School’s field hockey standout Katie Goyda and her mom, Coach Ellen Goyda, have their own variation of the shake and bake.
Katie, who is Bryant University-bound, was able to shake off defenders with stick-handling that allowed her to pile up 75 goals and rack up 62 assists for a total of 212 career points (two points for goals, one for assists) — all Newtown High records.
Ellen provides the bake. Off the field, the first-year head coach of the Nighthawks has a business, Goyda’s Goodies. She bakes sweets, primarily cookies, for all sorts of occasions — end-of-season celebrations, baby showers, graduations, you name it.
This mother/daughter, coach/player shake and bake duo certainly has a recipe for success on and off the field. In addition to Katie’s individual accolades, the team put together quite a season, losing only once in the regular slate despite significant turnover from last year’s large graduating class.
Given the success of the regular season, posting an 11-1 record, a South-West Conference North Division Tournament semifinal-round exit at the hands of a New Milford team Newtown defeated twice in the fall was a disappointment for the Goydas, but the season overall was really quite a good one.
“Looking at the bigger picture, winning 11 games with the amount of experience we didn’t have, it’s impressive. It’s a testament to the girls, how hard they worked under the circumstances,” Ellen said.
Those circumstances included not only the mostly new-to-varsity roster and head coach, but also the backdrop of coronavirus and its attendant social distancing regulations during much of the preseason, delayed start to practices and game play, the shortened campaign, and regulations to wear masks on the sideline.
Ellen enjoyed reuniting with a group of girls, including her daughter, she had previously coached in the town’s youth field hockey and softball programs several years ago. It was while coaching softball that Ellen, as she puts it, forced the love of field hockey on her athletes. She wanted well-rounded athletes on the softball field and needed to recruit to build numbers in the small field hockey program. So the coach brought a pile of field hockey sticks to softball practice and asked her infielders and outfielders to give field hockey a try.
“I wanted to build the numbers and I knew they were natural athletes, so why not?” Ellen recalled.
Several players got on board and the rest is field hockey history — with Katie’s record-setting leading the way. Katie said her goal each fall has been to get better than the previous year; she’s lived up to that and then some. After registering seven goals and five assists as a freshman, Goyda set and reset school records for goals, assists, and points in her sophomore and junior campaigns — she had 22 goals and 13 assists as a sophomore and posted 30 and 25 as a junior — before racking up 16 goals and 19 assists in a shortened 2020 slate, one in which Katie's chances to hit the back of the cage were reduced when she moved from forward back to midfield for the betterment of the team.
The skill and results are a product of hard work and natural ability — along with support from family members. Ellen was a standout at Immaculate High in Danbury as well as at Western Connecticut State University. Megan, Katie’s older sister, was recruited to play softball and walked on to the field hockey team at Springfield College before injuries derailed her career; Katie followed in Megan’s field hockey- and softball-playing footsteps. Their dad, Rob, is an ice hockey player and brings insight applicable to field hockey to the table. Add all of this to the fact Ellen loves to watch and analyze game film, and Katie had no shortage of influence, tips, and support from her family.
“Sometimes I have to rein it in and let her have her own time,” said Ellen, adding that Katie has an ability to listen to and absorb what people say to her.
Katie says she liked having the opportunity to discuss the game of field hockey with her mom at home, at the dinner table.
“We have a nice connection,” Katie said. “I trust all of her decisions.”
That included Ellen switching her daughter and team’s top goal-scoring threat from offense to midfield at the start of the season, a plan to counter opposing teams’ strategy of double-teaming Katie. It was an adjustment at first, but Katie adapted and helped the Hawks win.
The Nighthawks not only pile up the victories, but they are good sports about it, claiming this year’s South-West Conference Sportsmanship Award, selected with votes by opposing coaches. The team members are close-knit, said Ellen, adding that she had a blast this past fall.
“It was fun. It was nice to see the girls grow,” the coach said.
Around practices and games, and preparations for opponents, Ellen put her baking talents to work.
Her cookies and cake pops began as a hobby. Ellen started sharing elegantly decorated tasty treats with family members for various occasions. That led to her assisting Lisa Bell, mom of former NHS softball player Emily Bell, who has her own baking business — Bee Sweet. Ellen went on to start her home-based business, which has grown significantly in just two years. Ellen and Lisa refer customers to each other when things are too busy. Ellen said May and June, when there are graduation parties, as well as Christmas time, are especially busy.
Some of Ellen’s creations include cookies that look like baby strollers, babies — complete with detailed hats and pacifiers — and bottles. This year, she made cookies with masks on them, some with words of advice to “stay home, stay safe.”
For an end-of-year NHS golf team party, Ellen created cookies that looked like course greens, golf bags with clubs, and balls, and with messages such as “Newtown, Best By Par.” You name the event, and Ellen’s cookies are intricately detailed for the occasion.
Ellen gets some of her talent from her mom, Beatrice Prunty, of Danbury, who continues to create artwork at 88 years of age.
“It’s a nice release for me — my mother is very artistic and I think I got a little talent from her. I like to be creative,” Ellen said.