Focused On and Off the Field

Athletes find ways to stay motivated while dealing with academic and performance pressures

Balancing school and sports, and working hard at both, can be challenging for any athlete. How well Hockaday’s athletes in particular stay motivated to accomplish their goals depends greatly on their mental strength.

“As a coach, we motivate the team in practice and in games, but honestly the self-motivation that athletes have in season and off-season is what helps athletes reach their full potential,” Physical Education Teacher and Varsity Volleyball Head Coach Adaku Achilefu said.

The combined athletic and academic stress can take a toll on athletes of all kinds. “Because of all the homework and all the time dance takes up, I sometimes want to quit,” Hockaday freshman Peyton Smith said. “I just don’t let it get to me because I know that with practice I will figure it out eventually.”

Pressure to perform builds up nervous energy, adrenaline, which gives athlete the will power to perform. Sometimes athletes come out on top, sometimes they don’t, but no matter the outcome performing under pressure makes teams stronger.

In the Southwest Preparatory Conference Championships this fall, the Hockaday Varsity Field Hockey team made it to the semifinals. They were close to achieving the first place title that they strove for the previous season, but ended up losing after two overtimes and a round of penalty strokes, similar to penalty kicks in soccer.

“We had worked so hard all season and all season last year to get to the championship this year, but we lost,” senior and captain Catherine McGeoch said. “It was hard to come back the next day and play for third. But we talked as a team and we decided to play the best we could and get third place.”

Successful athletes find ways to stay motivated when facing tough obstacles. A positive attitude accompanied by good work ethic helps to reach their goals.

Mastering all events of artistic gymnastics requires mental toughness along with the determination to succeed. The one event that continually gave Hockaday Seventh Grader Catherine Dedman trouble was the uneven bars.

“I always had a tough time on bars. I wasn’t good at it, but my teammates were. I would stay longer and have my coach help me practice, and I gradually got better at it and got higher scores,” Dedman said. “The higher scores I got each competition motivated me to keep going.”

When in clutch pressure positions during games or practice, junior Samantha Toomey has a unique way of motivating herself  and her team to strive farther and improve faster.

“My team is all about visualization, so usually I sing a song in my head, sometime out loud, and my teammates join in, and see myself accomplishing the goals I’ve set,” Toomey said,  “I set my goals pretty high because that’s the only way to get better, in my opinion. Set goals high, so that you have to reach high.”

Despite the struggles athletes face, Hockaday students find a way to come out on top. All the hard work and determination pays off when they reach their goals, win a tournament, or have an unexpected victory.

On March 1, 2014, Toomey and her select volleyball team the Madfrog Volleyball Club faced one of the highest ranked Texas teams, not expecting to come out on top. “Everybody thought that they were going to win, even they thought they were going to win,” Toomey said.

Playing their hard fought game together, cheers from both sides echoing across the almost-empty gym, Sam and her team came out on top by two points in the first game. Then they came back to finish in the second game and won by ten points to secure their victory.

“This team was supposed to be better than us, and we were taking out their best hitters with our blocks. It was the most awesome experience,” Toomey said.

Victories are more rewarding when they are hard fought and require the mental strength to pull through and come out on top. During McGeoch’s sophomore year at Hockaday, the varsity lacrosse team made it to the state championships. In the semifinals of that tournament, they had to beat Cy-Fair from Cypress, TX, and, though considered underdogs, they pulled out a win. The final matchup pitted Hockaday against frequent rival St. Johns. Hockaday won the close game by one point in double-overtime 19-18.

“Its amazing, sometimes things just work out. I think it happens when sometimes you think you’re at a disadvantage, but you’re going to try as hard as you can anyways,” McGeoch said.

– Claire Fletcher