Philafieldhockey.com presents Part I 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 Kayla Herr, a decorated midfielder on Widener University’s team. The junior, who hails from Lancaster County, is majoring in Biology/Pre-Physical Therapy 3+3, meaning she will begin graduate classes this summer and take here second semester of physical therapy courses next fall while completing her fourth year of undergraduate classes. Herr’s career aspirations include graduating with a Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Widener and later, obtaining a specialty certification in neurology.
Herr lead the Pride this past fall in five statistical categories including goals, assists, points, shots on goal and game winners. She also landed in the Top-10 for goals and assists among all Phila-area players, numerous weeks throughout the fall season and wrapped up the 2016 campaign ranked #4 in the Game Winners statistical category. Her other 2016 honors include: Philadelphia Inquirer Academic All-Area Team, All-Middle Atlantic Conference Commonwealth Honorable Mention, Middle Atlantic Conference All-Sportsmanship Team, Middle Atlantic Conference Academic Honor Roll and Philafieldhockey.com Student-Athlete of the Week (9/14/16).
“Being on the field hockey team at Widener is definitely rewarding, but also a big time commitment. I think sometimes there is a misconception that DIII sports are not as rigorous and time consuming as DI and DII schools… Athletes here put in a lot of time on the field and court as well. My day usually begins with 8:00 a.m. classes every day of the week. During season, I try to fit all of my classes, meetings, and work at the gym into the early part of my day, as I know field hockey will take up my afternoon and evening. In season, our field hockey practices are from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. Everyone on the team meets in the locker room by 3:30 p.m. to be out on the field warming up before practice, and once a week, we have team yoga sessions after practice. Once field hockey is done for the night, I usually grab dinner with my teammates in the cafeteria before going back to my room to study and do homework.”
Herr admits that balancing academics and field hockey is sometimes a challenge and takes time management and prioritizing, often wedging school work in between classes and sometimes during lunch. “We do not have mandatory study halls at Widener, but our coach does keep track of how we are doing academically. Freshmen have to turn in their grades weekly and upperclassmen have to submit grades once or twice a month. Our professors and faculty are very flexible and helpful when academic and athletic commitments overlap. Our coach is very understanding as well and is supportive of our academic obligations. She always emphasizes success in our academic careers on top of our athletic careers.”
For Herr, extracurricular activities during field hockey season “often get put on the back burner, but fit into my schedule well, even during the busiest times of the season. Involvement in other activities, like clubs and organizations, definitely help to balance out all the time spent playing field hockey.”
Herr has been involved in numerous extracurriculars including a summer research program. “I worked with a biology professor to study biodiversity and phylogeography of insects, and was able to present my research at Widener’s Summer Research Symposium.” Last summer, Herr studied abroad in Honduras for 17 days, taking a course in field ecology and working on various research projects. She is also a Resident Assistant, a tutor for genetics, and works at the Pride Recreation Center. She is a member of the Beta Beta Beta National Biological Society, Widener University Biological Society, Student Athlete Advisory Committee, and the Honors Program in General Education.
In season, Herr and her teammates have individual meetings with their coach once or twice. As a team captain, she also meets weekly with the coaching staff. The team comes together to watch film the night before games followed by a team dinner, usually in the cafeteria or at a teammate’s house off campus. “Being together to watch film and relax after practice helps to calm game-day jitters and focuses us for the game the next day.” The Pride have also taken trips to local venues, including Linvilla Orchards to “break up the monotony of the same everyday routine.”
Before every home game, the team also does a “secret buddy” gift exchange and blares music in the locker room to get pumped up for the game. “My friends on other athletic teams always joke and say they always know when the field hockey team has a game because they can hear the music and singing from their locker room.”
Because the team’s games are relatively local, they rely on bus transportation. “Bus rides are usually pretty mellow on the way to games, but on the way home it tends to be more rowdy as sometimes there is karaoke and game nights.”
Herr also has three game-day superstitions that she stands by. “One is that I have to wear the same headband for every game, and two is that I have to listen to the same playlist in the same order when walking down to the field or on the bus ride. The third is that my bag always had to in a certain order behind the bench and next to the same bags every game.”
As for the off-season, Herr notes that field hockey training is significantly less than in the fall. Team meetings and individual meetings with coaches, however, are more frequent. “For winter training we have lifting and conditioning workouts three times a week (2 evening/afternoon sessions, and 1 morning 6:00 a.m. session), and in March we start a month-long spring season where we have field hockey practices and conditioning workouts. On top of our workouts, this year we are participating in a play day at Kutztown and hosting a recruitment clinic. Additionally, the past two years we have hosted an Alumni Game.”
Required team activities outside of practices in the off-season consists of team dinners once a week and team bonding activities, like playing games and watching movies. Additionally, every April, Widener hosts the Special Olympics of Delaware County which the field hockey team helps to run.
“Outside of mandatory events, the team often hangs out on the weekends and participates in Widener-sponsored events. This spring our team is participating in a floor hockey benefit tournament to raise money for diabetes awareness as well as a 5K color run sponsored by Widener’s physical therapy program. In the off season, even though we are not together as much throughout the week, it seems like our team becomes closer as there is more time for other non-hockey activities.”
The team is often spotted on campus in Widener field hockey gear, cheering on other teams. “We all support each other and enjoy seeing success in other Widener athletic teams and the athletic program as a whole.”
Once the academic year wraps up, players receive workout packets with conditioning, lifting, agility and stick work exercises. “We are expected to follow the 6-day a week workout schedule and are encouraged to join a summer field hockey league. Additionally, once a week, our team gets together for captains practices to scrimmage and work on stick skills. This is a good opportunity for incoming freshman to get to know the upperclassmen, and learn some of the drills we do throughout the season. Most of my teammates live within an hour of Widener allowing for teammates to work out together.”
For Herr, choosing DIII and Widener were excellent choices. “I chose Widener field hockey because of the opportunities Widener University as a whole offered me, and because of the family-like atmosphere of the campus and team. My experiences at Widener, both academically and athletically, have been immensely rewarding. I am so thankful that I came to a Division III school, as I have been able to explore so many different organizations and programs our campus has to offer as well as play college-level field hockey. I am truly blessed to be a part of such a great university and field hockey program.”
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