When the Ithaca College field hockey team took the field against the University of Rochester on Oct. 13, every player had the word “pace” written on their wrist. This was not a one-game act, as writing a motivational word on their wrists is, with the hopes of it becoming a tradition in the years following.
This year’s team is the start of a new era for the Blue and Gold, as they have a large group of underclassmen, a new coaching staff, and are in their first year in the Liberty League. To aid the team in transitions, they have attempted to grow closer as a team through methods like coming up with a word to unify the team and wearing the word on their wrist.
The team has five committees, which include a game day committee, head coach Kaitlyn Wahila said.
“They are in charge of getting our team pumped and psyched for game day,” she said. “One of the traditions they have started is coming up with a word or a phrase that everyone puts on either their wrist or forearm before each game.”
Wahila said the team has responded positively to this, and that it adds a whole new aspect to the game preparation.
“They really rally around it,” Wahila said. “They come to the locker room and wonder what the word is going to be for that specific day.”
The word can be proposed by any player, and they are expected to provide a backstory. Underclassmen are encouraged to contribute, and this helps incorporate them into leadership roles. Amanda Schell, senior midfielder and captain, said that it has been a great way to get the freshmen and sophomores more involved.
“This has been one of the best things the game day committee has incorporated,” Schell said. “I think it is an awesome idea and a great way to get girls other than upperclassmen to speak up and provide the team with motivation.”
The players will have a meeting before the coaches come in for a pep talk, and during this meeting, the game day committee will pick a word of the day.
The team has been doing this for the whole season, and examples of words or phrases they have used in the past are “presence,” “fight” and “storm.” On Sept. 9, they hosted a United For Her game, which was a matchup where all proceeds went to the United For Her charity, which helps support women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. The team chose the word “fight” and wrote names of survivors and strong women on their wrists.
Wahila said that “presence” and “storm” are two words that have become very prevalent with the team because they want to have a strong presence on the field and want to take the other team by storm.
Schell said the words have helped the team stay motivated for the pregame and game.
“Usually, there is some type of quote or story that goes along with whatever we are writing on our wrists, and having it physically on our body is a reminder of that motivation throughout the game,” Schell said.
The South Hill squad has battled hard this season, but a recent losing skid has dropped their record to 6–9. Even though the Blue and Gold has a losing record, MaryKate Siegel, junior midfielder and striker, said that she thinks the wrist words have helped the team stay close.
“Every time we write our word, we try to find one unique to the game or meaningful to the practices that lead up to it,” Siegel said. “I liked when we wrote “un1ted” because it was a reminder that we’re out there not only doing it for ourselves but for each and every teammate standing next to us on the field.”
The team does not treat the quotes lightly, as Schell said the team fully believes that their effort that day is represented by the word from that day.
“We respond well to the motivation behind it and having it written on our wrist is a way we hold ourselves accountable for it,” Schell said. “I know personally, sometimes when I am on the field and absolutely exhausted, I look down at my wrist and remember that I am part of something much bigger than myself, and that gives me the push I need to get through anything.”
While some traditions last a while, others do not survive from one year to the next. Sometimes they lose their charm, and other times the players who are the main influences carry the tradition so much that it is hard to replicate with a new group. However, Siegel said that she believes this tradition will last.
“It would be great for this tradition to carry over into the years to come,” Siegel said. “It is something that can bring the whole team together, especially in the locker room when we talk about why we chose the word that we did for each game.”