BY MARK ZIMMARO
You can bet that every shot, every pass and every hustle play Allyssa Seifert makes this season will have special meaning and motivation behind it.
The Little Flower senior became a star in Philadelphia Catholic League field hockey last year in her first season of high school experience, earning second team All-PCL honors despite enduring unbearable heartache both on and off the field.
Allyssa’s father Bill Seifert, a North Catholic Hall of Fame soccer goalkeeper, was coaching Little Flower’s field hockey team last season. Only those tight with the family knew what he was dealing with.
“A lot of girls on the team didn’t know that he had stage 4 colon cancer,” Allyssa said. “He had a (colostomy) bag and he was pretty much hiding it from everyone on the team. He didn’t want it to be known what he was going through.”
Allyssa Seifert gets ready during a drill at a preseason practice. Photo/Mark Zimmaro
Bill Seifert was diagnosed in January, 2022. He passed away this past June 20th at the age of 49.
Seifert centered his life around his greatest loves; his wife Diane, who he had been married to for 27 years and his two twin daughters, Allyssa and Brianna.
“He was so competitive too,” Allyssa Seifert said. “He was always yelling and being passionate. I mean, good for him. He loved it.”
The Little Flower field hockey program had its 2020 season canceled by Covid and its 2021 season was nixed by not having enough players. When 2022 rolled around the roster numbers were sufficient, but the Sentinels were without a coach. That was until Bill Seifert stepped in and despite being more than six months into his cancer treatments, he came to the rescue and saved the season by volunteering to coach his daughter’s team.
“It really made me so proud that he was there,” Seifert said. “He loved it so much. He loved being out there with us and getting us into shape. I was proud of him that he really helped us even though he had all these issues and problems. But he still worked through them. He didn’t let that stop him at all.”
Bill split his time cheering on both daughters, whether it was for Allyssa’s field hockey and lacrosse games or for her sister Brianna's love of music and art. Brianna attends the Philadelphia Academy Charter School.
“Even when he was sick and near the end, he was always showing up to my games,” Allyssa Seifert said. He just always wanted to be there for us. For me and my sister.”
Bill Seifert raises his hand to congratulate a player on the Little Flower field hockey team during a game last season. Photo/Mark Zimmaro
Bill Seifert sharing a fun moment with the Little Flower field hockey team in a game against Archbishop Ryan. Photo/Mark Zimmaro
And he was also there for more than a dozen others holding their hockey sticks.
In fact, Bill Seifert's life was a life dedicated to serving others. He spent 27 years as a Philadelphia police officer and received the Police Officer of the Year Award in 2020.
For the field hockey team, it was never about wins and losses. After a two-year absence, Little Flower went 1-7 in PCL play and scored just one league goal — an overtime winner by Bill's daughter Allyssa against St. Hubert. More importantly, Allyssa and the Sentinels simply had a season thanks to the unselfishness of a loving father. It was more than a dad watching his kid play.
“I feel like he was here for a reason, too.” Allyssa said. “He wanted to build the team before it was his time to go. He built that community for us and really set us up for the future.”
Now it’s Alyssa’s team. Although she’s not technically the coach, she helps chime in at practices to help coach Tim McCartney ease in new players.
“After (2021) was canceled because we didn’t have enough players, Allyssa was the one that said we can’t do this again next year, we need to have a team,” McCartney said. “And Bill and I made the commitment that we’d recruit girls, even if they never played before. And Allyssa to a large degree has been like an assistant coach, even with her dad, but even more so with me.”
She’s become a role model to her teammates, pushing them to unlock their potential. She works hard on her own game and also spends time lifting her peers.
“I’m working so hard,” Seifert said. “I’m outside practicing all the time, trying to get new things down. And I’m trying to get my teammates to work harder. I feel like I’m him, as a coach. I feel like I’m stepping in.”
Her teammates have taken notice.
“I can hear her yelling at me through texts, on the field and on the phone,” junior Lily Mackin said with a laugh. “But she makes it fun. Because a lot of us are new, so she helps us with our drills and really keeps us on our toes.”
Little Flower senior Allyssa Seifert brings up the ball during a game in 2022. Photo/Mark Zimmaro
It helps that Seifert’s motor is always running.
“We always talk about how good Alyssa is,” Mackin said. “Other teams don’t like covering her. But I really like working with her in practice. She makes us better as players and as people too.”
Senior year has arrived and Seifert said she still loves the game of field hockey despite missing her dad so much. It helped her cope during his battle last year. She hopes it will help her heal this year.
“A lot of times when I would step onto the field, I would forget everything,” Seifert said. “My mind would go blank. I feel like field hockey is my therapy for everything. It clears my mind. I’m not worried about anything other than field hockey. But then when I step off the field, I step back into reality. I would think, 'oh man, this is really happening in my life right now.' It was really hard. It still is.”
Allyssa wants to continue to make her father proud by continuing to build Little Flower’s field hockey program.
“It really means a lot,” she said. “Since he helped rebuild our team, a lot of us love each other now. There are new girls learning, we’re still all together. They are literally my family.”