USA Field Hockey NEWS The Silver Lining

The Silver Lining

By MK Lutz, USA Field Hockey Contributing Writer, Saint Mary's Hall Athlete & Lone Star Field Hockey Club Member | Dec. 21, 2020, 10:30 a.m. (ET)

As upsetting as COVID-19 has been for all of us on and off the field, the numerous events and milestones being canceled, regardless of who you are or where you live, life has been hard in various ways. Despite the challenges, I have been given many opportunities to improve as a field hockey player and I have gained friends and mentors that I would not have been given otherwise. It is easy to cry over the opportunities lost, but I choose to look for the best.

If you had told me nine months ago that I would spend every Tuesday and Thursday night with my laptop in my backyard on a Zoom call with my club coach, I would have laughed. But with the change in conditions came a change in practice routines. I learned that it doesn’t matter where you are or who you are with, that you can play field hockey and have fun doing it anywhere. Most importantly, that time spent playing in any form can make you a better player. These sessions helped me improve my stick skills and they also helped me improve my field hockey IQ. Funny, how doing something you’ve done for years, but in a different way totally changes your perspective and with no one else around the focus and intensity is all your own. But even at a practice physically alone, I felt connected to my team and supported by my coaches. This adaptability I have learned is an important part of success in unknown circumstances that I will always carry with me.

One of the best opportunities that has come out of the pandemic was an amazing new mentor and friend. My high school coach knew how frustrated and disappointed I was as event after event and camp after camp was cancelled. I was going into my freshman year and had a plan. I wanted to have an immediate impact on my varsity team. I knew I needed to work harder than ever, but here we were…COVID. My coach had an idea. A former Saint Mary’s Hall athlete and recent Bowdoin alum was home from law school because of the pandemic. She thought we might hit it off and I would have someone to practice with who would really push my limits.

She was right. I learned so much about field hockey, but more importantly about leadership, resilience and dedication. But also, I had so much fun hearing about her experiences playing field hockey at the collegiate level, going through the Futures program and her college adventures from choosing a school you love to the recruiting and application process. Our conversations covered all types of topics imaginable as we worked side by side on tomahawks and improving stick speed. If it wasn’t for COVID-19 we would have never been able to spend this time together. It was just what I needed, as we exchanged hilarious stories all while learning new skills.

Every session was a new competition, stationed on a small area in my backyard, just the two of us, our field hockey quarantine bubble, playing silly made up skill games, and just having fun on the field every week for the months and months of quarantine. The confidence of having a mentor tell you, “you can do this” meant a lot and it taught me a lot. I know that I can have this same impact on the younger players at my school and on my club team.

There was a new student in the second grade at Saint Mary’s Hall this fall. She came to watch one of our varsity field hockey scrimmages. I noticed her sitting alone and introduced myself and asked her if she had ever played before. She was shy and nervous, suddenly I was the older one with the answers! Her dad works in the administration office at our school and the next morning I left a package in his office: my old stick that was just her size, a field hockey ball and a Saint Mary’s Hall field hockey shirt. But most importantly from what I had learned this summer, I included a note. I wanted her to know that I believed she could be great at this sport too. Because that’s the most important lesson I learned this summer, on or off the field we should always encourage each other.

I know I will use the lessons I learned from the coronavirus era to be the best teammate I can be for years to come. Whether it is having confidence to tell older players directives or to encourage and help younger players along. This summer I began to understand how helping others helps us grow ourselves, how to adapt and change for the better and I discovered how much I truly love this sport and how great sharing it in unexpected ways can be.

The past nine months has made me realize what a strong family of support the field hockey community is and how lucky I am to be involved in this sport. COVID-19 may have disrupted my plans, but it made me a better, more focused player.