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Printed with permission of Daniel Moriarty

Fiene Oerlemans

How can I explain to the Harvard-Westlake community what field hockey means to me? Well, that is a difficult question, since not a lot of people are familiar with the sport. Not only are people unfamiliar with field hockey at Harvard-Westlake, but the sport is also relatively unknown in all of America. However, in the Netherlands, where I am from, field hockey is the most popular sport in the country. My dad was a great field hockey player and first inspired me to pick up a field hockey stick when I was about 6 years old. The field hockey clubs in the Netherlands are very competitive and serve as social communities where most kids spend their childhood playing field hockey and hanging out with their family and friends. I consider my field hockey club my second home, the place I learned to love the sport that I still play today.

Unfortunately, when I was 10 years old, I had to leave this memorable place because I was moving to Los Angeles for my dad’s work. It was the biggest change of my life. It took me many years to adapt to my new surroundings because I moved from a small village with a lot of field hockey activity to a large city where most people do not even know what the sport is. The closest field hockey club that I found was 50 miles away from my house, whereas, in the Netherlands, there was a different club every five miles.

Of course, I continued playing field hockey because of my love and passion for the sport. I drove an hour or more four days a week. Looking back, it was definitely all worth it. I met a lot of Dutch friends at the club, with whom I traveled all over the country and whom I love very much. Meeting these people and going to the club reminded me of my life in the Netherlands. It was a place where I could express myself and experience my Dutch culture. It was like a part of my home moved to California with me. Whenever I was at this club, it felt like I was back at home playing. This is one of the reasons why I love playing field hockey so much and feel so connected to the sport.

I also love field hockey because of the adrenaline and serotonin it produces in me. There is no greater feeling than playing against your biggest competitors and winning. Twice a year, my team and I travel to Palo Alto to play in a tournament. Our rivals, a team from San Diego, also attend this tournament. I remember one year, it was raining, and we had already played four games that day, and we were all so tired, but we had the championship game left. This game was against our biggest rival, and we wanted to win so badly. We were all younger than the other team, but we knew that we were more eager to win. After 45 minutes of competing, the buzzer rang, and we had won. We were jumping for joy and could not believe we had just defeated them. It was such an amazing feeling to be standing on that field, hugging my teammates, with the biggest smiles on our faces. That feeling will never be forgotten and is another part of why I love playing field hockey so much.

I think the biggest reason why I love playing field hockey is that the things you learn are not only important for the game but also for life. Being on a team has taught me a lot about communication, leadership and teamwork. All of these also translate into life lessons and help you become a better student and a better person.

My dad has been the most important person for me during my field hockey career. He introduced me to the sport when I was 6 years old, and he has inspired me to start playing field hockey, which is now a part of my identity. He has traveled across the country with me for field hockey for many tournaments, including Nationals, and for college visits. My dad is my number one fan. He is there at almost every game he can attend and is always so proud to watch me play. He is also my coach, and I could not ask for a better one. He plays with me every single day in our backyard and has taught me so much over these past few years. My dad does criticize my play a lot, and although this may sometimes be frustrating, I know that I would not be the player that I am today without the help of my father. I am very thankful for the time and effort he puts into making me a better field hockey player and a better person.

I am very proud to announce that during the summer of 2020, I committed to the admissions process at Harvard University for field hockey as a member of the class of 2026. I am so beyond ecstatic and grateful for this opportunity. It is such a blessing, and I can’t wait to continue my field hockey career throughout college. This has definitely been the best accomplishment of my life so far, and I am so excited to see what Harvard will bring me as a student and as a field hockey player!