Philafieldhockey.com presents the final of “A Day in the Life” series, focusing on four players from Phila-area college teams at DI, DI Ivy, DII and DIII programs. The series is meant to give an insider’s view on the life of area field hockey players and to celebrate their successes.
I caught up with April Stein, a starting midfielder for the La Salle Explorers. Choosing La Salle and Division I was an easy decision for Stein and has been “extremely rewarding”. The Ocean City, New Jersey native had visited other DI, DII and DIII schools but said that La Salle was the school that overall stood out to her; in addition, she was offered both an athletic and academic scholarship. Stein also notes that she “chose a Division 1 sport and La Salle because I was eager to compete at a high level, to meet and play with players from all over the world, to travel, and to play to the best of my ability.” Taking a step out of her comfort zone was a challenge that Stein sought.
Stein is a 3-time National Field Hockey Coaches Association Academic Squad honoree majoring in Middle School/Special Education with a concentration in Social Studies. Her career goal is to teach at the middle school level and “make an impact on my future students both socially and academically.” This spring, in the field hockey off-season, she is student teaching at Widener Middle School.
Balancing life and school is a lot for all student-athletes and Stein seems to have mastered the juggle. The in-season schedule for Stein and her teammates is typically two hours of practice three mornings a week, with games on Sundays, and Mondays off. “This semester I was lucky enough to have time in between practice in the morning and my first class to be able to shower, which I never had before! Before this year however, I’d go directly from practice to classes for the day, which many of my teammates have to do this year. Taking that into consideration, I’d have to prepare the night before to pack everything I needed for practice and school for that day. I’d also have to consider packing a snack or lunch just to get through the day so I wouldn’t be starving.”
For away games, the team travels mostly by bus — sometimes a short lift to an inter-city game and other times, a long distant bus trip particularly to Atlantic 10 conference opponents in Virginia and North Carolina. With Saint Louis also in the A10, the Explorers travel by air every other season. Some Division I programs, however, require considerable air travel.
“I’d say the hardest part of being a student athlete is missing classes for when we travel for away games. It is our job as a student-athlete to communicate to our professors ahead of time regarding the days we will miss throughout the semester and what work we need to complete. It’s hard when I miss classes because I feel behind if I don’t stay on top of my work. It’s also difficult on away trips if Wi-Fi isn’t accessible or available so you need to have a few plans of action in case of this. I often try to do as much schoolwork as I can before we leave for a weekend so I won’t feel overwhelmed while away. Regardless though, my coaches are very supportive of our academics. We often have mandatory study hours on our away trips for time to catch up on work.”
On a typical game day, the team is instructed to fuel up with a healthy breakfast before meeting in the locker room at about 11:00 A.M. for a 1:00 P.M. game. “While getting ready, my team also comes up with three goals we intend to reach during the game. Then, everyone gets in a circle and dances to the song “the hum”; this is a tradition we do every game. As soon as that song is finished, our coaches then come in for a talk regarding the starting line up, goals we made, strategies and their motivational talk. We then walk up in two lines; we each have the same partner every game. Our warm-up playlist that we make in preseason for our home games is always playing, which we all get extremely pumped up with.”
In addition to practice and games, the team is required to strength train. “In our fall season, we are required to lift during a time that fits our schedule, as long as we have a lifting partner. During our spring season, we are required to lift as a team, three times a week. This usually taking place about 6:30 in the morning.”
Study hall at La Salle is also mandated for all freshman in their first semester for six hours a week and afterward, for student-athletes with the GPA below a 3.0. “In addition, as a freshman, one of La Salle’s assistant coaches would check in weekly with us to make sure we were going to study hall and staying on track academically. Study hall, as well as having the support of my coaches checking in, helped my transitioning process and helped me to understand the expectations of being a student-athlete.”
Individual training sessions — referred to as “individuals” among all college athletes — are only held at La Salle if the coaches feel necessary or at the request of a player. “They are as long as anywhere between thirty minutes to an hour. Individuals are also held for players who miss practice due to illness, student teaching or clinical work.”
In the winter, training is very different. “From when our season ends in the beginning of November until about the beginning of January, we have that chunk of time off. I don’t refer to “off” as in we are not required to work out, but we do not do any teamwork outs or lifts together. We are sent a winter work out schedule which we are required to do.”
Spring season usually kicks in mid-January for the Explorers, and runs through April and includes three spring tournaments. “A typical practice is lifting Monday, Wednesday and Friday in the early morning followed by running, the elliptical, stairs and footwork. There are some days after lifting that instead of conditioning, we play indoor field hockey. We also are only allowed to practice a certain amount of hours in the off-season so we have the weekends off in the spring. This allows more time to concentrate on schoolwork.”
In the fall and spring seasons, Stein says that players typically have two individual meetings with the coaches to review personal goals, strengths and weaknesses that they can improve upon.
In addition to field hockey and academics, Stein is a mentor for a Roxborough High School student (run through the university) and an active member of La Salle’s Education Association which raises money for the university’s education program and other organizations. She was also a member of Big Brother/Big Sister Program.
During her free time, she loves spending time with her friends — who are also her teammates. “I live with four other field hockey girls so I see them a lot and I’m lucky enough to call all of my teammates my sisters. We all get along really well. Anytime there are social events at La Salle happening, the entire team hangs out with each other; we enjoy the time we spend with one another greatly and have made so many memories. We support each other both on and off the field.”
Student-athletes as a whole at La Salle support each other, Stein says. “My group of friends has friends on the soccer and baseball team who come to our games. The field hockey team will go to the majority of other sports games as often as we can, considering our different busy schedules. Mostly all sports teams know each other’s names or recognize someone on a sports team. La Salle is a pretty small school and I love the size!”
Athletes show their school and sports pride in another way too: “Typically every student athlete, no matter what sports team, wear athletic clothes to class. The majority of my teammates almost always wear La Salle field hockey gear. Personally, I dress up for class. I usually wear athletic gear only about two times a week.”
Some of Stein’s favorite things to do on and near campus include going to Starbucks to study and drink coffee (“There’s something about any café setting I love!”), hanging out with friends for Homecoming, attending the Sports Formal every year which La Salle Field Hockey hosts and celebrating St. Patty’s Day. “If time permits I love to get away from campus for a little while with friends and explore the city, grab lunch somewhere in Chestnut Hill or Manayunk, or go for a run at Boat House Row. My favorite place to eat would be Fat Salmon (sushi) or Honey Grow. Before ever living in Philly I never heard of Honey Grow and now I love it!”
Spring season in full swing and summer training is on the horizon. The summer training, Stein says, runs like the winter season in that the players are responsible for their workout packet, part of which includes running preparation for the infamous running tests. For LaSalle, it’s two tests: a 12-minute run and 100/50 yard sprint test. “It can be difficult during the summer days to keep up with working out due to summer jobs, nice weather and time spent with family and friends but I commit myself to complete all workouts assigned.” Not too bad if you have the surf and sand in your backyard. “Some of my friends from home are field hockey players from different schools and we sometimes go to the gym and workout together, as well as play field hockey. It is nice having someone to workout with, especially for lifting. I often workout at my local gym, beach, boardwalk or bridge. Our coaches also highly recommend that we play in a field hockey league just to keep up with our stick skills.”
Despite the time commitment of a Division I athlete, Stein is quick to say it’s been a enriching opportunity both on and off the field. “The biggest benefits for being a Division I athlete also includes healthy living and preparation for life.”
CLICK here for Part I: D3 Day in the Life: Kayla Herr
CLICK here for Part II: D1 Ivy Day in the Life: Alexa Schneck
CLICK here for Part III: D2 Day in the Life: Taylor Bracale
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