National Futures Championship Athlete Triumphs Over Tragedy with the Help of Hockey

June 23, 2013, 11:52 a.m. (ET)

Eight years later and these two heavy words still evoke a whirlwind of emotions. 

Hurricane Katrina.

It was a storm that shook the nation, rearranged families and devoured homes.  Although chaos and tragedy streamed through the airwaves and filled the TV screens it didn’t shake the spirits of New Orleans Native and National Futures Championship Under-19 athlete Kesheal Henderson.

By herself, Kesheal evacuated New Orleans to Houston, Texas as a seventh grader leaving behind a turbulent past within Louisiana’s state borders.  There she was bounced from foster home to foster home continually uprooting her life until a close friend finally pointed Kesheal to Heath, Mass. and into the loving arms of Tara Herzig and her family whom after January 2008 adopted Kesheal. It was with Tara’s guidance Kesheal was introduced to a life-changing tool – a field hockey stick.  

“Field hockey has saved her,” said Tara. “It directed her. It motivated her. She is creating goals and going to college. Most of her family in New Orleans hasn’t even graduated high school. Kesheal would play all day, every day if she could.” 

The rising senior has committed to Rider University where she’ll continue to keep using her contagious smile to overcome whatever life deals her further proving after billows of catastrophe something beautiful can, and did grow.  

USA Field Hockey: Who introduced you to the sport and when did you start playing?

KH: Tara did. She played in high school but said she was never any good. I like to keep busy. It helps keep my mind off of the past. Originally field hockey just acted like a block against negative thoughts. I never saw field hockey as something long term when I started but I kind of fell in love with it.

USA Field Hockey: What does the sport mean to you?

KH: Before field hockey I didn’t feel the pressure to set goals for myself. I didn’t really have to. There wasn’t that push in my life prior to Massachusetts or field hockey. Field hockey, what is the word I’m looking for, it helps me strive for things on and off of the field especially my academics.

USA Field Hockey:  Who inspired you to continue your journey with field hockey?

KH: In high school I really looked up to one of my teammates, Aurora Rugeau. Field hockey was taking her places and I wanted to be a part of that. I saw her work ethic and drive and I wanted to put in the work to get to that level and beyond.

USA Field Hockey: Based on your experience, what advice would you like to extend to athletes? 

KH: Take advantage of the zone field hockey puts you in. Let it take you to a better place in all areas of your life.