Never in my wildest dreams, and certainly not as a senior in high school, did I think that this kid from humble beginnings would be inducted into the Connecticut Field Hockey Hall of Fame. I’ve come a long way from my girlhood days as a fullback on the team, going on to discover my passion in kinesiology and devoting my career to higher education. And yet those moments on the hockey field remain some of the most foundational of my life.
My spouse, Linda, and I made the cross-country trek over a long weekend so that I could be present at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony on September 15, 2019. My esteemed high school coach and nominator, Rosemary Sullivan, and her sister (who was my influential high school English teacher), Sharon Norby, traveled from their homes in New Hampshire to attend this prestigious event. I also was joined by my two older brothers, Doug and Ken, and my sister-in-law, Virginia.
My family and I collected our name tags at the registration table and moved into the banquet hall, where exhibits of past inductees were displayed. I slowly walked from exhibit to exhibit, reading about the achievements and contributions of players, coaches, and officials inducted before me. It was thrilling, to say the least.
Soon, a chill came over me as I realized the significance of this award. Past honorees included Constance Applebee, a British physical educator who is credited with introducing field hockey to the United States, specifically the Northeast, in 1901. Early in the 20th century as well as centuries before, women were discouraged from participating in sports. In some cultures, this remains true today. “The Apple,” as Constance was called, spent her career promoting physical activity and sport for women. Now, nearly 120 years later, we members of the Hall of Fame, along with all girls and women involved in field hockey and other sports, are the direct beneficiaries of this movement.
When I was a kid, there were not many afterschool sport options for girls. I developed most of my athleticism on the playground and playing in neighborhood pickup games like baseball, basketball, and football. My very first official school team was varsity basketball during my sophomore year in high school. Learning from a coach and participating in regular practices and league games was brand new to me. It was the first time I ever wore a team uniform. Thinking of those uniforms makes me chuckle, because they were pressed white shirts worn under school tunics complete with bloomers. Just imagine the team running, jumping, and diving for basketballs while wearing short dresses. Thank goodness I had to wear that outfit only my sophomore year. The tunics were retired for basketball shorts and shirts.
When the Hall of Fame program finally began, I joined the other inductees at the head table, and I was awed by the joy and excitement that exploded in the room. My counterparts and I sat giddy and humble awaiting our moments of recognition.
Once introduced, we each shared our personal stories of how sport transformed our lives for the better. My story and others’ included personal challenges overcome through resilience and persistence. We each acknowledged that sport taught us a lot about life. We learned how to set goals and reach for the stars through teamwork and personal sacrifice. We learned to pick ourselves up from failure, learn from the experience, and do better next time. Through it all, we found our voice, confidence, and true grit.
Our stories stand upon the shoulders of the women who served as our coaches and mentors in life. Through their generous hearts and unwavering dedication to us and other girls in sports, we learned to be strong in life. As I looked around the room at my own coach, coaches that I remembered, and those I’d never met, I knew I was looking at the true Hall of Famers. My heart filled and remains full of gratitude.