‘Meredith, sit down!’ How Rutgers Field Hockey Coach Handled a Midseason Childbirth

by Jerry Carino, Asbury Park Press

Content Courtesy of Jerry Carino, Asbury Park Press

Meredith Civico devised plenty of game plans over nine seasons as head coach of Rutgers’ field hockey team, but this was new territory. Her most pressing priority April 2 had nothing to do with ninth-ranked opponent Penn State or even her own players.

It was sitting down and staying seated.

At 37 weeks pregnant, dealing with high blood pressure caused by a dangerous condition known as preeclampsia, Civico had an induction scheduled right after the game at Saint Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick. She positively, absolutely had to coach from a chair on the Scarlet Knights’ bench.

“I might have stood up a few times and shouted and everyone was like, ‘Meredith, sit down!’” Civico said. “I struggle sitting down. It’s not what I’m used to doing — coaching or being a mom.”

Rutgers head coach Meredith Civico and family
Rutgers field hockey head coach Meredith Civico, her husband/assistant coach Joey Civico, and their children Noah (lower right) Ellie (left, on Joey's lap) and newborn John David (on Meredith's lap).

Rutgers romped to a 3-0 victory, the program’s first over the Nittany Lions since 1985. Civico and her husband, assistant coach Joey Civico, stopped home in Highland Park, packed up and then headed to the hospital. Early the next morning she gave birth to their third child, a 6-pound, 8-ounce son named John David.

It was a wild weekend in a crazy season for the 38-year-old Civico, who was just named Big Ten Co-Coach of the Year. The Ocean City native has built the sixth-ranked Scarlet Knights (9-5 overall, 5-4 Big Ten) into a national contender while balancing the demands of motherhood and, during this landmark season, the twin challenges of a pandemic and a pregnancy.

“She’s always created a family atmosphere” said senior Gianna Glatz, Rutgers’ first-team All-Big Ten goalkeeper. “Mer has always been that mother figure, so it’s not really surprising that she’s balancing having her own family and us all at once — and doing an awesome job.”

Giving birth midseason was not the plan. Civico's two older children, 4-year-old Noah and 2-year-old Ellie, were offseason arrivals. But COVID turned the college sports calendar upside-down and the 2020 field hockey season got postponed from the fall to this spring.

Civico learned she was pregnant last summer. Rutgers didn’t get a field hockey schedule until January. Amid all the uncertainty came the diagnosis of preeclampsia, which can cause fatal spikes in blood pressure. Civico said her case was mild and doctors green-lighted her to coach while monitoring her condition closely. Running a Division I program is a high-octane endeavor in a normal year; doing so during a pandemic has been an exceptional challenge.

“Top of mind for me was the need to keep 25 young people safe and COVID free,” Civico said. “That was a lot of pressure.”

She leaned on her coaching staff — Joey, who is a volunteer, and assistants Maddy Sposito and Ajai Dhadwal.

“I have incredible assistants and the leadership on this team is just fantastic,” Meredith said. “We have an amazing group of seniors.” Rutgers head coach Meredith Civico and family

Like Glatz, a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar whom Civico calls “the epitome of a Rutgers student-athlete.” The Shawnee High School grad said the Scarlet Knights were well-prepared for their skipper's absence (Civico said she hopes to return to the sidelines for either the Big Ten Tournament, which starts this week, or the ensuing NCAA Tournament).

“We’ve had so much experience at this point, we know what we need to do based on the years we’ve spent with our coaching staff,” Glatz said. “We know how to make adjustments on the field. That’s why we’ve been so successful.”

Glatz described the mood as “nonchalant” on induction day.

“We all knew she was going to the hospital with Joey right after the game and we were like, ‘Alright, let’s win this game first and then Mer can go have her baby,’” Glatz said. “During our postgame meeting Joey was like, ‘We’ve got to wrap this up because Mer has somewhere to be.’”

The delivery went well, and the next day, Meredith sent Joey back across the Raritan River for Rutgers’ rematch with Penn State. The Scarlet Knights prevailed 1-0.

“I had a live stream in my hospital bed,” Meredith said. “Nurses were coming in asking, ‘Are we winning?’”

Glatz, who made six saves, explained the key to victory in a postgame text to her coach.

“I think it was our newest fan who pushed us over the edge,” she wrote.

Jerry Carino has covered the New Jersey sports scene since 1996. Contact him at

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