Field hockey coach Krishna Jaitly (‘13) returns to old stomping grounds


Photo courtesy Chris Waight

Eight years after playing on the turf of the Jerome M. Marco Stadium as a student, she returned to serve as the head coach of the team that defined her high school experience.

By Grace O’Halloran

In seventh grade, Krishna Jaitly (‘13) made a decision that changed her life. After scoring on an MSI Classic soccer team for nearly 10 years, Jaitly switched to scoring with a different type of ball— a field hockey ball. 

The middle school student quickly became a star on her club team, the Jackals, playing for the Whitman Vikings and eventually landing a spot on the team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she graduated with a degree in Chemical-Biomedical Engineering in 2017. Ten years after walking off the field at Whitman, Jaitly returned to serve as the head coach of the team that defined her high school experience.

Jaitly fell in love with field hockey as soon as she picked up a stick at the end of her years in middle school. Her father was familiar with the sport, and practiced with her in their backyard.  

“I got into playing a little bit with my grandma in the kitchen and with the dogs,” Jaitly said. “It wasn’t like soccer, where I had been playing it for nearly 10 years. It was a lot of fun to play and it was new.”

At the beginning of middle school, she got into field hockey with her friend — Caroline Seibel (‘13) — and played on club teams throughout those years and as a Vike, Jaitly was so obsessed with the sport that she was determined to try out for the Whitman team. During her senior year, Jaitly and her varsity teammates were runner-ups in the 4A South Regional Championship after an undefeated season. She captained the varsity field hockey team during her senior year of high school and earned a spot on the all-county coach’s first team. Her teammates elected her team MVP at the end of their 2012 season. 

During the fall of her senior year, Jaitly was accepted to the admission process at MIT to continue her academic and athletic career. As a freshman, she enjoyed substantial time on the field as a left-midfielder, she said. 

“I was kind of surprised because I didn’t expect to play a lot, but I saw the field quite a bit starting my freshman year,” Jaitly said. “We progressively got better, they got the championship after I graduated, but it was cool to see how all of our hard work contributed to that ultimate goal.”

After graduation, Jaitly moved to San Antonio to pursue a career in the energy sector, feeling as though she had put her field hockey career behind her. However, ending her collegiate athletic career with a narrow loss at the New England Athletic Conference championships didn’t quite sit right with her, she said. Jaitly knew it was only a matter of time before she returned to the field — and one year later, she began teaching the sport to one of her supervisors in her free time, and her love for the game returned.

“I would always talk to one of my supervisors about how much I [missed] field hockey,” Jaitly said. “Losing your last game is never a good taste in your mouth. That really got me back into the fun of the sport. It brought me back to playing field hockey because of the fun, not because of the competition.”

In June 2020, Jaitly returned to Bethesda to start a new job as a research analyst for Capital Projects in the oil and gas sector. When she reached out to athletic director Andy Wetzel to ask if the Whitman field hockey team needed help, he immediately got back to her in the hopes that she would start her coaching career at Whitman as an assistant coach under James Douglas, who retired following the 2021 season. 

In November 2021, Wetzel offered Jaitly a job as head coach of both the varsity and junior varsity teams — positions that Jaitly was familiar with and eager to take on, she said. 

Team manager Carsey Eliason, a senior, said that Jaitly has focused on improving the team dynamic and interpersonal relationships between the players both on and off the field, by pairing players together to complete drills and exercises.  

“She works hard to have a relationship with everyone on the team and makes sure that we know we are in a safe space,” Eliason said.

Jaitly’s primary goal as a coach is to strengthen Whitman’s field hockey program and maintain consistently high performance, even as players graduate, she said. For defense player Mia Lattin, a junior, it’s clear that the team still has a lot to work on, but players can see the potential for success with Jaitly as head coach.

“She’s focusing a lot on playing as a team and having a better dynamic,” Lattin said. “We still need to work on our mindset and become more cohesive, but I think we have a lot of potential and we can go really far with that.” 

Jaitly coaches both the JV and Varsity teams because the JV team creates a space for field hockey players to grow before they’re ready for varsity, she said. Some MCPS schools don’t have JV Field Hockey programs and she’s determined to see Whitman’s program stay alive, she said.

Jailty hopes she’ll propel the players to another season that culminates with a run in the state’s championships, she said. Off the field, she wants to see the team to forge strong bonds and succeed in a welcoming environment, she said.

“I’m trying to provide opportunities for student athletes,” Jaitly said. “[I want] field hockey players at Whitman to be able to have the positive experiences I had.” 


This story was updated on Oct. 31 to clarify biographical information.