To the average student there isn’t anything much to look at.
A simple bench cloaked behind a fence that the majority of students will never cross.
Its solid oak frame is unweathered as the elements have yet to erode the new piece. Its gold plate glistens in the afternoon sun, casting a flicker of light that bounces off the charcoal fence behind it.
Its unveiling garnered little, if any, interest from Shippensburg University students — as most toiled with their studies on a pleasant Sunday afternoon.
Shrouded by the charcoal fence that surrounds David See Field, this bench epitomizes so much, yet so little. To the Raiders field hockey team it personifies its leader, an ashen-haired figure who embodies what most of this campus has lost along its years — a distinct passion.
For 13 years, head coach Bertie Landes has paced the sidelines at David See Field, leading the Raiders to a 217–60–1 record during that time frame. Throughout 32 years of putting the whistle on, Landes has compiled 401 victories, been named a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Coach of the Year six times — 1999, 2003, 2005, 2009, 2010 and 2011 — and has earned National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) South Region Coach of the Year honors three times: 1999, 2005 and 2010.
With Landes at the helm, the Raiders have been perennial national contenders, losing out on National Championships in 2003 and 2004 against Bloomsburg University and Indiana University of Pa., respectively. The constant winning has had the Raiders burst onto the national scene, albeit with little notice from students at SU.
Gently a whisper has been spread as the field hockey team has 5,780 fans piled into David See Field in five years. To put that into perspective, 14,490 fans entered Seth Grove Stadium to witness a 5¬–6 football team in 2012. Nearly 9,000 more fans were able to witness mediocrity than a team that has gone 18–5, 20–3, 21–2, 17–4 and 17–3 in those five years.
Keeping up that impressive track record comes with a burden to Landes. With other teams getting stronger in the PSAC and across the nation, it has been hard for the Raiders to register the same success year-in and year-out. With consistent national playoff berths, Landes said it is easy for a team like this to be complacent, but yet it is her goal to get this team ready.
“It’s just hard,” Landes said. “You want your team to come in hungry every year. That’s something as a coach you talk about.”
“It’s easy to be complacent,” Landes said as she sat against a window in her office with the sun illuminating countless notes and books cluttering her desk. “It gets harder and harder each year because schools are getting stronger and stronger.”
It’s hard to argue with Landes’ success over her tenure at SU. Ninety-three wins in the last five years can cement anyone’s legacy at any school. However, the way in which Landes operates has set herself apart as more than a coach. Her leadership, her defiance and her ability to adapt to a new group of students every year has set her apart from the rest.
“I can say everything that I think is the right thing and it won’t mean a thing unless they believe it and they themselves buy into it. I think they bought into the style of play.”
As spring practice has come to an end, Landes is again in charge of molding another group into a team that can repeat its national playoff run, only this time, making that extra push to the national title that has eluded them for so long.
Engraved in that gold plate on that lonely bench behind the charcoal fence is the name of Landes — a token of appreciation from her seniors last season. That bench will forever stand, cementing a legacy that many students on this campus never saw.