By Patricia Chu
As the halftime whistle blows, the scoreboard stands as a glaring reminder that we are down 4-2. We huddle around the coach in varied poses of exhaustion; bodies ache, muscles quiver, minds doubt, hearts pound.
This is our fifth and final game in a tournament that began just four days ago. With only 35 minutes left, now is the time to dig deep, to push ourselves beyond adversity. We have to set aside the pain, the fatigue, the frustration, and the lure of defeat.
We all know that feeling. It is a moment we secretly crave as athletes. It is why we show up to training – week in, week out. It is why we constantly test ourselves – striving to become stronger, fitter, and smarter. We want to push ourselves to our limits, and then exceed them. We want to show up and risk losing to win, because it’s the only way to discover our true potential.
As a member of the Ladies A’s Hockey Team, I know we are rarely tested (we have won the league title 13 times in the past 15 years). When we show up to play our opponents on a Saturday no one is impressed when we are victorious. For us, these matches are standard and expected. I don’t say this to brag, I merely want to offer some perspective.
It is hard to continue to motivate a team when you have nothing to fight for, and that is why when we were given this opportunity to compete in the 2015 Affiliates Tournament we were hooked like moths to a flame. We were eager for a challenge, and keen to test our skills outside of Hong Kong.
As expected, the tournament and the competition was hard and relentless. It brought to light our vulnerabilities. We were all individually challenged, not just physically but also in spirit as we competed for a place in the starting line-up. As a team we quickly learnt we needed to ask for help from others, to confront our weaknesses, and to embrace the reality that sometimes giving everything we’ve got just isn’t always enough.
Those last 35 minutes were brutal. The hardships of the trip can be summed up in the three goals we conceded in just nine minutes, losing our 2-1 lead to go into halftime with our tail between our legs. How quickly the taste of victory can change to the bitterness of defeat.
The truth is the team that came back from New Zealand was much wiser and stronger than the one that left. Every game in the tournament demanded more of us than any other game we have played this entire season. Although we finished in fourth place, as a team we came away with so much more – a desire to play again, and a new benchmark to strive for.
There were those of us in our team who had left for New Zealand with the mindset that this tournament would be our swansong for the Club. Some even prepared to leave hockey in search of something more (I’ll admit I was one of them), but now all I can say is after this experience, I’ll see you on the pitch this season. I want to fight for my place to be in that team that returns to New Zealand, to have another shot at winning that cup; to be tested once more, and to feel that raw fire in my belly again. That is the reason I play hockey.