A STANFORD ROAD TRIP, INTERRUPTED
By Sheryl Johnson with Al Mattei
The Stanford field hockey team was supposed to sleep in the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. We were in Muncie, Indiana, preparing for the fifth game of the first of two road trips that the team was scheduled to take; playing in the NorPac Conference, we have to do a lot of travel. I was up a little early, watching NBC's Today Show when, all the coverage of the day's events seized our attention.
I had a meeting with our field hockey staff, and we also talked with the coach and AD at Ball State, our hosts for that afternoon's contest.
We decided to play the game, because we were already there, the officials were, too, and since all air transportation had been grounded, we couldn't go anywhere. Our only other alternative would have been to sit around in our hotel, stranded. We also felt as if we had stopped playing that day, then the terrorists would win.
This wasn't a team decision; it was a staff decision. I'm sure there were various opinions within the team whether we should have played or not. But as the leader of the team, I felt as though we had to go ahead.
Before the game, our national anthem was played. Having played for 14 years in the colors of the U.S. women's national field hockey team in the Olympics, World Cup, the Pan-American Games, and the Intercontinental Cup, I have always tried to impress upon my players the importance of being an American.
That day, some of our players really understood that importance.
Looking back, I think the terrorist attacks gave us the opportunity to come together as a team. As bad things happen in life, you have to have that close-knit team to rally around each other like a cocoon.
We cancelled our second road trip of the 2002 season because half our team was afraid to get on an airplane. We did, however, take a plane later in the year to get to the Cal Cup, and we finished fourth in the women's elite division.
A year after the terrorist attacks, we still intend to travel on our customary road trips to fulfill our schedule of NorPac Conference games. However, the NorPac Tournament and a possible NCAA Play-In Game will be on our field. Our goal is to be able to win the tournament, the play-in game, and make the NCAA Tournament field. After that? Given the last year, I think we can handle just about anything.
Stanford head coach Sheryl Johnson earned 137 caps for the United States from 1978 to 1991.