Jennifer Jung / Lantern photographer
Being a Division I college athlete and balancing classes is hard enough. Now add traveling thousands of miles from your home and family to play in a foreign country.
Of the 22 girls on Ohio State’s field hockey team, more than 25 percent of them come from countries outside of North America.
Among the six players, they have to travel an average of almost 4,000 miles to return home. Contextually, the distance between Columbus and Los Angeles is almost 2,000 miles.
Freshman midfielder Emma Royce, from Kingston upon Thames, U.K., said moving so far from her family never bothered her.
“I didn’t have a problem with it because I know they supported my decision like 100 percent, and you get a new family when you play with your team,” Royce said. “I’m just enjoying it so much and I am so busy you don’t even think about it.”
The freshman has started in nine of the Buckeyes’ ten games and scored two goals.
Junior midfielder Arielle Cowie, from Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, is from the hometown closest to Columbus of the six girls, being just more than 2,400 miles from home.
She started at midfield in all 21 games last season, posting two goals and one assist, and has started all ten games this year, but has yet to score a point. Moving away from her home was not as easy for Cowie, she said, but now she feels at home.
“My first year was a bit difficult because, I mean, like I just uprooted myself from home and (came) to this strange place. So I was very, very skeptical at first. But as soon as I got here everyone has been so, so welcoming and now this feels like my home,” Cowie said.
When it comes to recruiting the international players, the head coach or assistants will take trips to other countries to see talent, like in the case of Royce’s recruitment.
“One of the Ohio State’s coaches was at my national final and … when he got back to America he saw my videos circulating as well and that’s when he emailed me,” Royce said. “I had seen a couple of other American universities, but I had never been to Ohio State, but I did my research and it felt like the right place.”
Coach Anne Wilkinson said the farthest she has traveled to recruit players was Europe.
Sometimes a player will come to the U.S. and the coaches will see them there, like in Cowie’s situation.
Her club coach in Trinidad also coached a U.S.-based team and Cowie traveled up with her coach to an indoor tournament in Virginia Beach. While at the tournament, an OSU assistant coach went to see her play.
“After that we kept in touch, and I sent in a video, and we just kept talking and they offered me a scholarship,” Cowie said. “But initially, they found out about me because there were two girls from Trinidad on (OSU’s) team before. So I guess when they were looking to recruit people my name came up.”
Wilkinson, who is in her 17th season with the Buckeyes, said she has had players from Trinidad on her teams since her first job at American University.
Coaches do recruit the players but Wilkinson believes that recruiting is a two-way street.
“They pursue OSU. Field hockey is a very popular sport internationally,” Wilkinson said. “There is a pretty good pipeline of players who want to come to Ohio State.”
When the players arrive in Columbus there are adjustments that have to be made. For Cowie, the biggest transition was adjusting to the weather extremes. The average high temperature of her hometown is between 85 and 88 degrees all year, while in Columbus, the average high varies from 37 degrees to 86 degrees from winter to summer, according to Weather.com.
“The Caribbean is so scorching hot and when I came up it was my first winter. So that was kind of a shock, but by now I am accustomed to it in a way,” Cowie said.
For Royce, the biggest difference is the traveling. The U.K. is 94,530 square miles compared to the U.S. which is 3,794,000 square miles. It would take 40 U.K.’s to equal the size of the U.S.
“Coming from a small country, the farthest you will go is like three hours, and now I am going on a coach for like seven-and-a-half hours, eight hours sometimes, and getting on planes to go to games,” Royce said. “It’s very, very different.”
Other international players on the team are sophomore midfielder Mona Frommhold, from Berlin, junior back Nora Murer, from Luzern, Switzerland, senior forward Berta Queralt and junior midfielder Paula Pastor-Pitarque, both from Barcelona, Spain.