Switched

Junior Katie Byrne leaves a childhood dream behind for a new passion

After leaving behind nearly decade of soccer experience, junior Katie Byrne chose to pursue field hockey instead. In addition to playing on the varsity field hockey team, Byrne practices with San Jose Fly, a club team, to further develop and strengthen her skills.

Junior Katie Byrne was a soccer maniac. She started at the age of five, when she joined the American Youth Soccer Organization, helping her develop fundamental skills that would eventually propel her throughout her whole soccer career. With talent and skill, seven-year-old Katie Byrne switched to a more competitive league, the California Youth Soccer Association, a feat that was uncommon for most girls her age. She dedicated countless hours to her CYSA team, with practice six hours a week, games on the weekends and tournaments as far away as Florida. Her soccer career continued throughout middle school and high school, where she played for the MVHS junior varsity soccer team her freshman and sophomore year. With a mind set for soccer, she was on track for playing in college.

And then she quit.

 

Battles of freshman year 

The summer before her freshman year, Katie Byrne’s senior friends, class of 2010 alumni Suzanne Stern and Crissy Stuart, urged her to try field hockey. Although unconvinced at first, she ultimately decided to try out for the school team.

“I hated [field hockey] at first,” Katie Byrne said. “But then I loved it.”

However, Katie Byrne’s club soccer coach was not thrilled with her taking on another sport commitment. With field hockey five days a week and club soccer twice a week, the two sports inevitably overlapped. Throughout her freshman fall season, Katie Byrne had to leave field hockey practice early to attend soccer practice, displeasing both her coaches.

“Freshman year, doing soccer and field hockey was miserable,” Katie Byrne said. “I went to field hockey practice for two and a half hours. I would have to leave field hockey practice 15 minutes early, which would make my coach really angry at me. I would have to run to soccer practice for another two hours. If I was a minute late to practice, I would get benched for the whole next game. That kind of screwed me over a lot of times because the traffic lights were, of course, red.”

The constant switching between both practices made it hard on Katie Byrne, as well as her teamates. She was never there to gather with the rest of her field hockey teamates at the end of practice, because she was already off to her next one. Even after she put all this dedication to get to soccer practice in a timely manner, she never got the appreciation she deserved.

The strict policies implemented by her club coach were difficult for Katie Byrne, both physically and emotionally. Not only was she pushing herself through four hours of practice twice a week — so hard, in fact, that she suffered joint pain from over exercising similar muscles for extensive amounts of time — but the atmosphere at soccer played a vital role in her ultimate decision to leave.”She was being harassed a little bit by her club coach for soccer because [the coach] felt that [Katie] should commit completely to soccer, not just partially,” Katie’s mother, Terri Byrne said. “Her coach wasn’t treating her very [nicely] about having another sport that semi-conflicted with soccer.”

Though Katie Byrne continued trying to balance the two sports, by the end of freshman year it became too much to handle. The time commitment was overbearing and the atmosphere at soccer no longer held the same joy it did for five-year-old Katie Byrne. And so, she decided to end her club soccer career after nearly a decade of heavy involvement.

“Playing soccer, I didn’t really get motivation … all the negative comments just built up. That’s what basically made me quit,” Katie Byrne said. “Field hockey is just different [from soccer] … Itís like we are more of a family.”

 

The transition

Although Katie Byrne did not start playing field hockey until her freshman year, she was a natural from the start.

“Her skill level starting as a freshman was so impressive, and I think she just wanted to continue with that momentum. I imagine she just wanted to change and field hockey kind of did that for her,” junior varsity field hockey coach Bonnie Belshe said.

It soon became evident that Katie Byrne was going to have to choose one sport over the other. For her, playing two sports in one season was both physically and mentally demanding.

“Not just as a coach, but really also as a teacher at Monta Vista, itís really hard to [play two sports] because of the physical time commitments,” Belshe said. “There are really only so many hours in a day.”

However, although this was a major decision in Katie Byrne’s life, it was an easy transition. According to Belshe, the footwork and many of the positions of soccer are very similar to those of field hockey. As a result,  Katie Byrne immediately became an instinctual leader on the field.

 

True dedication

Although Katie Byrne stopped playing club soccer her freshman year, she still decided to play school soccer as a sophomore for recreation. This year, however, Katie Byrne has decided to  fully committed her time to field hockey. After finishing the school season in November, she will continue to play during the off-season with her club team, San Jose Fly.  This will help further develop and strengthen her skills. She will also participate in a program called Futures, a organization designed for field hockey Olympic development training.

Although Katie Byrne has been playing field hockey for three years now, she is still relatively new to the sport. Even though she is not at the level she was initially at with soccer, she doesn’t regret her decision to leave to pursue something she truly loved.

“Sometimes I miss [soccer] when I watch it,” Katie Byrne said. “But other than that, it’s not anything like ‘Oh my god, I miss it so much.’ Because if I did miss it that much, I would have gone back to playing soccer.”