As part of our weekly Wednesday Chasing the Dream posts, we’ll be featuring a USWNT athlete up until the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
You can’t. You’ll never. You won’t. These words can hurt. They can leave scars. They can knock you down and diminish progress on the way to goals. They can echo for an eternity.
But that’s only if you give them the power to.
Phoenixville, Pa. native Marie Elena Bolles let her belief be louder than their doubts and continued to pursue her dreams.
“Don’t take others’ negative opinions of you playing too seriously,” said Bolles. “I was told I wasn’t good enough to play Division I field hockey. I kept working toward what I wanted. They said I should aim for a smaller college. I ignored that and pursued my goal anyway. I never wanted to be a big fish in a small pond. I would rather work my way up to try to be more successful. In a way, their words were a motivator.”
And right now, from where Bolles is standing, the view looks pretty good. After graduating from the University of Connecticut, Bolles’ name was added to the U.S. Women’s National Team roster in 2014 as a forward. She is used to defying the difficult.
At UConn, Bolles juggled hockey and the highly demanding degree of nursing. She accredits being successful in both to her coach Nancy Stevens and her teammates. A three-time member of the All-BIG EAST first team and the All-Mideast Region squad, Bolles concluded her collegiate career ranked sixth in UConn program history in points (129) and eighth in goals (47). College contained many special memories for Bolles but especially during her senior year when her sister Olivia joined the team as a freshman defender. Both playing on the right hand side of the pitch, the girls made it a point to keep close on and off the field.
“It was so much fun,” said Bolles. “I had 3 years under my belt, was captain and kind of established. She was coming in as a freshman and won a starting spot. Together, along with the rest of the team we won a national championship. It’s was an unforgettable experience. I literally couldn’t ask for anything more than that.”
The sisters always tried to keep it lose and light before competing. They joked around to avoid feeling tense. But as sisters may tend to do now and then, there was one instance of playful bickering that Bolles can laugh back on now.
“During one of our first games together, I think it was against Penn State, we were kind of having a little sister tiff, which was weird because we never really fight either,” said Bolles. “I would never say anything like this to another player but because it was my sister I did. I remember my mom yelling at us from the sideline saying, ‘Girls, knock it off. Stop it.’ It was a typical sister moment from our childhood but here we are playing DI field hockey and it happened for a moment. It’s funny to look back at now.”
The oldest of three, Bolles comes from a tight-knit family. Typically parents pass on a particular sport interest to their children. In this case, Bolles did the opposite. Through her playing, Bolles introduced the sport to her mother. As a result, her mom can’t get enough of it either.
“She coached a middle school team and mentions how she wished she played when she was younger,” said Bolles. “She loves to watch it too and is always so supportive in the stands. Without her constant encouragement, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
In 2014, Bolles became a volunteer graduate assistant coach for Duke University. She was employed as a registered nurse at the Duke University Hospital. For Bolles, both areas of her life tend to overlap when it comes to being part of a team.
“The mindset of teamwork translates into nursing," said Bolles. "I'm learning a lot of people don’t know the feeling outside of sport. I think I have an edge on the others because at this stage of my career I’ve been surround by that kind of team environment my whole life.”
It continues to be an environment Bolles thrives in. Securing her first cap in November of 2015, Bolles has inserted herself into the thick of the action in the midst of an Olympic Games cycle, eager to contribute.
“My experience with the team so far has been a whirlwind,” said Bolles. “I had a broken foot, my first serious injury. I got my first cap. We went to London and to California. A lot has happened in the year that I’ve been on the team. And the girls are so warm and inviting that it makes you want to work even harder. I love grinding it out with them.”
While her journey with Team USA may still be in its infancy, Bolles has fought and earned her rightful spot to contend with the world's best on Team USA. And you can bet she's going to continue to turn some heads in the process.