Athlete of the Issue: Talia Smith

Olivia Baker When attending a varsity field hockey game, you may notice a certain player shorter than her peers, seemingly younger, with exceptionally blond hair flowing behind her and a mighty, almost dangerously forceful swing. This player is Talia Smith, the only freshman to earn a varsity spot on this year’s field hockey team. Though her appearance may make her seem unsuitable among her fellow hockey players and their remarkable reputations, Talia’s refined skills and modest personality harmonize perfectly with that of her team. Alum of one of our notorious rivals, North Shore Country Day, Talia began her successful career in 6th grade, but before her debut, she “hadn’t even heard of the sport.” Even then, her size contradicted her skill level, and she left an imprint on any team she encountered. “I played against her in middle school for two years, but I didn’t realize how amazing she was until I saw her keeping up with seniors,” said freshman Lily Campbell, member of the junior varsity field hockey team. “She may have looked little and afraid, but she was completely different when she played. As soon as she stepped on the field, her game face was on, and she took on anyone, no matter how many times her size they were.” Field hockey is commonly misperceived as being solely a feminine sport, one that does not require much strength, strategy, nor ability overall. This is clearly untrue: the intensity field hockey possesses is incomparable to any other sport. This intensity, though threatening, is what Talia claims to increase her skill level. “I love competition when it comes to games or just or practices because it always feels more official when I am actually playing against another team…it shows others how we have improved and it gives us a chance to show our skills,” said Talia, whose skills are rooted in her willingness to compete. If everyone knew of the seemingly immeasurable amount of rules field hockey has, the common consensus would be that field hockey requires just as much physical movement as intellectual action. Talia provided me with some painstaking examples: “You can’t use the back side of your stick, the ball cannot touch your feet, and the ball has to travel 5 yards before it goes into the circle, after a penalty.” This lack of physical freedom affects her position as an offender, and the hardest part of field hockey, for Talia, is the difficulty of “deciding which skill to use to get around a defender or what type of hit would be most successful.” Of course, with the help of her coaches and the mentoring of her teammates, Talia has become more confident throughout each game, especially because of her initial desire to play with her fellow freshman. Then, Talia realized that she really liked it because she got to know a lot of people from different grades, which made it easier since she was new. Likewise, she “doesn’t even feel like the only freshman,” and “getting to play with [her] teammates after school was always the best part of [her] day and what [she] looked forward to most.” Talia hopes to continue to play for her team throughout her high school experience, and she is currently participating in a travel field hockey league; however, field hockey is not the only thing Talia plans to focus on. A track captain recently suggested she take part in track in the spring and the girl’s soccer team also has their eyes set on her. What more can an athlete ask for? If there is something we can learn from Talia Smith, it’s to never judge a book by its cover, because it will surely beat you in not only field hockey, but probably any other sport.  ]]>