Philafieldhockey.com presents Part 2 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 Alexa Schneck, a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania who had a rookie year most only dream of. The Reading/Conrad Weiser native started in all 17 contests as a defender for the Quakers. She earned Second-Team NFHCA All-Region, Second-Team All-Ivy, and Ivy League Rookie of the Week (10/10) honors in fall ’16. Schneck also contributed three goals, all of which were game-winners.
For Schneck, being part of the Penn field hockey team is “something I’m very proud of” and a perfect fit as it “combines a competitive field hockey team, supportive team environment, and receiving an education at one of the top universities across the nation.” Schneck has not declared her major but is considering Biology or Biological Basis of Behavior, which she says is basically neuroscience. “I’m still deciding if I want to take the Pre-med tract and go to med school; I’m leaning towards going into pharmaceutical sciences, possibly neuropharmacology.”
Schneck admits that balancing academics and hockey requires a great deal of time management, that other interests often have to take a back seat — and that it’s worth it.
“You really have to plan out what you need to do and when you are going to do it. Travelling is the hardest time to get work done because all you want to do is be with your team and it takes up a lot of time… A lot of times, school and hockey are all you really have time for. If there’s something else you want to do, you just have to plan ahead.
A typical day in season for Schneck means waking up at about 8:15 a.m. to make a 9 a.m. class, taking a little break, doing homework or studying before another class at 1 p.m., practicing from 3-5:30 p.m., and then heading to a night class from 6-8:30. Bedtime is usually by 11 p.m. in season if the team has a 7 a.m. practice the next day. “Personally, my hardest days were Wednesdays; I would have lab 9-12, class 1-2 then practice 3-5:30 and class 6-8:30.” In addition, the team has body weight and injury prevention lifts twice a week along with yoga once a week in season.
Some players and all freshman also have mandatory study hall six hours a week in season and two hours a week during the off-season. Tutors specifically for student athletes are available. Most weekends, Schneck can be found in the library all day; her favorite spot is the Lippincott Library on the second floor of Van Pelt library.
Meetings with the coaches are not schedule at regular intervals. “Coach will normally let us know if there is a particular time she wants to meet with us, but if any of the girls want to meet with her she is very open about letting us contact her and stoping in her office whenever. The coaches are very good at developing actual relationships with us; they’ll talk about any issues we are having on or off of the field and they definitely care how you are doing in your academics.”
As for game days, Schneck can’t say enough. “Game day is a great feeling, I remember my very first game it felt extremely surreal and I feel like I still don’t really believe that I am actually playing for Penn. It is extremely exciting and I don’t think I will ever lose the butterflies in my stomach before games. When we all first get in the locker room it is kind of quiet because we all are thinking and focused on the game, but as we get closer we start blasting music and getting extremely pumped up! Personally, I am very superstitious! I have a particular scrunchie I wear every game. I also wear the same underwear (clean of course), and I always make sure my daily routine is always similar. I remember I never used to drink coffee before games, but the day of Dartmouth game for some reason I did and I ended up scoring a goal in OT! Ever since then I always drink coffee before games.”
The team travels by bus to games, about half of which are on the road. No games in the 2016 season required air travel. The bus rides, Schneck says, are a lot like the locker room before games: quiet at first followed by loud music as they get closer. Some of the team’s favorite songs of the season are: Check it Out, Closer, and pretty much anything by Justin Bieber. “We also get a little dance circle going right before we walk out to the field which is a great ending to our pre-game pump up.”
Outside of fall practices and games, there are no official time requirements of the team. Still, the team is very close knit, Schneck says, and find themselves together more often than not.
“A lot of teams always use the term family to refer to their team, but not everyone truly means it. At Penn, the field hockey team is 100% a family on and off the field. I feel like we all are extremely close. I get about all of my meals with girls on the team. One of my favorite memories was in the season we had a potluck dinner where everyone brought food and it was so fun (and very tasty). We also have a lot of team dinners, especially when we have recruits. Our team is also very good about going to other sport events with each other. We try to support the rest of the Penn athletic community as much as we can.”
Off-season training is “definitely less of a time commitment, but the intensity of the workout definitely makes up for that. In the winter, we had swim twice a week in the morning. I would wake up at about 6:45 a.m. and we would go to the pool at about 7 or 7:15. In the spring, we only practice four times a week, with lift Monday and Wednesday afternoons and conditioning on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. On Tuesday I wake up at 6:23 (every minute counts) and get to the gym at about 7 a.m. to do some stick skills. After skills, we go to Coach Steele (our lifting coach) and do ‘Steele Bootcamp’. The name speaks for itself. We do a mixture of cardio, conditioning, kick boxing, etc. It is fun to switch gears and not only be running for conditioning, yet it is extremely challenging. Lifts are also a lot more intense in the spring because our team values the importance of strength; we view it as a time to get stronger and try to increase weight as much as we can.”
The off-season avails Schneck time to explore the city, which she loves. She is also in the Beta Alpha chapter of Chi Omega which, she says, is great way to know even more people on campus.
“I absolutely love food and will try something new any time. I am a huge breakfast person and I love going to Sabrina’s for brunch. There are also a ton of festivals always happening; recently Restaurant Week occurred where if you pay about $20 you get about seven courses! I also love exploring during Christmas time in Center City. The ice rinks are awesome and there is a nice Christmas market near City Hall. I also love finding the best ice cream shops. (Scoop Deville is a personal favorite.) There is always something going on, and there is always something to do. You can never be bored!”
With spring around the corner, followed by summer, Schneck shares her thoughts on Penn’s summer training — and how it haunted her last summer as an incoming freshman!
“It is expected that we will be doing our workouts every week. If a major run is missed for some reason, it is expected that you make it up. Coming in as a freshman, the majority of these workouts were 99% mental. I remember the first workout I did, I was dead. My first thought was, ‘Wow I am never going to make these expected times.’ It was difficult because I was definitely not used to these types of workouts, most of which are sprinting…Coming into preseason I felt like I was in the best shape I had ever been in. Being a freshman is extremely difficult because all you hear about is the dreaded run test that happens on the very first day of preseason.”
The reward for Schneck’s hard work leading up to Penn — and now as a college freshman — have been outstanding. “Division I field hockey is such a big accomplishment. Being a Division I athlete and experiencing an Ivy League education I feel is on a completely different level. I have only been here one semester and I can already see the tremendous benefits of the education I am receiving. Yes, it is hard; but I am learning so much information and I will be extremely prepared for whatever career path I choose.”
Click here to view Part I: A Day in the Life of Phila-area DIII player, Kayla Herr.
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