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Tara's Story

Posted by saraallent Mar 10, 2008

University of Richmond '08 - Field Hockey

Playing field hockey on the D-1 level was always a lifelong dream of mine since before I can remember.  Obviously at such a young age, college athletics seemed to be in the distant future, but even so I knew that it was definitely a passion that I wanted to pursue.   Throughout middle school, field hockey and other sports seemed to be a mere after school activity where I could get together with friends, socialize and have fun while playing sports.  As I participated in numerous camps, clinics, travel and indoor teams, my athletic career became more serious and I started to focus my attention on my success in field hockey. 


I remember the summer before my freshmen year of high school like it was yesterday.  While majority of my friends were traveling, enjoying their summer break as most kids do, my summer was a bit different.  I was determined to not only make the high school team, but I wanted to make the varsity team as a freshmen.  With endless encouragement from my parents and family members, I spent that summer preparing myself mentally and physically for the dreaded field hockey pre-season.  So I trained every day with older girls who I knew on the high school team as well as with my father who has been a huge factor in my success in achieving my goals as a student athlete.  When I opened the letter after three weeks of tryouts in the grueling August heat, I was ecstatic when I read “Congratulations Tara, you are a member of Villa Maria Academy Varsity Field Hockey Team.”  All my hard work and determination had paid off.   This was the moment in my life where I really knew I wanted to play D-1 sports; I knew that I wanted to have this feeling of accomplishment again.  I made the decision that I was going to train and work my hardest for the next four years so I could play field hockey at a D-1 University.


My junior and senior year I looked into potential colleges both near and far away from home.  I was pretty certain that I wanted a school similar in size to my high school, but I wasn’t sure how far away from home I wanted to travel.  I remember sitting around the kitchen table with my mom and one friend of mine listing reasons why I did not want to leave home.  My mom encouraged me to not limit my options to schools in the area because part of the college experience is going away to new places and experiencing new things.  So I took her advice and visited schools all up and down the east coast, both near and far. 


I looked into schools with good academic reputations, but I knew that the team and coach would play a huge factor in my final decision.   I attended a National Field Hockey tournament during high school in California and Florida where college coaches from all over the country came to recruit and scout for their respected programs. I had played in this tournament since freshmen year of high school and therefore had a lot of contact with a wide variety of coaches in all different levels of competition. This gave me an advantage in my recruiting process.  


After receiving an overload of information from coaches at all different types schools, I narrowed my list to five or six potential colleges that I knew I was interested in. The list included Drexel University, James Madison University, St Josephs University, University of Richmond and Providence College.  After taking official visits to all of these schools and meeting the team and speaking with the coaches, I had a pretty good feeling of where I saw myself.


I had wonderful visits on all my officials.  After each one I would come home and write down all my likes and dislikes from the weekend.  I would list things for example like my feeling about the team, my first impression of the coach, the location of the school,  and other outside activities and opportunities  the school offered in case field hockey did not work out. 


After four visits, I was almost certain that I wanted to attend James Madison University.  I liked the team and the coaches, and it seemed to have everything that I was looking for, despite the fact that the size of the university was completely opposite to what I was used to.   However, I thought I could handle it.  I had one official left to the University of Richmond in late December of that year. 


As soon as I walked onto the campus for my visit, I was amazed at how beautiful it was and I immediately had a great impression and feeling about the school.  As soon as I met the girls who I was staying with on my official, all my initial nerves were calmed and I felt that I could fit in right away.  They made me feel very comfortable, they were very informative answering all and any of the questions that I had, and they seemed to be everything I was looking for.  The head coach had a reputation of being very tough, but the combination of the assistant coaches and her seemed like a great balance.  After spending the weekend with the team and meeting majority of the team, I was so excited because I really felt like I could see myself as a part of the team.  Before leaving the visit, I had a meeting with the head coach which really sold me.  I left the meeting with a feeling of comfort and relief which signaled to me that this could be it! 


After coming home from the University of Richmond I was almost certain that that’s where I saw myself fitting in the best.  I took two weeks to make sure I thought through the choice I was about to make regarding the next four years of my life.  After some long hard thought and after asking myself over and over again “can you see yourself as a Spider or a Duke,” I had a feeling of reassurance and knew that University of Richmond was the best place for me.  It had everything that I was looking for, I loved the team and the reputation of the school sold itself.  I also knew that if for some reason field hockey did not work out, I would be happy at the school regardless. 


I hope this gives a little insight into my experience and the process I went through to end up as a Richmond Spider. I have no regrets.  The University of Richmond has been my home away from home and I would never change my college experience for anything else.  Best of luck in your decision making!


My Advice:


  • Visit as many schools as you can and take all five of your official visits if the opportunity is there.  Even though you may not want to spend your final weekends in high school traveling in the car with your parents to colleges, do it!  The more you see, the better idea you will have of what you like and dislike.

  • Listen to your parents advice because whether or not you want to hear what they have to say, they know you the best and despite our stubbornness to want to make the decision on our own, they will be very helpful in this process.

  • Do not make your choice on schools because of where your friends or boyfriend may be going or because you know the most people there rather than another school.  The college experience is about meeting new people and having new experiences

  • Do not make a decision based on a coach because coaches come and go.  Choose a school that you can be happy and successful at in both your sport, academic and social life.  Balance is the most important thing.

  • Relax, you will know when a school feels right. 








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