By Nikki Parsley
Greetings from New Zealand!
Days after my first cap, as I try to recount my experience it is unbelievably difficult to capture the thoughts, feelings, and emotions I felt. Words will never do justice this experience.
On April 10, 2013 at 5:30 p.m., I stepped onto a field hockey pitch in New Zealand wearing a red, white, and blue jersey. While the scene felt vaguely familiar, there was an unprecedented excitement coursing through my body. Unlike any other game I had previously competed in, the stakes were much higher, the players on the field were some of the top in the world, and I got to represent my country at the highest level possible. This benchmarked a point in my career I had been working towards for as long as I can remember.
As I stood at the center of the field anticipating the starting whistle, I began to understand the magnitude of the game. Not only was this my first cap, but we also were playing the second-ranked team in the world, and one of our biggest rivals, Argentina. In a brief moment it hit me that I was standing on the same turf as the players I frequently searched on Google and YouTube.
It was then that I realized my mentality had to change. These people were no longer abstract players running around on a computer screen, but opponents I was tasked with defending and attacking. A few moments later the whistle sounded and players took off in separate directions across the field. For the next 70 minutes I sprinted around and barely had time to catch a breath. The pace of the game was faster than any speed I had ever played at before, which demanded quicker reactions. Although I was physically tired, I was more mentally exhausted at the end of the game. I learned quickly that playing at this level means you have to be mentally checked in at all times.
This game was the most exhilarating, yet exhausting match I had ever been apart of. Although we lost 3-0, and I realized that I have room to improve my physical and mental skill sets, I absolutely loved every second of playing at the international level. I have always dreamt of representing my country on the national team, but I had no idea that it would be this amazing.
Put simply: I have never been more excited to play field hockey.
While this trip has sparked a new excitement and love for the game, I have also been absorbing as much information as possible. Being surrounded by six Olympians and an experienced coaching staff is invaluable. One of my favorite parts of the tour has been listening and learning from their experiences and advice. Needless to say, I have been busy scribbling down lots of notes that I will carry with me wherever I go.
first Four Nations tournament coming to a close, and the next series about to
start in a few hours, I am excited to take the field again. We open with Korea at 5 p.m. Wednesday (12:00
a.m. Central Time).