Ode to Preseason

Aug. 20, 2014, 3:12 p.m. (ET)

Ode to Preseason

by Kaitlin Piosa
USA Field Hockey Communications Coordinator

As an undergrad at Wake Forest, I can recall alumni talking so fondly of preseason, telling me how one day I’ll realize how special those two weeks are. At the time, I couldn’t fathom ever feeling that way, but as my Deacs and field hockey programs across the country are in the middle of preseason, my heart both goes to out to them and envies their experiences. To them, and to everyone who is in the middle of maybe the toughest two weeks of your life, take it in, take it all in. It will be over quicker than you ever thought imaginable and you are stronger than you ever believed.

Whether this is your first preseason, your final one or somewhere in between, the anxiety in the days leading up to your first two or three-a-day is still the same. The “I really hope I did enough of my workout packet” fears combined with the excitement of being reunited with the people who have become your second family is unparalleled. Hands down, preseason is one of the best and worst times in your life, so don’t forget to fully appreciate the good, the bad and the ugly, because the memories will (eventually) become some of your most cherished.

Let’s start with the bad and downright ugly. Regardless of how much (or little) you have completed of your grueling summer workout packet, your quads, hamstrings and glutes will never, ever be prepared for the painful process of getting back into hockey shape. Hockey shape simply cannot be duplicated by running and lifting. It is a phenomenon that occurs only when you’re constantly playing. You know you’re finally in hockey shape when one day, all of the above muscles have ceased to scream when you crisply perform a sweep or execute a flawless jab tackle. During preseason, steps become your worst nightmare and sleep your new best friend. The amount of food consumed to maintain your mostly upright walking, waddling position would be disgusting to anyone who doesn’t play a sport. And I hope you’re not attached to your toenails, because the first time you lace up the new turfs and your foot flies to the front wall due to a 60 to 0 stop, you might as well kiss at least one toenail good bye.

It is, however, the absolute best time in your life, because for two sweaty weeks, nothing else in the world matters other than your team and the sport you share. There’s no schoolwork, no jobs, no parents, no distractions. You don’t even have to think about what you’re going to do with your days because they are meticulously planned out. And during your breaks, you will be too tired and sore to do anything but lay down with your feet propped up, surrounded by your best friends. You will catch up on a lot of movies and reality TV. Make-up and “real person clothes” have yet to be unpacked from your suitcases.

You will bond over braving the pain of ice baths together, the early mornings that you may actually still be asleep while you’re trying to force down breakfast before you leave your all on the field for the next two and a half hours, pushing teammates and yourself harder than you ever believed possible to pass fitness tests and the delirious fits of laughter due to exhaustion. You will witness a progression of a group of individuals morph into a solid unit, lose yourself in conversations about past games against your biggest rivals and share the deepest parts of yourselves with people who understand you better than anyone else, your teammates.

Preseason is the only time of the year where field hockey is your entire life and it’s a beautiful thing. Regardless of how much you’re dreading the afternoon practice, the lifting session or the surprise running session, you are surrounded by twenty-some other people who have the exact same passions, desires and goals as you do: to become the best that you can be, together. Never again in your life will it be so simple as to eat, sleep and play field hockey.

Seniors, be the leaders that your coaches and teammates already know that you are. Underclassmen, take ownership of your team. You’re not “just a sophomore”. You are a vibrant part of the thriving organism that is your team. Freshman, enjoy the ride! Freshman year goes by way too quickly. Don’t be afraid to push your teammates.

This is my official ode to preseason, the best, worst time of your life. Again, I implore you to take it all in, the good, the bad and the ugly. One day, you will realize how incredible those painful two weeks were and how they shaped you both on and off the field. Maybe it’s the first preseason after graduation or maybe it’s a few years out when you’re standing on a beach watching one of your best friends, the teammate you lived with during your first collegiate preseason, get married, but it will happen. And when it does, don’t forget to tell your coaches thank you, for molding you into a strong, confident individual, for believing in you since before you even stepped foot onto their turfs and for never letting you settle for mediocrity.

For now, stay hydrated, stretch between trainings and good luck!