Lila Browne didn’t care for field hockey much at first.
The lifelong Del Mar resident tried it out in middle school but preferred soccer.
She gave the sport another look when she was a freshman at The Bishop’s School, and after some growing pains, it’s become her passion.
“I was so terrible, my stick skills were awful,” she said of her first tryouts. “I know that if I watched myself play like how I was back then I would be so embarrassed.”
Her coaches at The Bishop’s School saw an athlete with a high ceiling.
“She’s a phenomenal athlete, and what we could see in her tryouts that she had the ability to pick up the game very quickly,” Knights coach Meghan Carr said.
“We could see that her level would rise quickly because she was playing at a faster pace with those girls, and it proved to be the right move in that sense.”
Browne made the varsity as a freshman and in the span of just over three years she’s evolved to one of the nation’s best players.
The Knights center midfielder, who concluded her prep career last year and has committed to play at Division I Dartmouth, led the state with 78 points and was 12th in the nation in that department.
She led the state and was 11th in the nation with 20 assists and was second in the state and 17th in the nation with 29 goals.
Browne has been just as prolific on the club circuit. She was among eight players selected to the National Field Hockey Coaches Association All-West Region team.
“I didn’t love it (at first), maybe because I wasn’t so good at it, but there were eight seniors on the team at the time and they were all super encouraging and they were willing to work with me,” Browne said. “I think that caring aspect of the team drew me to love the sport more. I was playing it because I liked the people and that drew me to like the sport and that’s what made me want to play competitively.”
Browne has excelled in field hockey despite juggling a heavy workload.
She’s a four-year, three-sport varsity athlete who also plays soccer and lacrosse.
She’s also excelled in the classroom and has been recognized as an AP Scholar with Honor and a National Merit Commended Scholar.
“I think in sports and academics I have a similar attitude, which is that I have to work for everything,” Browne said. “Don’t take anything for granted, always do your best and always put your best foot forward.”
Browne has made time to contribute to the community, too.
She took an interest in helping others when she was a Girl Scout, and currently participates in Feeding San Diego, a local-anti-hunger program.
“I visited there once and I really liked the work I did there. I really liked going there and it was obviously something that was helping the community,” she said. “We did weekend backpacks for kids who were food insecure, who relied on school breakfast and lunches during the week, and then on the weekends they didn’t have any food, so Feeding San Diego would put stuff like rice, beans and canned vegetables into backpacks and then the kids would pick them up so they would have food on the weekends.”
Browne doesn’t seem to mind keeping busy. She’s gotten used to it playing multiple sports and carrying a challenging academic workload.
“Sometimes, if I don’t have practice and I get home and it’s like 3:30, I’m like ‘What do I do?’
“I’m so used to having everything scheduled all the time, so I’m good at managing my time.”
Browne attributes her success in field hockey to playing soccer and softball growing up. She considers field hockey to be a mashup of the two sports.
What sets Browne apart from other elite players, however, are the intangibles she brings to the field.
“What she’s able to do on the field is so good in the sense that her technique is amazing, but what she’s able to do is set up other players for success,” Carr said. “I think that is so key as a field hockey player and playing a central midfield position, is having that ability to get the ball to the right person, to the right spot, to get that ball into the goal. I think that’s one of her big attributes.”
Browne is mindful of the mentorship role the seniors on her team played when she was a freshman and has gone out of her way to pay it forward.
In her senior year, she mentored freshmen Erika Pfister and Kate McCool, Carr said, noting she set both players up for their first career goals in the same game.
“That’s what I think is exceptional, when you see those kids who get so excited for all their teammates,” Carr said. “That’s what makes a teammate.