Atholton field hockey Coach Martie Dyer, right, hugs starting goalkeeper Emily Clinch after awarding her the team's honey badger mascot. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Martie Dyer started coaching field hockey during summer camps when she was in high school. Thirty years later, in her second year as head coach at Atholton, Dyer has learned more than a few tricks to help motivate her teams.

“You don’t coach girls like you coach boys,” said Dyer, 53. Yelling at her players accomplishes little, she said. For the Raiders, motivation comes in the form of a stuffed animal.

“The honey badger is apparently one of the toughest, meanest animals around,” Dyer said. So before last season, Dyer and her husband headed to the Internet to see if they could find a stuffed honey badger. “I just decided that after each game the girl who played the best would get it. Girls need all kinds of fun little things like that.”

After Monday’s 3-2 loss to Glenelg, Dyer gathered her players near the sideline. Nestled between her feet was the honey badger. Dyer worked her way around the circle, complimenting many of the players on their performance. Then, she reached down and picked up the stuffed animal, saving the highest compliment for last.

“It’s a big deal whoever wins the honey badger, it really is,” Dyer said, “so they know that they really gave absolutely everything. I gave it to my goalie today because she made some phenomenal saves.”

A smile spread across the face of junior goalie Emily Clinch as Dyer rose to present her with the badger. “It makes [the game] more fun and enjoyable,” Clinch said. “It helps make it a little less intense because it’s a little stuffed animal. It’s an honor to get it and it makes everyone feel good. It’s your reward for working so hard.”

After being awarded the stuffed animal, the player gets to take it home until the next game, returning it to Dyer in a green backpack kept hidden from view. “We all put something that’s special to us onto it and that means something to us,” Clinch said. So far this season, the honey badger has acquired camouflage pants, a T-shirt with “Princess” emblazoned on the chest, a ring commemorating Atholton’s Maryland 3A championship last season, a headband and a cast from a player who had broken her arm.

“It’s hysterical some of the stuff they put on him,” Dyer said. “By the end of the season he’s all tricked out. It’s a riot.”

Having just received the badger, Clinch wasn’t sure what she was going to add. “Maybe I can put a helmet on it for a goalie, if I can find one,” she said.

It’s a dilemma she will face only once.

“There’s enough talented people,” said Dyer, explaining that she never gives it to the same player more than once.

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