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GLRFH Success Story: Donna Fabiano Stephenson, Why We Play

By Jessie Veith Rouleau , 01/23/23, 11:45AM EST


For Donna (Fabiano) Stephenson, it's not about the destination, it's about enjoying the journey.

Donna (Fabiano) Stephenson has been passionate about the game of field hockey for over 40 years. Her high school career started in 1979 at Hoosick Falls Central School (Hoosick Falls, NY).  Stephenson's high school team was very successful, with multiple titles earned during her 4 years on the team. They were NY Class C Section II Champions and NY Wasaren League Champions in both 1981 and 1982. Stephenson also earned a spot on the Adirondack Region team and participated in the New York Empire State Games (Syracuse, NY) in 1982. When winning seasons end with championship titles they are often remembered, but for Donna it was about more than all the championships earned. 

"My fondest high school memories revolve around field hockey, from silly pregame rituals, to blasting ‘80s rock anthems on the bus rides home, to even running sprints in the rain after late- season games to prepare for playoffs."

After a successful high school career, Stephenson went on to play collegiately at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, NY, from 1982-1986. Stephenson was selected as Co-Captain in 1985 and 1986, and was RPI's team MVP in 1986. Donna's senior year was the team's was most successful field hockey season in school history, and she contributed 17 goals on the season that year. 

Coming from a highly successful high school team, working for every small gain at the collegiate level was difficult at first. But with the challenge came a new realization for Stephenson, 

"I am a competitor and always played to win. Not winning was very challenging to me but helped me appreciate why I played which was because I simply loved the game. It was then that I found joy in simply having the opportunity to play."

Leading her team in success on the field, while also working to keep the program funded and at Varsity status, left a long-lasting and positive mark on the RPI field hockey program. In 1999, Stephenson was inducted into the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Athletic Hall of Fame.

Stephenson left the playing field to focus on her career and family, only to return to start a program at her community's high school, as Head Coach of Pine-Richland High School (Gibsonia, PA) in 2004. The team began as a high school club team, and then petitioned the school district to become a school-funded sport and part of the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League in 2007. In 2008, Stephenson began to grow local access and opportunity in the sport when she started a summer program that expanded to serve players from K-12th  grades, an indoor program, and a fall youth program.  Stephenson received the National Field Hockey Coaches Association's (NFHCA) Junior Hockey Award in 2015. In 2017, Pine-Richland won its first WPIAL title. In 2019, she celebrated her 100th win at Pine Richland. 

For Donna, it's not about the destination, but finding joy in the journey. 

"I am inspired by “The Dash” poem that describes what matters most is how you live the dash between your birthdate and your last day here on earth, and relate this to my playing days and now coaching. I reflect upon how I lived the dash as a high school athlete driven to compete and win, and then as a college athlete learning to play for the love of the game. Now as a coach, I guide my athletes to live the dash by relishing the journey as that is where lifelong memories are made and true joy lies."

Great Lakes Regional Field Hockey is proud to share Donna's story with our field hockey community! Check out our Western Pennsylvania Regional Field Hockey Page for youth and collegiate opportunities. 

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GLRFH is a non-profit 503-c organization working to serve and support field hockey in the Great Lakes region by providing the foundation for a network of thriving field hockey communities.

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