Living the Good Life At Oak Knoll

Oak Knoll, a small private school in Summit, is fast becoming a national powerhouse in field hockey.

Coach Ali Good, at top, fourth from left, celebrates last November with her Oak Knoll field hockey squad after capturing their fourth Group 1 championship in five years with a victory over St. Joseph High School of Hammonton.
Courtesy of Ali Good.

At every Oak Knoll School field hockey game, the bloodlines run along the sidelines. That’s because coach Ali Good, who orchestrated a perfect 27-0 season and state championship for her alma mater in 2010, couldn’t imagine doing her job without her family. Her younger sister Christina is her top assistant. Her four young children help warm up and fetch water for the players. And husband Mike is always nearby, occasionally texting suggestions.

As for the ponytailed Oak Knoll Royals, they are the 34-year-old Good’s extended family. “I have four kids, but with our team I feel like it’s 29,” Good says. “I’m so incredibly proud of them.”

Her all-in-the-family philosophy is rooted in the small Summit private school, where she was smitten by the sport in fourth grade. A product of Oak Knoll’s feeder program, she has helped build the school of less than 250 students into a national powerhouse. Good has a 130-12-6 record in six seasons, including four Group I championships in the past five years. In 2007, her Royals dealt the dynastic Eastern Regional High School of Voorhees its first loss to a New Jersey school in 208 games.
With almost the entire squad returning to Oak Knoll when the season opens September 10 against Livingston, Good acknowledges, “We put a big target on our back.” As always, she will challenge her team with tough talk and positive thinking. “I’ll just tell them, ‘Your job is to defend our title. It won’t be easy but you can do it.’”

Good’s coaching career almost didn’t happen.  After graduating Holy Cross in 1999, Good entered the family business working for Shop Rite. Then she got a last-minute offer from Oak Knoll athletic director Jerry Butler to become an assistant coach. Overwhelmed with excitement, Good first sought the okay from her youngest sister, Laura, a promising freshman. “Sure, whatever,” said Laura, and a coaching star was born.

Coaching her sister became a highlight. So was overseeing the development of Michelle Cesan, the current Princeton standout who in June was named to the U.S. national team that will play next year in the London Olympics. “Michelle immediately called me and I almost cried,” Good says. “Definitely, I will be in London to cheer her.”

And definitely will bring the whole family with her.

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