Each athlete that wears the red, white and blue has a unique story to how their careers came to fruition. From the junior level to the senior squad, USA Field Hockey is putting national team athletes under the spotlight to share their journeys.
Sometimes goalkeeping is in your blood, like an instinct driving to perform on the surface. For Madison Kahn, the position has never really been in question and helped shape an impressive young career as she now competes for Lehigh University as well as the U.S. U-21 Women’s National Team.
Long before representing the red, white and blue on the junior level, Kahn was introduced to field hockey as the little sister watching her older siblings play in middle school. She followed suit in the sixth grade starting out as a defender, a position she didn’t feel was the best fit.
“I wasn’t the fastest kid on the field and I remember constantly trying to hit the ball like I was playing golf and I would whiff all the time,” admitted Kahn.
Over time she developed a friendship with the team’s goalkeeper which ultimately started her down the path as a guardian of the cage.
“I thought I could be good at being a goalkeeper and kind of just stuck with it and pursued other opportunities to play.”
Kahn stuck with the position when she transitioned on to high school, where she also played between the posts in lacrosse during the fall. It was her sophomore season at Ocean City High School in Ocean City, N.J. when field hockey became her primary focus and she has not looked back since.
“Lacrosse was fun and a nice break from field hockey, but just wasn’t for me,” said Kahn. “Field hockey didn’t translate well to lacrosse, because I would always try to get my body behind the ball instead of the lacrosse stick, and ended up with tons of bruises."
Kahn recalled that year as particularly memorable; it was a year where she was named Second Team All-South Jersey as the Red Raiders battled all the way to the state championship. She is also especially fond of that year because of the amount of fun the team had together along their journey.
“It doesn’t sound like much but it kind of validated me and showed me that I had a future in goalkeeping, that I just needed to keep pushing and working,” continued Kahn.
This same year Kahn continued to compete both indoor and outdoor on the club level with WC Eagles and gives a large amount of credit to the club for continuing to challenge her in both styles of the game.
“During the indoor season I was on the top court, which allowed me to become friends with some of the best players in the country, who I still try to keep up with today since we are all in college now,” said Kahn. “Outdoor always seemed liked a shorter season that was capped off with the National Club Championship. Indoor and outdoor practices were always difficult and forced me to grow quickly as a player: saving the ball, my field hockey IQ and my playing style.”
Still a sophomore in high school, Kahn’s dedication and development in goal also began drawing interest from various NCAA programs. In due time she elected to commit to Lehigh University, a decision she weighed heavily between proximity to home, academics, playing opportunity and culture.
“I remember I was really torn about my options, because being so young and trying to figure out your future is a daunting task,” admitted Kahn. “I ultimately chose Lehigh because it wasn’t too far from home, so my parents could watch my games in person. I thought I had a good opportunity to play, I really liked the campus and the team, and I think the most obvious reason is that Lehigh is a great school. So once it's time to graduate I will have a degree that really means something and that I worked hard for.”
Now a current sophomore at Lehigh, Kahn is actively pursuing a business degree while navigating the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
She opened her career with the Hawks with an exclamation mark in a nine-save shutout performance on the road. Kahn also started all 18 games for Lehigh as a freshman and finished second in the Patriot League in saves (127). In stark contrast, she is back home currently learning remotely, much like the majority of current collegiate students, and without a fall season. Although she is unable to train directly with her teammates, Kahn was fortunate enough to be able to train at home while connecting through Zoom with the team.
“My summer training was definitely different than I imagined it,” continued Kahn. “I am extremely fortunate that I have a great trainer at home that I have been working with and have continued to make gains in the gym. I also am very fortunate to have my goalkeeping trainer, Emily Snowden, who I worked with in a small group setting with some of my best friends, who also happen to be goalkeepers in the Patriot League.”
Kahn has also been active in the Women’s Olympic Development Pathway since a young teenager and was a three-time participant in Futures, where she was selected to participate in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Junior Olympic Games each time. She has subsequently risen through the ranks over the years after first being named to the U.S. U-17 Women’s National Team in 2018. In 2019, she was named to the U-19 USWNT which traveled to Germany to compete against the host nation’s U-18 team. Now a member of the U-21 USWNT, Kahn added it is surreal to find herself having progressed so far, now just a few milestones away from the senior squad, but wouldn’t change her experience in the Olympic Development Pathway for anything, let alone what the sport has opened up for her over the years.
“Field hockey has given me so many opportunities and experiences,” said Kahn. “I wouldn’t have some of my friends that I have today and wouldn’t be going to Lehigh without it. Field hockey has taught me to preserve and hang in there when things get tough, because there is always a way you can succeed.”
While she continues her studies at home, Kahn and her Lehigh teammates are active in the Lehigh Valley Summer Bridge program, where the team currently works with underprivileged middle school students over Zoom.
“I am a group leader and my group is reading the Hunger Games,” continued Kahn. “As the group leader, I formulate lesson plans and make sure my group is prepared to come together and discuss every Wednesday. Being a middle schooler is tough and I am really thankful that I am a part of this program and have an opportunity to talk to and get to know some awesome kids.”