By Nikki Parsley
Northwestern junior Nikki Parsley is currently competing for Team USA at the Four Nations Tournament in New Zealand. As her journey winds to a close, she checks in with another update.
On the 22nd day of my trip "I Love It" by Icona Pop routinely flooded my ears. As the alarm sounded, I half consciously rolled out of bed, and noted that my legs ached, but only dully. This was progress, because over the past few days my body had pleaded, on more than one occasion, that I stop the madness.
While I have certainly pushed myself physically throughout my field hockey career at Northwestern, playing at the international level requires a new level of fitness entirely. I have observed throughout the tournament that all of the top players in the world share something special in common: they are comfortable being uncomfortable. Even when they walk off the pitch after a 70-minute match, they never show signs of discomfort. While I realize that these women are all in unbelievable shape, I think that this is more of a mental skill than physical ability. This is an attitude that I desire to possess. In fact, this is a mentality I must possess to have success at this level. I am learning that the internal drive to push boundaries is one of the most powerful tools I can add to my arsenal.
As I spent a significant amount of reflecting on this newfound understanding, I was reminded of a scene from "A League of Their Own." As cheesy as recalling this may be, it is the best way I can convey my thoughts.
Jimmy Dugan: Dottie, if you want to go back to Oregon and make a hundred babies, great, I'm in no position to tell anyone how to live. But sneaking out like this, quitting, you'll regret it for the rest of your life. Baseball is what gets inside you. It's what lights you up, you can't deny that.
Dottie Hinson: It just got too hard.
Jimmy Dugan: It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.
Calling international field hockey challenging is an understatement. But, Jimmy Dugan said it precisely: the hard is what makes it great. The hard pushes me to get up and fight through a mistake I have made too many times. The hard challenges me to make one more recovery sprint at the end of game eight. The hard is what fuels my desire to relentlessly chase the people at the top of the game.
I am convinced that I have yet to fully comprehend all that this trip has set in motion. I know that I am on the verge of something. Is it success or failure? This I do not know, but of something else I am certain - "I am ready to risk more than others think is safe. Care more than others think is wise, and dream more than others think is practical." This trip has reaffirmed my desire to make the national team and eventually represent my country at the Olympics. I am unbelievably thankful for this tour, because I now have a better understanding of what it takes to get where I want to go.