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Mental toughness

by Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor

Photos by Slippery Rock Athletics

As the world has finally gotten back to somewhat normal, a lot of people will forget what mental affects not playing had on student-athletes last year. Routines were broken, or changed. Classes were online instead of in school.

And a season was lost, things where just different.

As schools get back to playing a regular schedule once again, the players themselves are getting back into their daily routines of practice, games, and school work. It’s a welcomed sight for all that are involved.

Slippery Rock University field hockey player Hannah Nurse was one of those affected last year when everything came to halt. Nurse, who ha sheen playing field hockey since an early age, was all of a sudden without the sport that she knew, and loved.

It was an adjustment that, at the time, she wan’t ready to make - or prepared to make. Thoughts of never playing again entered her mind as the own unknown was just that - the unknown.

“It took a big toll on me. Field hockey had always been my outlet and I enjoyed getting to block out the stressors of school. I felt unmotivated, and it was a challenge for a while getting myself to work on homework or workout, especially not knowing when I would be able to play again,” stated Nurse. “For a while, I thought I may ever play again and had started to mentally prepare for that situation because I knew it would crush me. Once I was able to establish a routine for myself, my mental health started to improve, but it was a big challenge for quite some time.”

If there is one thing that Nurse is mentally tough. After all she has to be playing the position that she plays. Nurse has been goaltender all her life - and its easy to get fixated on the things that go wrong during a course of a game.

There could be some games, especially in high school, where Nurse may have faced only a few shots. She needed to always make sure her head was in the right frame of mind, never wavering if she didn’t get a ton of work.

Same goes for college - especially now with juggling the rigors of an academic life on top of stopping shots at the Division II level.

“Mental toughness is the most important component a goalie can have during a game. It is normal to hyper fixate on a bad goal you let in, or even get too excited about a good save and get distracted,” stated Nurse. “Refocusing after every single shot and being able to let tough situations roll off your shoulders will allow you to perform better and regain confidence. I also find that getting yourself into a good headspace prior to the game can greatly increase attention to keep you prepared and motivated.”

College life can be difficult at times.

Most athletes are the best players on their high school teams when they head off to college. They are used to starting all the time - and getting all the recognition. When they come to college is could be a different kind of experience.

Nurse played some her freshman year, which got her feet wet with the college experience. She played a lot during her sophomore campaign, but has yet to see the field this year. That is life of a college athlete. There are some ups and downs - but Nurse is the model teammates.

While she wants to be out there hoping her team win - she is a team first player.

“Playing my freshman year, though the time was somewhat limited, allowed me to get my nerves out. The first game I ever played in was a mess, I was put in goal and could barely save a ball. It took a chunk out of my confidence, but it encouraged me that I needed to continue working hard,” stated Nurse. “I tried to use it as a learning experience and a motivator to keep raising the standards I held on myself. I needed to be knocked down so that I could rebuild myself better.”

A senior in school, but a junior on the field, Nurse is getting ready for the next chapter of her life. Like all student-athletes, she will be able to come back next year if she wants - as they have been given an extra year.

A physical education major, Nurse does know when her career finally does come to an end, whenever that may be, that she to still stay in the game in some form.

“After I graduate, I want to become either an elementary or middle school Health and Physical Education teacher. I hope to teach individuals with and without disabilities how they can be proactive in their own social, emotional, and physical well being to prepare them for the future,” stated Nurse. “Yes! I would love to be either a head or goalie coach of a high school field hockey team in the district that I become a teacher in. I have always truly loved field hockey and my main reason for playing in college was because it was fun for me. I want to be able to empower other young athletes to find the joy in physical activity and field hockey.”

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