What I Learned From Field Hockey: Team Sports Are Not About The Sport

What I Learned From Field Hockey: Team Sports Are Not About The Sport

I’m a captain and a cheerleader, I'm a mentor and friend

Technically, I’m not an athlete. Or, at least, I've never considered myself one.

Starting when I was about seven, I would try to skirt away from anything vaguely resembling physical activity: I would always keep one eye on the clock during ice hockey practice, I would rarely steal bases during softball games because I didn’t want to sprint more than necessary, and I lied to my fifth grade gym teacher when I told him I had bad ankles and asthma so that I could run a 12-minute mile and not be judged.

Yet, for no clear reason, I decided I wanted to try out for the field hockey team two weeks before I started high school. I had done weekend clinics at our local Boys and Girls Club and played on what was supposedly my middle school’s field hockey team but was actually ten little girls with red pinnies and no clue how to play the sport. When I told my parents that I wanted to try out, they didn’t stop nor question me. They helped me get the infamous forms in order, made sure I had all the required equipment, and signed me up for the training week that was highly suggested.

As I was leaving for the first day of training, my dad pulled me aside and told me, “Promise me that you won’t play goalie.” I guaranteed him there was no way I was trying out as a goalie. This story has since become iconic as well as ironic: the second I got to the field, all incoming freshman were asked if they would volunteer to be the goalie for the team.

Me as the freshman goalie, 2012

I still can’t run. When The Walking Dead came out and everyone became hip to the zombie apocalypse trend, I would constantly think about how I would not survive a single second.

My freshman year coach set up four different courses, each subsequent number increasing the distance and intensity of the run. I would complete every single one of them in the absolute back. Coach Joe had me do hill sprints in my leg pads, running forward and backward on the balls of my feet. I would run the perimeter of the field in my leg pads. I would do everything in these huge blue compressed foam monstrosities, and by the end of the season, I was completely comfortable in my second skin.

Not only was I slowly gaining confidence in my own abilities but others were, too. Although it never ended up on my college applications, I was named one of the three captains of the freshman team. At that level, I had no true authority; it was more a designation of responsibility. I took it to heart, though, and learned groups function best when all work with one another instead of over one another.

I’m not going to say that this was when I began to enjoy exercising because that would be a lie. I loved to play field hockey; I hated to train in the off season.

The summer before my sophomore year, however, something changed. I began to want to push myself more, whereas prior to high school I would try and get away with as little as possible. Before I moved my junior year, there was a loop I ran that was exactly three miles. I knew each of the markers and would at first allow myself certain amounts of walking. By the end of the summer, I was running the whole three miles without breaks - and at my fastest speed.

Sophomore year can easily be defined by my physical improvements. Once I had grown confident enough to feel like I belonged on this team, I began pushing the limits of my body. I began jumping and diving and splitting; think of it as yoga in a fat suit. Looking back on old pictures, this was the year when I looked my best. My muscles were all being used in new and crazy ways. Not only was at my slimmest, I was at my strongest.

A split and a dive, respectively, 2015

I didn’t realize how badly I wanted to be captain until the year I was almost cut. When I saw myself and the goalie the year below me being pitted against each other my junior year, I started to think on the past two I had committed to the sport and how much I had changed from it. Making the team was half the battle, however; I was kept strictly on junior varsity, never once swinging up to gain exposure to that level. While part of me was aggravated that my dedication and hard work not only seemed unrecognized but irrelevant, the majority of my spirit held steady to my teammates.

My defensemen and I had created an incredible bond that helped make our defense so ridiculously strong year after year. During my senior year, my back began spasming (definitely, as the rude doctor at the walk in clinic told me, due to my diving and splitting) and I had to spend a week on the sidelines. At first, I was devastated that I was missing crucial games during my last year. But when I realized this meant watching the defensemen from a whole new angle, I was captivated; sure, my whole team moved like a beautiful machine during those two games. The defense, however, had this unspoken flow that was nearly magical to watch. When they came off the field, quite literally no one was more proud or excited than me.

Me mothering the defense after my first game out, 2015

Me smothering the defense after our final game together, 2015

The first thing I learned from being a captain was that the position not about the title.

When I look back on my high school career, I realize now that I had been hoping for the position since freshman year, but I never expected it. I wanted to be the captain I had needed for the three years prior: someone who would take the focus off themselves and place it on those who came asking for help. I tried to be that; I hope I was that.

Because the second thing I learned from being a captain was that it was a role from which I could instill the belief that the group is more valuable than the individual. You can’t play a team sport as one person; otherwise, you would just be a lunatic smacking a plastic ball with a carbon stick.

My sister and I on my Senior Night, 2015

I almost didn’t go to the meeting for the Emory field hockey team. I knew I wanted to play at the club level and I knew I wanted to keep playing, but I was so scared that I had walked away from something so good to something potentially so bad.

The second Erin began to speak, I knew I was okay.

I have gained some of my closest friends from playing on the team, including two roommates. I have traveled to places I never considered going, found myself in the most bizarre of places, and now have some hilarious stories to tell. Sure, I learned a lot from playing competitively for so long, but I feel like I've learned far more while wearing equipment three sizes too big with shoes that don't stay on, playing World Cup in the corner of a field.

When fockey took Kappa, 2016

Post win against Vanderbilt, 2017

Like every great sports story, I want to leave you all with a sentimental reflection: an athlete is a person who is proficient in sports and other forms of physical exercise. Technically, I’m an athlete, but truly, I could not run to save myself from a zombie apocalypse. But through field hockey, I learned all the ways I could be so much more. More than simply athlete and a teammate, I’m a captain and a cheerleader; I'm a mentor and friend; and above all, since it’s the reason for so many wonderful and irritating and physically exhausting things in my life, I am a field hockey goalie.

Cover Image Credit: Emily Sharp

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College As Told By Junie B. Jones

A tribute to the beloved author Barbara Parks.

The Junie B. Jones series was a big part of my childhood. They were the first chapter books I ever read. On car trips, my mother would entertain my sister and me by purchasing a new Junie B. Jones book and reading it to us. My favorite part about the books then, and still, are how funny they are. Junie B. takes things very literally, and her (mis)adventures are hilarious. A lot of children's authors tend to write for children and parents in their books to keep the attention of both parties. Barbara Park, the author of the Junie B. Jones series, did just that. This is why many things Junie B. said in Kindergarten could be applied to her experiences in college, as shown here.

When Junie B. introduces herself hundreds of times during orientation week:

“My name is Junie B. Jones. The B stands for Beatrice. Except I don't like Beatrice. I just like B and that's all." (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 1)

When she goes to her first college career fair:

"Yeah, only guess what? I never even heard of that dumb word careers before. And so I won't know what the heck we're talking about." (Junie B. Jones and her Big Fat Mouth, p. 2)

When she thinks people in class are gossiping about her:

“They whispered to each other for a real long time. Also, they kept looking at me. And they wouldn't even stop." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 66)

When someone asks her about the library:

“It's where the books are. And guess what? Books are my very favorite things in the whole world!" (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 27)

When she doesn't know what she's eating at the caf:

“I peeked inside the bread. I stared and stared for a real long time. 'Cause I didn't actually recognize the meat, that's why. Finally, I ate it anyway. It was tasty...whatever it was." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 66)

When she gets bored during class:

“I drew a sausage patty on my arm. Only that wasn't even an assignment." (Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren, p. 18)

When she considers dropping out:

“Maybe someday I will just be the Boss of Cookies instead!" (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 76)

When her friends invite her to the lake for Labor Day:

“GOOD NEWS! I CAN COME TO THE LAKE WITH YOU, I BELIEVE!" (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 17)

When her professor never enters grades on time:

“I rolled my eyes way up to the sky." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 38)

When her friends won't stop poking her on Facebook:

“Do not poke me one more time, and I mean it." (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 7)

When she finds out she got a bad test grade:

“Then my eyes got a little bit wet. I wasn't crying, though." (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 17)

When she isn't allowed to have a pet on campus but really wants one:


When she has to walk across campus in the dark:

“There's no such thing as monsters. There's no such thing as monsters." (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed, p. 12)

When her boyfriend breaks her heart:

“I am a bachelorette. A bachelorette is when your boyfriend named Ricardo dumps you at recess. Only I wasn't actually expecting that terrible trouble." (Junie B. Jones Is (almost) a Flower Girl, p. 1)

When she paints her first canvas:

"And painting is the funnest thing I love!" (Junie B. Jones and her Big Fat Mouth, p. 61)

When her sorority takes stacked pictures:

“The biggie kids stand in the back. And the shortie kids stand in the front. I am a shortie kid. Only that is nothing to be ashamed of." (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed, p. 7)

When she's had enough of the caf's food:

“Want to bake a lemon pie? A lemon pie would be fun, don't you think?" (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed p. 34)

When she forgets about an exam:

“Speechless is when your mouth can't speech." (Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren, p. 54)

When she finds out she has enough credits to graduate:

“A DIPLOMA! A DIPLOMA! I WILL LOVE A DIPLOMA!" (Junie B. Jones is a Graduation Girl p. 6)

When she gets home from college:

"IT'S ME! IT'S JUNIE B. JONES! I'M HOME FROM MY SCHOOL!" (Junie B. Jones and some Sneaky Peaky Spying p. 20)

Cover Image Credit: OrderOfBooks

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The First Time My Mistakes No Longer Controlled My Life

Mistakes suck, and though I've conquered a few, I'm still learning.


The whistle blows as the team cheers on.

My heart pounds as if it will burst out of my chest at any given moment and I taste the salty sweat trickling down my face. I must serve over the net, I must get it in, I must ace my opponent or I will fail. Fear.

In his first inaugural speech, President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously stated, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Such a statement proves powerful to the matured minds of society; however, in the minds of some adolescents, this declaration appears somewhat foolish, as numerous "threats" ignite fear, thus causing teens to grow anxious.

A major cause for fear in the rising generation takes form in failure. In the eyes of these people, making a simple mistake paves the way towards absolute failure; therefore, perfectionists constantly walk on eggshells attempting to do the impossible: avoid human error. This mentality gives way to constant stress and overall disappointment, as perfection does not apply to human beings. If one can come to the realization that not one person can attain perfection, they can choose to live life in ease, for they no longer have to apply constant pressure upon themselves to master excellence. The fear of failure will no longer encumber their existence, and they can overcome situations that initially brought great anxiety. I too once put great pressure on myself to maintain perfection, and as a result, felt constantly burdened by my mistakes. However, when I realized the inevitability of those mistakes, it opened the door for great opportunities. The first time I recognized that failure serves as a tool for growth allowed me to no longer fear my mistakes, and instead utilize them for my own personal growth.

The whistle blows as the team cheers on. My heart pounds as if it will burst out of my chest at any given moment, and I taste the salty sweat trickling down my face. I must serve over the net, I must get it in, I must ace my opponent. As hard as I try, I fail; as the ball flies straight into the net and thuds obnoxiously onto the gym floor, so does my confidence. I feel utter defeat, as I know my fate. My eyes water as my coach immediately pulls me from the game, sits me on the bench, and tells me to "get my head into the game" instead of dwindling on past errors. From then on I rarely step foot on the court, and instead, ride the bench for the remainder of the season. I feel defeated. However, life does not end, and much to my surprise, this mistake does not cause failure in every aspect of my life. Over time, I gradually realize that life does not end just because of failure. Instead, mistakes and failure pave the way toward emotional development and allows one to build character. In recognizing that simple slip-ups do not lead to utter failure, I gain perspective: one's single mistake does not cause their final downfall. Thus, this epiphany allowed for my mental growth and led me to overcome once challenging obstacles.

Instead of viewing mistakes as burdens, one should utilize them as motivation for future endeavors. The lesson proves simple: all can learn from their mistakes. However, it is a matter of choosing to learn from these mistakes that decide one's future growth. Instead of pushing faults away, I now acknowledge them in order to progress. Before coming to such a realization, I constantly "played it safe" in sports, fearing that giving my best effort would lead to greater error. I did not try, and as a result, I rarely failed.

Although such a mentality brought forth limited loss in terms of overall team success, it also brought forth limited, individual success. Today, fear of failure no longer controls life on the court. I use my mistakes as motivation to get better; instead of dwindling on an error made five minutes prior, I focus on the form needed to correct it. As a result, skills will constantly improve, instead of regress. Thus, errors serve as blessings, as it is through these errors in which one can possess the motivation to better themselves.

For some, fear acts as an ever-present force that controls every aspect of life. In particular, the fear of failure encumbers perfectionists, as the mere thought of failing causes great anxieties. In the past, I have fell victim to the fear of committing a mistake, and as a result, could not go through life without feeling an overwhelming sense of defeat. However, in a moment of what appeared to be a great failure, I finally recognized that life does not end due to one mistake, let alone one million. Instead, mistakes pave the way toward personal development and provide essential motivation to succeed in everyday life. Without mistakes, it proves difficult to grow in character. One must first learn to accept their faults before they can appreciate their best qualities. Thus, the fear of failure inhibits the growth of an individual; therefore, all must come to the realization that essentialness of mistakes, as they allow for the further development of overall character.

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