Farewell to Field Hockey

A senior athlete’s final goodbye

When you first pick up a sport as a young kid, it’s probably because your parents need a break. Twice a week, for an hour or so, you are someone else’s responsibility. It’s something to do after school or on the weekends to make friends and get out all that pent up kid energy. What you don’t realize as a kid is that before you know it, you’ll be 22 and the sport has become part of your identity. 

My fun fact in every awkward first class introduction during syllabus week was, “Hi, I’m Erin and I’m on the field hockey team.” I had SLUFH #28 in my Instagram bio starting on the day I committed in September of 2016. My profile picture on LinkedIn is my roster picture. I played my last game in a Billikens uniform on April 10 and now I don’t know how to not be an athlete. 

For many people, sports are just games that are entertaining to watch because of the amazing athletic abilities of those partaking. It’s something to do on a Friday night while drinking a beer with some friends after a tough day at work. Yet, for me, sport is so much more than just a game because my time as a competitive athlete has been the most rewarding experience of my life. 

In 14 years I never played in front of a massive crowd cheering or taunting, never scored the game winning goal and never won a championship, but what I DID do is wake up at 3 a.m. to catch flights, sacrifice school breaks for tournaments and meet some of the coolest, most hardworking people in the world. I got to wear a blue jersey that said “BILLIKENS” across the front and feel a part of a family. On the hardest days, it humbled and motivated me to remember that there are girls around the country that would give so much to be in my shoes. 

Looking back, I have played field hockey for longer than I haven’t, but now my stick is hung up and I don’t know the next time I’m going to get the chance to use it again. The culmination of senior year is hard for everyone no matter what you did or didn’t participate in during your time in college, but for me it’s not just the end of college, it’s like breaking up with my first love. 

Field hockey has seen me through the most challenging times in my life and it has always been an escape when like gets hard. Between the white lines, I was strong, confident, powerful and genuinely happy. Not only was it my escape, it taught me everything I know about being a teammate, a friend, a mentor and a competitor. It taught me to get up out of bed even on the days you know are going to be hard, because it’s going to make you one percent better than you were the day before. I learned that you’ll never regret a workout, no matter how hard it hurts in the middle of it. Most importantly, I learned that the relationships you make are what truly matter in the end. In 10 years no one is going to care what the record of the 2021 SLU field hockey team was, but I know I’ll still have the love and support of the people I shared the field with no matter how far apart we may be. 

Even though I know what my next steps are in my life and my career, it is going to be incredibly hard to say goodbye to my time as an athlete. Representing Saint Louis University as a student-athlete was a great joy and honor and it’s something I will never forget. When I was a sophomore, my class sat down and decided that our goal was to “leave the jersey better than we found it.” I can say with complete confidence that we achieved that goal and I am so excited to watch our program only go up from here. Field hockey will always have a huge place in my heart and I am eternally grateful for everything this sport has given me. 

I may not get up to go to practice every morning, but I will always be a field hockey player. 

With Love, 

Erin McClelland