What a difference a year makes. Last fall Montgomery County's field hockey program was short six coaches and seemed in decline. This season field hockey coaching jobs are hard to come by and several schools have started junior varsity programs.

When Robin Cole was named to coach Damascus last week, that meant that 19 of the county's 20 high schools would have field hockey this year. (Only Blair has opted not to field a team.)

But even more impressive than the sport's sudden resurgence has been the focus on safety in Montgomery, where the county cosupervisor of athletics, Pat Barry, has been a leader for more and better equipment.

Montgomery was the state's first jurisdiction to mandate helmets and mouthpieces. And this year's shinguard requirement also has been adopted by the state for next season.

"Last year it didn't look like field hockey had much of a future in Montgomery County," said Barbara Belt, Kennedy's coach and assistant athletic director. "But Pat really worked hard after last season to build up the program and it shows.

"We've always had teams do well in the state playoffs in field hockey, but now the whole county league is stronger.

"But our safety record is even more satisfying than our won-loss record. That, too, is directly attributable to the supervisor (Barry). She doesn't say much, but she sure gets the job done."

Thomas Stone High announced before its opening game that all its players will wear black arm bands with the initials RS to commemorate Robert Steedham, the Navy diver from Waldorf who was killed in the Beirut airport hostage crisis several months ago.He was a defensive back at Stone before graduating. The Cougars opened with a 32-14 victory over defending A champion Kennedy.

The Rockville-Bethesda-Chevy Chase field hockey game originally scheduled for Saturday will be played Friday at B-CC at 3:30 p.m. It was switched because of a memorial service at 11 a.m. Saturday for Bridget Armitage, a senior left wing for the Barons, who died Sept. 7 after a traffic accident . . . The DeMatha-Crossland football game will not be played at Catholic University's new stadium Saturday as originally scheduled. It will be played at St. John's at 1:30 because the locker rooms at CU are being refurbished . . . The 20th annual D.C. Basketball Clinic is set for the Lanham Ramada Inn Oct. 4-5. DeMatha Coach Morgan Wootten and St. John's Coach Joe Gallagher will direct it. College coaches slated to participate include John Kuester of George Washington University, Gary Williams of Boston College, Joey Meyer of DePaul, Walt Hazzard of UCLA, Bill Foster of South Carolina and Norm Stewart of Missouri.

Bob Windlan is Good Counsel's new basketball coach. He succeeds Rich Seel, who turned over the athletic director's job to former assistant Pat Bates. Seel remains at the school as an English teacher . . . Ray Richards has taken over for Bo Pearman as Regina's basketball coach . . . It appears that the annual Metro Conference football tripleheader (St. John's-Gonzaga, Good Counsel-McNamara and DeMatha-Carroll) will not be held this year. The games, scheduled for Nov. 16, will be played at three separate sites. Byrd Stadium, site of the last two tripleheaders, is out because Maryland's home season won't end in time.