Content Courtesy of Lehigh University Athletics
Dear First-Year Amanda,
First off, congratulations on committing four years to give up everything and anything to continue your passion for field hockey in college. As you will slowly find out, Division I sports are not for everyone. You should be proud of how far you have made it in the recruiting process, even though you have not yet made it through your first preseason.
Speaking of your first preseason, stop stressing because you will make it through! I know the stress and anxiety about whether you are fast enough or skilled enough to play on a Division I team consumed your summer, but I am here to tell you all your hard work pays off, and your first preseason is only the beginning of the many memorable experiences of your collegiate career.
Your four years as a student-athlete will be challenging, exhilarating, stressful, and educational all in one. I want to highlight some memorable periods for you throughout this journey with pieces of advice I've acquired along the way.
Freshman Fall: Preseason
Wow. You're finally here. You will say goodbye to your parents and little sister with many tears and yes, you will sleep on a twin size air mattress in an attic for two weeks with two people you barely know, but these two weeks foster the beginning of your Lehigh experience.
Your first night alone in the attic is worrisome, but you and Trish chat away your anxieties, and when she falls down the attic stairs, you both laugh away the fears of the first day of preseason. Shortly after, you both finally fall asleep... until your alarm goes off for 5:15 a.m. Run test time.
You quickly get dressed, eat breakfast, brush your teeth with six new people, arrive at the track, stretch, run the test, and... well, you'll know how it goes.
Advice #1: Now that this stress is out of the way, focus on building friendships with your classmates. There are seven of them, and you will always be able to call them your friends, but you will not always be able to call them teammates.
After your first run test and practice, you will be a part of your first team meeting. Here, you will acquire your new nickname that will stick with you for the rest of your life. ABE. You will be hesitant to refute this nickname, so you stay quiet and let the seniors call you Abe. Little do you know, everyone on the team and throughout the athletics department will soon call you Abe. And when you graduate from field hockey, you will miss hearing someone call you this nickname.
Freshman Spring: Off-Season
Fast forward to freshman spring. A lot will happen from preseason until now. You will have completed a fall season and your first-ever college semester. Unfortunately, your field hockey class size will begin to diminish, but I promise these friends will stay around even without a sport tying you to them.
Spring is a test on your mental, physical, and social health. You will have more free time than you did during the fall for socializing and meeting new people, but there will be weekends when you are physically and mentally drained from training, school, and other extracurricular activities.
Advice #2: Self-awareness is important. It is okay to relax if you had a tough week, but remember the importance of meeting new people and exploring Lehigh as well.
Advice #3: Use your resources. Spring will be challenging, and please use all of the resources Lehigh has to offer its students. See the sports psychologist, have a chat with Dom and Catharine if your back bothers you, sign up for academic tutoring, and attend office hours if you are struggling. You are blessed to have a school that provides its students with everything they need to succeed in college.
Sophomore Year: Ups and Downs
This year, you learn the ups and downs of being a student-athlete. You will get emotional over the losses throughout the season, but it is important to focus on the small successes outside of the team record. Your team will improve a little bit each day in fitness, stick skills, teamwork, and communication skills. Most importantly, the team culture and the relationships you developed will continue to strengthen.
Advice #4: When applications for engagement groups are released at the end of the fall, apply for one. Put yourself out there and take a chance. Chances are by the end of your sophomore year, you'll be a member of the Student-Athlete Council and the field hockey team's leadership council. Both of these opportunities connect you to amazing people across the athletics department and will enhance your leadership skills.
Junior year: Then there were two…
At the beginning of your junior season, two people will remain in your class that once held seven. You will slowly realize your time as a student-athlete is dwindling. You have two seasons left to make the most of this unique experience.
Advice #5: Take a break and enjoy the unique experiences as an athlete. When you're travelling on away trips with your team, take pictures, make memories, and take a break from studying on the bus to catch up on the latest gossip with the team.
Senior year: The last man standing.
Yes. You will be the only one in your class during your senior year. You will enter preseason nervous because you feel you have a lot of responsibility, especially with trying to make it an easy transition for the large freshman class. I promise you, you will immediately lose this overwhelm during preseason. The junior class has your back and they are there for you for all of your final milestones as a student-athlete. The sophomores, they will be there to make you laugh and cheer you up when you need it the most. And lastly, the freshman. They will be extremely shy at first and feel intimidated by you, but give them a chance, they will look up to you and ask you for advice constantly throughout the year.
It's now Senior Day. Your last time ever playing field hockey in college. Take a minute when you wake up to remember the feeling of excitement when you prepare for a game day. Travel to the locker room anticipating the celebration of you. Cry with your teammates and coaches. It is okay to be emotional today, but when it comes time to warm-up for the game, switch gears and get ready. You will remember this day forever.
Little spoiler alert of the game, you will go into overtime with Boston University (who, yes, was Patriot League Champions the previous year), you will BEAT BU for the first time, and you will have the best Senior Day celebrating you with all of your teammates, coaches, and family members.
Advice #6: Thank everyone today. Thank Catharine and Dom for looking out for your physical health and allowing you to perform. Thank the coaches for making the transition to being the only senior an easy one. Thank Justin for the endless action shots and articles about the team's successes. And be sure to continue to thank your best friends and teammates for their endless support.
Now you will be excited to enjoy a final semester without field hockey and to spend more time with your housemates and friends on other sports teams. However, I am sorry to warn you that your senior year is cut short by a pandemic. You will take online classes after spring break and will be quarantined in your house. You will not know when you will be able to see your best friends next or when you will have the opportunity to thank your professors for a great last semester.
Advice #7: So, my advice for your final short semester is to live life to the fullest. Enjoy the little things with your roommates, explore Bethlehem, try out new restaurants, and join the workout classes at Taylor Gym.
I do not know what the future holds for you after this letter, so best of luck in all of your future endeavors. I know you'll do great things after you graduate from Lehigh :) I hope you carry these pieces of advice with you throughout the next stage of your life and keep in touch with your best friends Lehigh gave you.