Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sticks, Chicks, and Crutches

Field hockey in New England. I love it. In high school it was my game. As a four-year letterman, I ruled the defensive field with authority, skill, and a sure-footed confidence. That's me in the photo to the left (circa 1980 - 1981). My teammates admired my leadership and elected me one of their co-captains. My coaches rewarded my speed, agility, and defensive tenaciousness with countless ‘defensive player of the game’ awards. I even earned a place on the Eagle Tribune's Field Hockey All-Star roster. I loved the running, the flicking, rushing the opposition on corners and tackling rivals as they advanced down the field.

When I started looking for an adult league last year to get back into the game, it took a while to find one. After all, field hockey isn’t like boys basketball or baseball - there aren’t a lot of adult women players out there who are able to play. Life has a tendency of getting in the way with kids schedules, career paths, pets, husbands, and the ongoing responsibilities of running a household.

But this spring I was fortunate to come across not one, but two adult leagues. I was in heaven. I thought there would be nothing like a game of field hockey in New England to get me back in shape. The first league was an indoor co-ed league at Seacoast United in Hampton, NH where they schedule multiple six-week sessions throughout the year. The spring session was scheduled on a slightly shorter-than-regulation artificial field with ‘push play’ only rules and a reduced number of players – 3 offensive, 3 defensive, no goalie. A great way to get back in the swing I thought. It started on the first Monday evening of May.

The second league was a newly-formed outdoor club in Georgetown Massachusetts, called the Northshore Field Hockey League. This was an outdoor field hockey league on real turf with regular size fields. “Wow”, I thought, “this is great stuff”. Sticks and chicks and all things field hockey. Now I was really getting excited by the thought of getting back into the game that I truly enjoyed by participating on two different teams. Life was good.

Everything was set to go. I purchased a new stick, some practice balls, shin guards, a pair of New Balance shoes and molded my mouthgard to fit. I was ready to play.

The first fifteen minutes of the first game were glorious. Granted I was completely winded, and missed a few plays, but I felt the same rush of adrenaline I did as a player at Londonderry High School . I was back. That is, I was back right up until I planted my foot to shift direction and tackle the oncoming offensive player and my knee missed the play. “Crunch, rip”. Damn.

I had made one critical miscalculation. You see, I thought that field hockey would be a great game to play to get back in shape. But as it turns out, I needed to already be in better shape to play field hockey. Emergency room, crutches, rehab, referral to an Orthopedic surgeon, and a noisy MRI. Sigh. It looks like a torn Meniscus and a partially torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), and that most likely means surgery.

Even though I’m sidelined after just beginning, I’m optimistic that I may be able to get back to the game after I heal. I still love the rush I get playing field hockey, and hope that I can experience the thrill of the game again. Until then I'll have to live with the fact that this time around, it was at the very least, a most frustrating encounter with ‘sticks, chicks and crutches’.

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