Growing confidence

It’s a journey that started way back in seventh grade on the modified field hockey team. It was a journey that saw a shy girl get called up to the varsity team her freshman year, and come out of her shell.

A girl that grew more confident in herself as the years went on. A girl that saw the game of field hockey become a passion, one that she couldn’t live without. It all started with learning the game from scratch and ends with being a captain and leading other young girls the same way she was led.

When Samantha Mason first took up the sport of field hockey she couldn’t imagine how much it would be a big part of her life. The Eden High School senior has evolved into the type of person that coach’s dream off.

She is a hard-working talent that does whatever the coaches ask her to do. She is the first one on the practice field and the last one leave. She is the type of player that other younger players can look up to see how to play the game the right away.

Looking at her freshman year, you probably wouldn’t have though that this was going to be the kind of player that Mason would turn out to be. When Eden took away the junior varsity field hockey team, Mason (a freshman) was thrown onto the varsity.

At that age, Mason wasn’t the most outgoing person. Who is at age 14? She had to make a decision right there is she wanted to continue to play the sport she came to love. It wasn’t as easy as a decision as one might think.

She knew for her to succeed at the varsity level she would have to come out of her shell. Come out of her comfort zone.

“When I started field hockey I honestly did not think it was going to be such a huge part of my life. I started off on modified my seventh grade year, then was pulled up to JV my eighth grade year, and my freshman year our school had cut our JV program, which meant I had to go up to varsity,” explained Mason. “Let me tell you that was absolutely terrifying, I’m small and shy when it comes to people I don’t really know. But it was a great choice to continue to play. Field hockey is my favorite sport and I did not think that it would be when I started back in seventh grade. Field hockey has by far exceeded my expectations.”

You could say that Mason got over her fear pretty quickly. Being on varsity at such a young age allowed Mason to see how the older girls carried themselves throughout the highs and lows of a varsity season.

It allowed her to see how the captains would handle a big win or a stunning loss. Mason was able to sit back and soak it all in, so when it came time for her to lead the program she would be able to.

Mason went from shy freshman to a leader on the team. It was a great transformation to see, and one that she is happy she made.

“Being on varsity since freshman year sure has helped my leadership skills grow. Being able to see the previous captains and how they handle certain situations or how they treated the team helped shape the way I would lead a team,” stated Mason. “To be a leader is a lot more than what people truly think. You have to be able to give direction but not seem like you own the team, which can be hard sometimes when teammates don’t listen at times. I have been waiting since seventh grade to be captain and it is hard but a true honor. Being a captain means you have to set a good example, if you’re happy and have a positive attitude most likely the rest of the team will be the same way. You have to encourage the girls who get down on themselves and push your teammates to be the best you know they can be. Being a captain doesn’t always mean that you are the best on the team, it means you have the dedication and drive to lead a team to success.”

Driven is something that Mason has become. She plays the sport of field hockey year round – playing for the Buffalo Hurricane. She has taken her role of captain seriously as well. She knows to be a great captain that is comes down to communication.

Communication on and off the field is important. Without tremendous communication a team will fail. It is up to Mason to get her team ready to play every game. It is up to her to get the team in the right position. Being able to communicate, and not yell, is the difference from a team succeeding and losing the room.

“On the field someone has to take charge, if you know what you’re doing and feel confident in yourself, take control. You have to communicate with everyone on the field no matter where you are. If you notice a forward is stuck call out to her to let her know her midfielder is open behind her or that her center forward is open to her right/left,” explained Mason. “If you notice that no one is talking you do it for them. Being on the field is not all about scoring or getting the assist, it is about being able to work as a team and being happy for each other when someone does something good. Even if you are off your game, don’t get down on yourself, keep playing the best you can and encourage your teammates. Going after a loose ball or attacking the opposing team when no one else is is not always recognized on the scoresheet but it helps lead your team to a victory.”

On the field Mason has the important role of playing in the midfield. She is basically like the general out on the field. Midfield is an important role. They do all the dirty work on both the offensive and defensive ends of the field.

She will make runs to help out the defense while at the same time support the attacking players on the offensive end. She is the Swiss Army knife that every team has. While her name might now end up on the score sheet, coaches love her hustle, and what she does to help her team try and get the victory.

“I play midfield which means I am constantly on the move. When the ball is on our offensive end I am up there helping the forwards and when the ball is in our defensive end I am down there helping the defenders. To play midfield you have to be able to switch your play without even thinking about it,” stated Mason. “Yes, it can be difficult at times when you constantly have to keep running back and forth but it is something you have to get used to. While on the offensive side you have to be able to have the drive to get that ball into the net and know how to pass to the right girls at the right time. While on the other hand, while playing defense you have to know how to get your stick down in the circle and be ready to stop that ball before it gets anywhere near your goalie.”

She heads into her final year with a familiar face as coach. Phil Archabald takes over the program, moving up from the junior varsity. Archabald is also the varsity girls’ lacrosse coach – so he is familiar with coaching at the highest level and what it takes to succeed.

Having Archabald move up from the varsity makes the transition a little easier for the team. A lot of girls played for him while on JV, and they know the type of coach he is and what he expects from his players.

“Coach Archabald is a great coach, he had coached me on JV field hockey and he is the varsity lacrosse coach. He knows how to run a team and how to work with us to make us better. Yes, it is sad that our last coach had left, but I am excited to see where our team goes with him as our coach,” stated Mason. “We also have a new assistant coach, Melissa Brockman, and she is just as great as well. She actually played field hockey at Eden as well; therefore she understands the game and what has to be done. They both allow our input as to which drills we think are helpful and which ones are in a way pointless. They have us focus a lot on our stick handling skills, our clean passes, and especially our communication. He has us moving around to try new positions on the field because who knows at some point you might have to fill in the spot.”

Dissecting the defense is just the beginning for Mason. While she would love to play field hockey at the next level, Mason would also start to focus on life outside of field hockey. Following in her mom’s footsteps of being a nurse is something she has dreamt about for a long time.

Mason knows the rigors of medical school and how it takes up all your time as a student. If she was given to opportunity to play at the next level, mason would have to think long and hard at what that would like for a student-athlete.

“After high school I want to go to college for nursing, it has been a dream of mine since I was little and my mom is a nurse so that plays a part in it too. I would love to play field hockey in college but my academics will always come first,” stated Mason. “If I do happen to get the chance to play in college I would definitely give it a try and see how well it goes. But anything in the medical field is hard to study and having a sport on top of that may hinder my learning and focus on school work.”

For right now, however, Mason is focused on the here and now. Mason wants to enjoy the final season with her teammates. She wants to finish the journey she started as a seventh grader on the modified team.

“Knowing this is my last season on the field hockey team is the hardest thing to come to terms with, but I can’t let that get in the way of the game. Knowing this is my last year to be the best I can has pushed me to not let the emotions take over,” stated Mason. “Striving for greatness is my goal of this season and with this team we have now I can see that goal being achieved. These girls are my second family, and I can’t thank them enough for being such amazing girls/teammates. I couldn’t be happier that I get to play my last season with this group of girls.”