I find the transition from summer to fall subtle and quiet, noticeable only in the slight change of the brisk, cooler air of morning. Running slightly late for work earlier this week, I noticed this change and thought to myself, “it sure feels like field hockey season.”
For many years, that is what the fall meant. Fall was not a season of pumpkin spice, or even football, it was about the start of field hockey. The time when my muscles would be sore in places I never thought they could be, due to sprints, weightlifting, and multiple practices to prepare for upcoming games. Field hockey season meant a consistent laundry load of socks, skirts, and sports bras. Of course, this also meant the pungent smell of dirty shin guards. In high school – and again in college – I would pack my field hockey bag with my sticks, my mouth guard, and a whole lot of hope that I wouldn’t break my nose again. I broke my nose early in my field hockey career – my freshman year in fact – and it was certainly not an experience that I wanted to repeat.
I began playing field hockey after my mom discovered the opportunity at a booth at my high school fair. I thought I would give it a go – it seemed like a sport that required the perfect combination of grit, smarts, and teamwork. It turns out, it was even more than that. I fell in love with field hockey because it allowed me to see (and celebrate) how strong and powerful I was. I could channel my competitiveness, determination, and vigor and have that be a positive thing. Moreover, on every team that I ever played on, I found community and friendship.
When it came time to decide on the next steps after high school, I began to dream big with where field hockey could take me. I wanted to try for a big, Division I school, but I was nervous about how this would affect my academic focus. And so, when I found out about the opportunity to begin Arkansas’ first-ever collegiate program for field hockey (at Hendrix College) I was intrigued.
I visited Hendrix’s campus and met the coach, Ellie Karvoski. Meeting her and hearing her vision for what we could create as a team inspired me and I knew that I wanted to be a part of this vision. I chose Hendrix and moved to Conway, Arkansas. In our inaugural season, our record was 0-16. We literally scored one goal the entire season. However, we also created a foundation for what the culture was like on our team. We were resilient, focused, and mindful that this was only the beginning.
Each year that passed, our team grew closer and more driven – and we improved! Our records reflected the fact that each of us was putting the time in to make the program a success. Each summer, I would complete our assigned daily workout with the intention that I would be a better player and teammate because of it. Commitment on a sports team often looks like this – daily, hourly, and even minute-by-minute sacrifices that people on the outside may not even see.
The moments that stand out with Hendrix field hockey are innumerous. The time we beat a ranked team from Kentucky. The game that we came back from to move to the next round of the playoffs. The nerve-wracking moments of playing in overtime. And of course, there were the tough moments, too. The times that we got shut-out, the times that we did not communicate well, and the times where we didn’t believe in what we were capable of building. Yet, so much of who I became while at Hendrix is connected to what took place within our team. I learned how to lead. I learned how to speak up. I learned how to stay the course, even in the most difficult of circumstances. I also made some of my dearest friends from playing at Hendrix, and that is a gift that I will always have.
Several months ago, I found out that Hendrix was not going to continue to maintain the field hockey program from my friend and teammate, Ali. Quickly, large group threads were started via text messaging to bring together alumni to discern what we could – and should – do. Ultimately, we wrote a letter to the athletic administration asking for a reconsideration. Still, field hockey was cut from Hendrix Athletics because it was determined the sport was not “sustainable” (now, or in the foreseeable future) for the college.
Only recently, in the last few days, have I really processed what this means to me. I was angry at first, but frankly, did not have the energy to process the decision further. Upon reflection, I am not just angry. I am really sad. Myself – and my teammates and coaches – gave our hearts to this sport. We moved our lives to Arkansas and to Hendrix – a school we may never have otherwise come to. We did this because we wanted to sow the seeds of a field hockey legacy at Hendrix. We wanted to pioneer the sport in a region that has yet to embrace it. The athletes that came after me did an exceptional job to promote the sport at the most grassroots level in Arkansas. Beginning in 2007, we invested 11 years of blood, sweat, and tears to make this program work.
And this fall, for the first time since before 2007, there will be no field hockey team. There will be no fall season. There will be no sticks, no road trips to play conference rivals, and no practices to fine-tune our sport. Field hockey is finished at Hendrix.
While Hendrix Athletics may have their reasons for discontinuing field hockey as part of the athletic program, I am disappointed that there was no mention of this when August and September came upon this year. It feels like the sport just, went away, and it never happened. No formal announcement was given to the community. As an alumnus, I am only left to cherish the memories we had and to celebrate what we did cultivate in a decade of Hendrix field hockey. Those were good years of my life, and I will not soon forget them.