There are two days, one in early November and another in late April, that mark the change of seasons in my life. Sure, scientists claim that there are supposed to be four seasons, but for as long as I can remember, there have only been two — field hockey and lacrosse.
On these two equinoxes, I undergo a transformation few people can fathom. My two teams have diametrically-opposed personalities, and they differ in everything from warm-up tapes to win-loss records. Hence my personality, and consequently my life, changes as well. While Garth Brooks’ “Standing Outside the Fire” is perfect to pump me up before a field hockey game in the fall, it takes Prodigy and Nelly to get me ready to play a lacrosse game in the spring.
It is the stark difference between my two teams that has allowed me to remain motivated through eight grueling seasons. At the end of a six-month season with one team, it is much easier to reinvigorate myself for another season with the assurance that it will be a totally different experience than the one I just finished.
I maintained a bipolar personality for three years. It was not until midway through my eighth season that I began to view my two different Yale athletic endeavors as one comprehensive experience. This process, one that I had staunchly maintained was impossible, began near the end of my lacrosse career. At that point, as I struggled to captain a team I didn’t know very well, I returned to the lessons I had learned in the fall with the closure of my field hockey season.
Suddenly, the sports didn’t seem that different. Of course, my teammates were totally different characters, but I realized that as athletes we were the same. We were all competing for two distinct purposes: for fun and to win. And though locker room rituals and bus rides may have borne no resemblance to each other, when both teams stepped onto their respective fields, there was a common bond among us all.
This revelation came as a great source of comfort to me. Now I was not an athlete with a personality disorder, struggling to define my place here at Yale. Instead I recognized my experience as that of all Yale athletes. Each athlete on this campus has had stunning wins and agonizing loses. We have each formed friendships with teammates that outsiders could never comprehend. Each of us has had struggles with coaches and with ourselves in which we wondered if it was worth it to continue.
The specific details of these memories are defined by the personality of the individual teams. The fact that we have all endured such events and all been shaped by the greater influences of the University unites us as athletes.
With this, I want to congratulate all athletes — those who were sitting in Commons for the senior dinner and those who did not make it to that point. Whether we played on a court or a field, there is a common thread that runs through all of us.
Liz Gardner was a member of the field hockey team and the captain of the women’s lacrosse team.