Sports Women's Sports

The Last Stand: Emmalie Drake chronicles her career as a goalie for Springfield College field hockey

By Emmalie Drake

One save.

That’s all it takes to change the game. It’s as simple as that. Whether it’s myself or the opposing goalie.

One save is the difference between a win or a loss.

A lot of people are shocked when I tell them I’m a field hockey goalie. They say, “Oh you must be crazy!” or, “Wow! Really?” or even, “You don’t look like a goalie”.

These are only a few examples of comments that have been made throughout the years, but everyone always has something to say.

Not many people like being a goalie due to the intensity and pressure that comes along with the position. Many people can’t fathom wanting to stand in a net and having balls shot at them.

But, this position is so much more than stopping balls from going in.

It’s an adrenaline rush every time you make that save.

The ball releases from the girl’s stick, you track the ball making sure you’re in the best position to make the clear and BOOM SAVE!

It’s awesome.

The thrill you get from absolutely crushing a save or stopping a goal is unreal.

You contort or throw your body in ways you never thought were possible, just to stop the ball. Some of the saves I’ve made I never thought I could. I can’t do a split but when I play field hockey I can. I toss my body from one side of the net to the other in the matter of a second.

Like who would voluntarily throw their body all over the place?

When you play for something greater than yourself, it’s incredible the things you can do.

Your mentality can make or break you in this position. Not believing in yourself and self doubt can throw you off, hindering you from being in the zone. I always tell myself right before I touch the ball, “Em, you’re going to make this save, you can do it”.

Finding that edge that makes you a successful goalie is something that is so important. This is the drive inside, the grit and motivation to keep going.

These are traits that can’t be teached but can be acquired. No one can force anyone to have edge or teach someone how, but someone can gain knowledge and advice to develop their own edge.

Each athlete has their edge that makes them the player they are.

I pride myself in having an edge that comes along with a highly intrinsically motivated mindset. I am driven and always want to improve. This is not only seen through sports in my life but also in my daily routine.

This might be why they call me the brick wall.

I started hearing this nickname after some other student athletes saw one of our games this season. I was surprised at first when they called me that but I thought to myself, “Ya know, I am a brick wall”.

Saving shots with my head or making a nasty diving stick save, it’s all in a day’s work. It’s just the nature of the position. You have to be willing to do anything to make the save. You have to constantly have the mentality of, this save could be THE ONE that changes the whole game.

Once I’m in the zone, there’s nothing that can stop me.

It all began in Spring of 2009. It was modified field hockey tryouts. I was a scared, pudgy seventh grader who didn’t want to get cut from the field hockey team. I had only been playing with a stick for just over a week when I had to prove myself to my high school coach that I was good enough to make the team.

I wanted it so bad.

I wanted to follow in my grandmother’s and mother’s footsteps and play field hockey. I needed to prove to myself that I could do this.

But, my stick skills were horrible, like absolutely atrocious. I don’t think  many of my teammates have even seen me use a stick the proper way until this day. It usually ends up me just kicking the ball around with my feet.

I had played soccer for seven years so I was used to using my feet. Being a field hockey goalkeeper, you have to be ambidextrous being able to use either foot to make a save. Being adaptable is one of the most important characteristics for a goalkeeper to have.

On the third day of tryouts my coach asked who wanted to try goalie. No one raised their hand initially. I quickly thought to myself, “You know what I suck at playing field so why not try goalie”.

This was the day that changed my life.

At that moment I never thought how impactful being field a hockey goalie would be.

The first thing I told my mom when she picked me up that day was that I had volunteered to be goalie. She looked at me with confusion and asked, “Em, you know you have to wear a lot of equipment and a helmet right?” I replied with a grin and said,” Yes mom I know, and now I can’t be cut!”

Miles and miles and miles later. I’ve driven so many miles over my field hockey career. From, showcases to camps, recruiting visits, games, practices and team events.

Being from Upstate New York you get used to driving.

The next major cities from me are about an hour away, each. And when I realized I wanted to go to college in New England, it meant more miles.

Each recruiting opportunity required my mom and I driving at least five-to-six hours. Attending camps, clinics and visits at UVM, UNH, University of Delaware, UMass, the list goes on.

That is the sacrifice I made to be where I am today.

I was the starting goalkeeper for Springfield College for the past three years. Coming in as a freshmen you only hope to be in the starting lineup one day.

For my senior season, my mom tried to make as many games as possible. Leaving home at 6-7 a.m. to make a 1 p.m. game only to turn around after the tailgate to drive back home is what makes my mom so amazing but so crazy.

I guess that’s where I get it from. Both her craziness and resiliency are two traits that I have been blessed with from my mother. She is one of the most outrageous and strongest women I know. She has overcome so much in her life but I would never have gotten the opportunities I have today without her.

Through all the wins and losses, my mom is the one person I wanted to see after a game. No matter what, she always knew what to say or give me a shoulder to cry on.

And I mean UGLY cry.

I have come off the field bawling my eyes out like a baby and my mom is always there to comfort me. Whether it’s venting or counseling, she’s always there to listen and knows exactly what to say.

Being the parent of a goalie can be tough. People always ask her during a game what I’m thinking, what she’s thinking and how she deals with it.

One thing my mom has always said to me since day one was, “No matter what happens, remember the ball went through 10 people before it came to you”.

This is a phrase that has resonated with me to keep pushing and giving my all in the tough games.

And the tough games are hard.

They are emotionally and physically exhausting and sometimes all you can think about is the moment when you get to shower and lay down in bed next. They make you want to cry and scream, but at the same time you live for these games.

The games when you have non-stop action at the net are insane. The adrenaline rush is so powerful you can slip into an out-of-body experience.

But, you’re brought down from your high when you realize you’re dripping in sweat that somehow gets into your eyes and starts to burn. Then you remember you’re wearing an extra 40-pounds of equipment.

Goalie gear is nothing to be messed with. Like I mean c’mon, who wants to wear all that gear? It’s clunky, foam, sweaty gear that makes you 10-times slower than you actually are.

People always feel bad that I have to wear all this gear but, it just grows on you. It feels like it’s part of you, an extension of yourself. If I’m on the field it just feels so weird when I don’t have my gear on.

It molds to your body and eventually feels like you’re wearing no padding at all. It becomes almost like an armour that you don’t feel right without.

My gear makes me feel invincible.

I’ve done full field sprints, burpees, ladder drills, shuffling triangles all in my gear with ease.

It comes with time, but once you master how the gear moves with you, you can do anything. I can dive head first for a ball (which you definitely shouldn’t do), but I’m not even scared!

I’ve taken balls to the helmet, arms, neck, inner thighs, groin and I’m doing just great. But, it doesn’t prevent all injuries.

I am officially a survivor of two pulled hamstrings and a pulled adductor magnus. One too many split saves get you sometimes. But in the end it’s worth it.

I have also created an ongoing chronic back pain issue that has been graced with the name of posterior chain dysfunction. What is this you ask? Well, it basically means I have back pain a lot of the time that worsens at random times and my back muscles are always upset.

Not to be a debbie downer but I’ve basically created my own back injury from playing field hockey. I would NOT have made it through this season or been successful this season without the athletic training room, which I think most seniors would agree with. However, I do not regret anything.

All the memories and fun I’ve had playing makes up for the pain any day.

Like senior season.

It comes so much faster than you want. And flies by.

My high school senior day was a tease because I knew I would be playing in college. College senior day is real. You realize that this is it.

This is your LAST season.

You think to yourself, “What? How am I this old already?”. You want to cry and laugh at yourself all at the same time. It’s an emotional rollercoaster.

You always remember the best moments and dread the tough ones.

Some of my highs this season was absolutely crushing it in net. Our Williams game was a huge defensive tilt, in the Trinity game I had my career high saves in 35 minutes, we demolished St. Joe’s and I played the Smith game with my whole heart in front of all my friends and family. I have never played that well in my life.

One of the most heartbreaking moments this season was losing to Smith in double overtime.

NEWMAC Semi-finals 2018 against Smith. 84:43 minutes of game play. Double overtime. Last game of my field hockey career at Springfield College.

It was a super intense game and both teams wanted to win. Prior to the game, my teammates and I had just found out that MIT had beaten Babson in their semi-final game earlier that evening. We were HYPED. I mean we wanted them to beat Babson so bad and they did it. We knew we had the possibility of winning the NEWMAC championship.

In the locker room, before the game, there was tension in the air. Everyone wanted to win and all we had to do was play seventy minutes of Springfield College field hockey.

I had an okay warm-up and I just wanted to play. I knew once the game started I could channel all my energy into playing and not focusing on the aftermath.

The atmosphere of Stagg Field that night was electric.

A bunch of other seniors, friends and families of the team came to watch us play. It was one of my top-10 favorite field hockey games of all time.

I can’t really describe what happened during the game because it was such a rush.

All I really remember is that I couldn’t let the ball into the net. I did everything I could to make saves but it just wasn’t enough.

To this day I’m still not clear how it happened but I just remember looking to the right and left of me, seeing all the fans that had come out to support us and feeling this overwhelming blanket of disappointment.

I couldn’t do anything except cry.

I fell to the field and cried because this was it. This was officially my last field hockey game on Stagg Field, with this team, wearing my electric pink No.40 jersey.

I felt that I had let everyone including myself down.

Reflecting on the game now, I look at it with pride. I have never been more proud to be on a team before.  I am proud of what my team had accomplished this season and I am proud of myself. Having the opportunity to continue my career at Springfield College has been an amazing experience. I would not be who I am today without the help of my coaches and teammates or support of my family and friends.

Being a senior and looking back on my field hockey career, I am so grateful that I chose Springfield College

I made my chubby seventh grade self proud.

Being a goalie has not only shaped me into the person I am today, it has aided me in growing into the person I’ve always wanted to be. Throughout my field hockey career, there have been many highs and lows, a lot of tears, celebrations, losses and victories. During all these experiences, my mental toughness and perseverance in the net helped me to prevail.

Being a field hockey player has helped me to create a foundation to be successful in life. Even though my No. 40 jersey is retired, the legacy I have created while wearing it is not.

Field hockey will always be apart of my life in one way or another.

It may be seen through me coaching or even through the characteristics I have gained just from playing the sport.

Field hockey will always be a part of me. I am confident, powerful, resilient, passionate, mentally tough and a brick wall.

I am the goalie I always wanted to be.

Photo courtesy of John Inkel

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