As part of our weekly Wednesday Chasing the Dream posts, we’ll be featuring a USWNT athlete up until the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Internationally, it’s common for tikes to be given colorful mini hockey sticks as gifts on the earlier side of single digit birthdays. In the United States, a majority of children pick up the sport in elementary or middle school. Across the board, the sport of field hockey is generally first introduced in the adolescent years, growing with the athletes as they become a few years older, a few inches taller and more experienced.
Ali Froede noticed the norm. In her mind it was just an observation, not an obstacle when Froede first picked up a stick as freshman in high school, years behind in knowledge compared to her teammates.
Seeking out a fall sport to keep her in shape for soccer, the ninth grader was looking to to challenge her agility. As a result, Froede’s P.E. teacher placed a field hockey stick in her hands to play around with during the summer. Froede had picked up what she couldn’t put down. She was attracted to the sport for its all-encompassing aspects of athleticism: speed, strength, endurance and technical ability. What she lacks in history with the sport, she made up for with hustle and hard work. Those two persistent qualities blazed a trail to a Division I college and ultimately to the U.S. Women’s National Team. At Miami University, Froede was awarded with the honor of First-Team All MAC twice and was selected for NFHCA All-West Region Second Team in 2014. A new name to the 2015-16 U.S. Women's National Team roster, the defender comes with a bundle of top-tier college experience on the pitch. And through relentless training and full investment of energy into hockey, Froede turned a dream into a reality by representing the red, white and blue. But it didn’t exactly go to plan.
“It’s definitely been a very exciting couple of months, I’ll tell you that,” said Froede, chuckling. “After college, I didn’t really have any plans of continuing hockey. I actually in the direction of starting nursing school this fall. I submitted all of my applications and was accepted to George Mason University.”
With all of the paperwork complete, the tough prerequisites finished and tests passed, Froede was on her way to nursing. And then fate stepped in like it occasionally tends to do and once again redirected Froede’s course. And then everything changed in a matter a few months. As a result of her talent and skill, too memorable to forget, Froede was pushed to tryout for the national team.
“Once I was in this position, I realized I wasn’t ready to stop playing,” said Froede. “It’s like an inner calling or dream I hadn’t fully been aware of was answered and brought to reality. The experience to play against top talent has really been remarkable.”
Although recruited as an attacker for college, Froede found herself in the backfield. The relocation didn’t dull her itch to score, making her threat on corners for the squad. In her defensive role with Team USA, Froede relishes in another kind of moment.
“Coming up with a big stop, a really good stick tackle or interception, those are my favorite moments that get me really hyped up,” said Froede. “Defensive step-ups are my favorite. You put in so much effort and work into timing out that perfect ball. These moments aren’t handed to you. You create them. Maybe that’s why it’s a really good feeling when it happens.”
Not only is Froede comparatively newer to field hockey than most, but her family is also new to the game. Although the first few months were filled with shock, surprise and pride, Froede parents remained where they always seem to be, by her side.
“In college, they would drive 8 hours from my home in Virginia to Ohio to see me play one game and then turn back around,” said Froede. “They have come to every game I’ve ever played in, even now. Seeing their faces at the end of the match, having their support through this entire journey, it makes it all worth it.”
When she isn’t on the turf, Froede is with her two USWNT teammates turned roommates, Lauren Blazing and Katie Bam. They typically –
“Sorry a dog just escaped from the dog and ruined my train of thought,” said Froede.
Well, yes, they typically go to the dog park with Bam’s pup. Away from her family dogs, Froede likes spotting potential breeds at the park and researching them at home with Bam and Blaze, making notes for her future four-legged friend.
All and all, Froede is settling into this perfectly unplanned life of hers well. With a surprise twist in her plot line, Froede's story is going better than she could have even imagined.