There is certainly a mental health aspect to being a student athlete in high school. The fear of failure or just the anxiety of balancing workload in school to effort on the field. Most student athletes are built to give it their all each day looking for maximum results.
In Hanover, the students could very well become the teachers, as the girls’ junior sports stars are putting on their own MasterClass in how to take care of business on and off the field, court, and arena.
The Hawks have a stuffed roster of 15 juniors, most of them multi-sport athletes as well as captains for their squads, who own a combined 4.47 GPA.
What is the phenomenon that makes these girls so special?
“This group is so special due to their work ethic in all aspects of their high school experience. Hanover has witnessed many teams with high levels of talent, but the teams were unable to achieve their potential,” said Scott Hutchison, the director of athletics. “This group of student-athletes lead by example — with the highest work ethic — while putting team success at the forefront of individual success.”
Mental health is often overlooked in high school athletics. As a student-athlete, but even more so just as a teenager, this collection of young women who excel make it even more amazing in the new era of COVID-19 along with the myriad of issues teenagers face daily to just fit in.
Natalie Mutschler and fellow junior standouts Eva Kelliher, Erin Condon, Katelyn Farrell, Sophia Foley, Madison Kapur, Ayla McDermod were a part of Hanover’s state soccer championship run last fall. Along with playing soccer, Mutschler is a captain in girls track and girls indoor track and accumulated four indoor track records this season. Mutschler will also be a state title contender for the heptathlon this spring.
“With rule changes in sports and online learning at school, it was a huge adjustment for everyone. I believe that my biggest struggle was my time management in and out of the classroom. Constantly balancing (everything), volunteering and spending time with family and friends was hard for me to manage it all and prioritize,” said Mutschler.
“Through these experiences (with this group), I better learned how to manage my time and commitments in my junior year and that has given me much success in the classroom and on the field. Surrounding myself with helpful and supportive teammates, coaches and teachers helped me tremendously and impacted me positively in a mental and physical aspect.
“The mental health aspect of being a student-athlete, especially growing up in the COVID world, has been tough on many people. For me, I think that it has been hard, but I am so lucky to be surrounded by great teammates and females that are going through the exact same thing.”
Along with being a captain for the state soccer champs, Kelliher also captains the ice hockey team along with playing lacrosse in her spare time. Kelliher is also a National Honor Society member and credits the associations she has with the rest of the young female athletes who walk in the same shoes.
“Being a student-athlete has been a challenge at some points because you want to make sure you are giving your best to all of your commitments,” said Kelliher, who is hoping to follow her passion for playing lacrosse into college.
“I think that surrounding yourself with positive relationships in both an academic environment and on athletic teams has been a very big contributor. The peer pressure of blowing things off in school or sports doesn’t hold much weight with me because I try to stay focused on my goals. So, sometimes I need to make compromises but know that they will be worth it in the future.”
The future is extremely bright for Mutschler and Kelliher and their teammates across multiple sports, especially in soccer with all seven of the juniors mentioned returning next season to defend their title.
Condon is a tri-captain on the ice-hockey team, softball and soccer teams, Farrell and Kapur run alongside Sophia Foley in track and indoor track, with Foley as captain and Fisher Division MVP for the soccer team.
“The mental health aspect of being a student-athlete surrounded by social media can be difficult. Many student-athletes put lots of pressure on themselves in order to be the best at everything they do,” said Foley.
“However, thinking that you need to be the best at everything can be very mentally exhausting and cause many to lose interest in what they used to love the most. Finding that balance is very important as a student athlete as it takes less toll on your body and mental health.”
Isabella Almeida (cross country, track, dance), Katherine Baldinelli (field hockey, softball, indoor track), Mary Kate Flynn (cross country, basketball), McKenzie Foley (dual captain in field hockey and softball), Caitlin Fortuna (field hockey, track, ice hockey), Maren Hines (field hockey, lacrosse, indoor track), Paulina Leskow (volleyball, tennis, gymnastics), and Katherine Radzik (field hockey, lacrosse, indoor track) round out Hanover’s star-studded juniors.
McDermod joins Kelliher as a captain on the lacrosse team and tag teams with Mutschler as a captain on the indoor track crew with an indoor record of her own.
Mutschler said many of her peers are working towards the next level in academics and athletics and push and pull for each other — especially in the classroom.
“The Hanover community is very supportive of academics and athletics. To have such a high percentage of highly motivated, highly competitive, unselfish student-athletes from one class has been extremely enjoyable to support,” said Hutchison.
“The group epitomizes the characteristics of educational athletics and deserve recognition for their hard work and positive choices, as do the families for fostering these characteristics in a time when so many people choose to focus on individual achievements.”