Philafieldhockey.com presents Part 3 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 Taylor Bracale, a standout sophomore defender for the West Chester University Golden Rams. Bracale started and played in 16 games for WCU, which recorded a 13-7 record overall and advanced to the Pennsylvania State Athletics Conference (PSAC) semifinals, dropping to Shippensburg University (2-1). Ship eventually went on to win the Division II national title. Bracale is majoring in Business Management with hopes of managing a sports and entertainment venue. On campus, she’s a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and also involved with SAAC (Student Athlete Advisory Committee).
Bracale says the best part of playing Division II is that you “truly get to experience life as a student -athlete” and that “it’s enjoyable. We don’t have a six hour practice (in pre-season) or two-a-days with 6:00 a.m. lifts. We practice what we need to and get the job done. We are just as competitive and committed as any DI or DIII school is.”
A day in the life of Bracale in fall looks like this: classes, meals with teammates usually, and practice. She and a teammate typically meet up on weekdays at 2:50 p.m. for a drive to South Campus where the turf is. Players typically arrive at 3:00 p.m. and then head out to the turf for two warm-up laps before the whistle blows at exactly 3:30 p.m. to signal the start of practice. “We sometimes have ‘individuals’ with coaches and occasionally, we hold an extra goalie practice mid-day for extra practice in the fall.”
In preparation for game days, the team reviews film of the opposing teams’ offense, defense and corners. On game days, the team arrives about 90 minutes before game time; music is “blared in the locker room, on the bus and on the way to the field.” Part of the pre-game warm-up entails walking through presses and team corners. The Golden Rams also have some traditions, in particular this year: “glitter buns– a self explanatory hair look!”
Off-season training is quite different. “During the winter, we lift twice a week with our strength coach and condition twice a week, while playing indoor field hockey once a week. Once the weather gets nicer, all of our practices are outside and we continue to lift twice a week and condition on Saturday mornings. Players also have ‘individuals’ probably two or three times a week and goalies get an extra work out in during these and we also run though a lot of corner repetitions.”
Meetings with coaches are called on an as-need basis to watch film or be taught a specific skill or tactic. “Sometimes I’ll just stop by the office to say a friendly hello!” In the spring, the team has a mandatory meeting to solidify their goals for the coming season; they make a poster with the goals, that hangs in the locker room, to stay top-of-mind. Sometimes the upperclassmen also call meetings after practice to go over specific needs.
“I think during the off-season, we spend a lot more time together in our free time, especially during the winter season when practices are a little shorter. Sometimes we’ll go downtown for dinner or out for ice cream. I usually walk to my one teammates house to watch Grey’s Anatomy every Thursday night. One of the things I love about West Chester is being so close to downtown and walking there for dinner. I like going to other sporting events and cheering my friends on, going to the student rec center to play basketball or soccer, and getting Dunkin with Sydney after Saturday morning practices!”
Bracale noted that academics come first for the team, in all seasons, and that coach is extremely understanding about their commitments and sometimes, conflicts. “For instance, upperclassmen sometimes come late to practice because of a class conflict, or somebody has a field trip during a Saturday morning practice and has to miss.” Grade reports are sent to coaches during midterms and Bracale adds: “I brag to her if I get a good grade on an exam!” Players stay in close touch with their coach and copy her on all emails to their professors.
There are mandatory study halls for all athletes at least once a week and twice a week for students carrying a GPA less than 3.3. “Most of us are usually in the library 3-4 times a week regardless.”
In addition to being together at practice and study hall, Bracale says that there are some mandatory team events like working at camps, clinics and tournaments. “We are together all the time because we want to. The best part about WC is the fact everybody lives within a 5-minute walk, so we hang out before and after practice and classes all the time. Sometimes if something is going on in the town of West Chester, like a parade or event Coach will recommended going as a team and we all go. We also have a Super Bowl party with the team every year and coach always will do something special for us.”
Bracale says that “there’s a certain connection you share with the other athletes on campus – just knowing that you kind of go through the same things.” The team supports fellow athletes at sporting events, especially basketball games, gymnastic meets and baseball games. Players identify as student-athletes and proudly “wear our WCUFH gear almost every day.”
On balancing the demands of academics and athletics, Bracale says “it’s the hardest part about being a student athlete, for any sport. Study hall really helps and so does the encouragement from the team. Some days are harder than others, but knowing you have to keep a certain grade requirement to play hockey plays a huge role and keeps you going. Time management is huge! That includes going to bed early and getting your work in on time, especially when in season.”
Summer Training will be here before Bracale and her teammate know it. “We’re given a full summer packet that includes a conditioning and lifting section; each week, the workouts get harder… and we’re expected to be able to do everything in the packet by the time we start preseason.” Most of the team lives on campus over summer, working camps or taking classes, so they also train together. “This summer our team (player-lead) is initiating mandatory conditioning every morning of camp to make sure we get a workout in.”
Bracale says that West Chester field hockey is everything she could want in a collegiate program. “My teammates are my best friends and my coach is my biggest inspiration. I love the school and I love being able to walk to all of my classes. I love being close to home and having my parents attend every game. I love being a part of a team and having the opportunity to play the sport I love every single day. This school and this field hockey program is everything I want!”
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
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